Thursday, June 23, 2005

Avoiding Activist Burnout: Self-care is radical!

YES I said Burnout! Let's be real. To be effective, to be active, we need to be whole. Aside from meetings and marches, many of us want to work one-to-one, write, read, think, and create the world we want --complete with a home-cooked meal or a green garden. Most of us do not enjoy the privilege of being able to pursue activism 24/7, and have to work at some job for survive for the hours we can give to what we believe. The toll that disappointment, stress, harassment, and fear takes on us is often unacknowledged by the very people who stand beside us in the marches--the very people who care so much for others, but not necessarily for themselves and their own. I find this especially true (dare I say?) of men who can be "activist" because a woman is taking care of the life needs of family and home and possibly rent while the man is off making speeches? This article by ROGUE addresses a particular need to be mentally healthy in spite of the insanity of the world that surrounds us. But, read more than this as you read the whole article. Read for how we fail ourselves and each other if we can only care for strangers half a world away. Self awareness, Self-purification, self-realization ---then clarity of vision and purity of motive. Why are we marching and fighting War? Poverty? Corporate Globalization? Do we want to be acknowledged as Saviors or Great Leaders? Or do we lead together as we follow together ALL? I'd like to see FEW book signings and a lot more Slingshots and Fifth Estates!

Read this most important article from "Rogue" at

I have seen burn-out in my friends as well. Most friends who have dealt with this agree with my assertion that there is not enough active support in the communities and projects we work with to be able to deal with the incredible amount of pressure we are under. Often, it seems that to complain about workload or to seek support is seen as “weakness.” Dealing with mental health, whether it is being crazy or simply striving to support someone who is having a hard time, has been largely neglected by the one very communities that needs to address it most. Having a radical perspective on society and institutions in this country can be a very tiring and frustrating position! Between the wars abroad; those here at home against people of color, women, trans folk, queers, poor people, disabled people, etc; and the capitalist system this country runs on being the antithesis of mutual aid, outrage can be overwhelming. Without systems of support in place, it is easy to become lost in despair, not to mention floored by the sheer amount of work it takes to make any kind of change. This is a reality that all radical activists have to deal with, so why shouldn’t we be trying to support and help each other deal with the world we live in?

It is especially in the interest of the activist community to deal with these problems. Every time an activist burns out and drops out of whatever work they are doing, we lose a valuable person who cares about things and is willing to work towards change. Within apathetic, mainstream American culture, people involved in the various movements fighting for real change are a minority, and can be taken for granted. Not only are we losing incredible people with a lot to offer by not supporting them, we are also failing them as a community. If our goal is to make the world a better place and forge new societies and communities based on mutual aid and sustainability, what does it mean when we can’t even take care of each other and keep things running? It is incredibly important that we set up systems of support to combat activist burn-out. We need to respect and affirm the need to take breaks, or retire altogether. Self-care is radical! Be sure that not everything that you do is activist-focused. It is okay to take some time for yourself! In order to maintain energy you must have it to begin with; recharge in some way that suits you, whether it be sleeping in till noon, spending a weekend camping, calling in to a meeting and going to a movie instead- take some time off! We should all be working towards a community in which it is possible for people to do this. If one person is in charge of an entire project, how can they ever take time for themselves? Or, for that matter, live their lives? Work forty hours a week? Raise their children? If our project would fall apart if one or two people took time off, then we need to look at the model. That isn’t very sustainable.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Naomi Klein --Africa's Wealth FOR Africa! (for the entire article!!)

(an excerpt) -- A Noose, Not a Bracelet

By Naomi Klein

[from the June 27, 2005 issue]

Gordon Brown has a new idea about how to "make poverty history" in time for the G-8 summit in Scotland. With Washington so far refusing to double its aid to Africa by 2015, the British Chancellor is appealing to the "richer oil-producing states" of the Middle East to fill the funding gap. "Oil wealth urged to save Africa," reads the headline in London's Observer.

Here is a better idea: Instead of Saudi Arabia's oil wealth being used to "save Africa," how about if Africa's oil wealth was used to save Africa--along with its gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium, ferroalloy and coal wealth?

With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November by the Nigerian government, along with eight other Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor at all but rich, and that it was political decisions made in the interests of Western multinational corporations that kept its people in desperate poverty. Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the vast oil wealth of the Niger Delta must leave behind more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid air and crumbling schools. He asked not for charity, pity or "relief" but for justice.

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