Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Everyday Activist for the Common Good

An Everyday Activist for the Common Good

By: Jack C. Lee
Yorktown Hts. NY
Email: jackclee@optonline.net

October 10, 2006

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what we as common citizens can do to help improve the world around us. I am a Conservative and I do not believe that big government is the answer to all our problems. Government has its role as defined by the Constitution. Providing a strong national defense and a system of law and order are some primary functions for our government. We, as citizens can do a lot to make things better. Some are necessary and some are trivial but never the less when done in large numbers can have a positive effect.

The term “activist” has certain connotations. It is usually ascribed to people who are extreme in their beliefs such as political, environmental and humanitarian and uses their power to drive an agenda. There is nothing wrong with having passion regarding an issue and feeling strongly about it to want to do something to bring about change.

My use of the term activist is more mundane. I think all of us can be an “everyday activist” by doing simple things in our daily activities. What it requires is first an awareness and then a conscious act to follow through.

Let me offer a few examples.

Jury duty – Everyone who is a registered voter or a driver is called upon to serve on a jury every few years. It is our civic duty to participate and it is the foundation of our legal and justice system. Yet, many people are either too busy or too selfish to participate. They will use every excuse to get out of serving. That is a shame and a lack of responsibility. In this case, we need to be aware that jury duty is the backbone of our criminal justice system. Without it, our system will not function correctly. The responsible act will be for everyone who is called and who is qualified to serve.

Security watch – Since post 9/11, we are asked to be aware of our surroundings when traveling in our public transportation system. We are asked to be the eyes and ears on the ground. Any suspicious packages left alone, or any suspicious individuals are to be reported to the nearest police. This is a simple act but when practiced by all will help prevent a terrorist act such as the ones perpetrated in London and Madrid.

Vote – Every two years, we are given the opportunity to vote for our government. That is the basic tenet of a Democracy. However, lately, only about 50% of the people who qualify to vote do vote. That is a shame. If we don’t take the time to study the issues and the candidates and vote for the best, then we only have ourselves to blame when the government let us down. An informed electorate is our best chance for a responsive government. But don’t vote just for the sake of voting. Be an informed voter.

Discuss issues – The old adage that one should never talk about Religion or Politics is wrong. We need to discuss issues so that we have a clearer understanding of the problem, get the facts and then make an intelligent decision. That is not to say we should attack those that we disagree with personal insults. We should engage in a discussion of ideas and solutions with our peers. It could also be a teaching moment for our kids.

Teach the children – In today’s environment, it is not enough for kids to learn from school and text books. They need to learn about life’s challenges and that include finance, morality, social interactions in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic. We as adults have a duty to teach our children to be responsible citizens. We can use either current events or TV show or a movie or sporting event to discuss issues that may be of interest to all of us.

Pay it forward - Reuben St. Clair, the teacher and protagonist in the book “Pay It Forward,” starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit assignment: THINK OF AN IDEA FOR WORLD CHANGE, AND PUT IT INTO ACTION. Trevor, the 12-year-old hero of “Pay It Forward,” thinks of quite an idea. He describes it to his mother and teacher this way: "You see, I do something real good for three people. And then when they ask how they can pay it back, I say they have to Pay It Forward. To three more people. Each. so nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven." He turned on the calculator, punched in a few numbers. "Then it sort of spreads out, see. To eighty-one. Then two hundred forty-three. Then seven hundred twenty-nine. Then two thousand, one hundred eighty-seven. See how big it gets?"

Common sense – Utilize your common sense and don’t take everything from “experts” as the gospel. Challenge people of power when they are wrong. Take a few minutes and send in a feedback or letter in response to something you read that are incorrect or biased.
Hold politicians and media personnel to account for what they say and do.

Use your money wisely – Support groups that try to make a difference. Shop in companies or stores that are responsible in their activities – both with regard to their customers and their employees. Use the power of economics to hold Corporations responsible. There is power in numbers. If all of us will use our purchase power wisely, there will be less Corporate abuses.

Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Volunteer work – We are all busy. There is not enough time in a day. We are all asked to prioritize our workload. Make some time to help others. It is worth while and also therapeutic and rewarding. Give it a try.

I truly believe that small things can make a big difference. In the book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell described many incidences. By recognizing the power each of us has, we can effect change that will bring good to all of us.
I’ve only given a few examples above but I’m sure you can come up with a list of items that are equally compelling. Be an everyday activist!



Post a Comment

<< Home