by Jim "Hawk" Hawkins
We are aware of the urgencies facing our nation and the world. The American Humanist Association publishes resolutions on key issuesi which address the critical issues of climate change, affirming human rights, fighting for voting rights and the equal rights amendment for women’s equality, and protecting ourselves (especially our children) from gun violence. Such urgencies cause a variety of responses from each of us, from indifference to protest to outright civic disobedience, and the activity of the people will range from apathy to activism.
Each of us exercises our individual response to what we understand to be the key issues of our day in different ways. We can exist, usually quite satisfactorily, on the periphery of societal problems, and do nothing. We may vote or donate money to an organization. Perhaps, by considering the criticality of the work that needs to be done, we may answer the question “If not me, who?” and “If not now, when?” in the affirmative, and take action to help solve the problems that confront our society.
Albert Einstein said, “We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.”ii Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day. Just consider the powerhouse advocate for reversing climate change, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who chose to do something at a United Nations meeting. Or Alicia Garza, Patrice Khan-Cullors and Opal Tometi, who co-founded the #blacklivesmatter movement in response to injustices against the African-American community. Or an obvious example in Dr. Martin Luther King, a 26-year-old newly-ordained Baptist minister who was catapulted onto the national scene for African-American civil rights because he stood up and accepted the call. The future of our nation and the world necessarily depends upon the activity of the people.
If we do decide to get involved and take action, we will most likely experience at least three responses within ourselves and from others.
We may feel inadequate to the task. This is a normal reaction for most of us. Not to worry. Our responsibility is to educate ourselves by researching the particular issue for which our passion burns and to grow with our colleagues in knowledge and through experience. Those who are victims of discrimination don’t care about our intelligence quotients; they want to know what we will do to fight oppression and injustice.
Others may question our authority to act, perhaps because we don’t have a sheepskin to display on the wall or because they doubt our ability to succeed. We should never let the naysayers define who we are.
Those who have a vested interest in “the way things are” will oppose us. Activism requires courage and tenacity. Privilege, power, and economic security for a select few often exist due to systems of inequity that have been embedded in our society’s institutions, organizations, cultures and communities for centuries. Those who benefit from these systems of inequity are not going to let them go without a struggle.
A better, more just society is possible. Ideas and words can change the world, but there is no substitute for action.
ii. Einstein, Albert. Essays in Humanism. Philosophical Library, 1978.
Jim "Hawk" Hawkins is a member of the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs Board of Directors who was recently elected Vice President of the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs.