Advocacy vs. Activism

UK boards braced for new 'golden age of activism' in wake of Brexit and  pandemic - Financial News

The word “activism” is described as: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. “Advocacy” is defined in a slightly different way: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. While these may seem like the same thing at first, I would argue that they are very different. Here are my definitions:

  • Activism: fighting against policies or practices that one considers harmful or unethical.
  • Advocacy: fighting for individuals or communities affected by harmful policies or practices.

I consider both of these to be valuable, necessary contributions to the betterment of society. However, that doesn’t mean we are all suited for them. Some of us may be more capable of handling the consequences, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental, of activism more so than advocacy or vise versa. For example, maybe someone finds it easier to go to protests and lobby their government than personally supporting victims. Perhaps they have a lot of passion for a given issue, but it is more painful to see the end result of those affected. This would be someone better suited for activism. As an advocate, I find it easier to support and care for the individual than to fight against what has harmed them. Then of course there are those that can’t bear the weight of either one, and that’s perfectly fine too. In order to make the most of our energy and make the biggest impact, I think it’s important that we honor these personal differences.

Today I wanted to take the time to offer some suggestions for those of you, like me, that find your energy is best spent doing advocacy work instead of activism. First, I think it needs to be reiterated that both of these are amazing and much needed. Regardless of what or how often you contribute, know that your efforts matter. I’m only focusing on advocacy because I feel it is the lesser understood of these forms of social justice. For organization sake, I am going to break down my suggestions for advocacy by issue. I also want to stress that whatever you do, no matter how small, is something for the world to be grateful for. Maybe you feel you can’t be vegan yourself, but support the vegan movement. You can still donate to sanctuaries, share information, foster shelter animals, etc. Maybe you’re too afraid to leave a toxic religious organization, but you want to support others who are. You can still help in creative, even clandestine ways. So don’t be discouraged by anyone who says it’s not enough. However much you feel you are able to give is enough. And maybe you don’t feel like you have anything to give at all, even then, you can share these resources with others who might be able to offer more. That too is a great help.

1. Feminism

  1. Volunteer Clinic Escort: I just recently discovered that this is something you can do at Planned Parenthood. Instead of arguing with misogynists online, trying to make a difference in the collective consciousness, why not make a guaranteed difference in at least one woman’s life? Rather than raise your voice to shout down the hateful, ignorant protesters outside these clinics, let your voice be the gentle one at a fearful woman’s side championing her onward and wiping away her tears.
  2. Abortion Fund Donation: If you’re able to more easily give money than time, try donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Their mission is “to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.” Often the women that most desperately need to terminate a pregnancy are the ones least able to afford or access services. The procedure itself can be expensive, but now with abortion rights being threatened in more and more states, there can be added fees such as out of state travel or hotel stays. Donating to these funds is an excellent way to make sure that we are helping the most vulnerable maintain bodily autonomy and their human rights.

2. Religious Freedom (Freedom from Religion)

  1. Support Recovering From Religion: This organization offers people leaving religion dozens of resources to help them cope in this new phase of their life. It also offers supportive counseling for anyone who would like it. You can help by volunteering your time for this counseling and/or you can offer a monetary donation. Often when one leaves a very toxic religious group, it can be insanely difficult to adjust. Some churches completely cut you off from friends and family still involved with the church, leaving you with no support system at all. This is obviously an intimidation and manipulation tactic that organizations like Recovering From Religion help combat.

* I actually had a much more difficult time finding resources for this section than I imagined. Another great way for you to contribute would be by adding new resources. You might work to start a non profit or make your own fundraiser to support people leaving religion in various ways. Also if you know of any other organizations or sites offering help to people escaping from religious groups, leave them in the comments. I’m happy to update this post as often as needed to incorporate new resources.

3. Racism

  1. Black Lives Matter: At this point, I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this group is to anyone. However, even after hearing so much about this movement in the news, this is the first time I actually went to their website. There are a lot of amazing resources and information on there. You can sign up for their newsletter to stay updated on information and events. You can volunteer your time by helping to report misinformation on social media. And of course you can donate or purchase merchandise to help the group financially.
  2. Educate Yourself: One of the most important things that all of us can do is educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country. I think even one individual making an effort to absorb this knowledge is a step in the right direction. No matter how much I think I know about the oppression of black and brown people, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of searching to find out about even more horrors. The more we know the better we will be able to support and show respect to our black friends and the black members of our community. Here is a list of resources you might find helpful in your pursuit for understanding. Just make sure that you are doing the work of educating yourself. Don’t burden you black friends/acquaintances with the job of educating you.
  3. Support Black Creators: I learned just the other day about the way social media algorithms actively suppress the voices of black creators. They are less likely to be recommended or broadcasted on the platform, therefor much less likely to be visible. If you use social media, you could make an effort to follow more black and brown accounts. You can also make the conscious choice to seek out movies, shows, books, etc. that were made by black people. In this way, we are not only offering financial support, but broadening our perspectives by exposing ourselves to more diverse content.

4. Veganism

  1. Vegan Outreach: This is one of my favorite vegan organizations. Founded in 1993, Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization working to end violence towards animals. They “seek a future when sentient animals are no longer exploited as commodities.” Their website offers a lot of different ways to get involved. You can join their vegan mentor program and give helpful advice to people just starting out of their vegan journey. You can assist them in offering vegan food to local communities during Covid-19. You can even do something as simple as reviewing vegan foods through an app called abillion. In doing so, the app will automatically donate $1 to Vegan Outreach for each review!
  2. Make Vegan Art: What is more prevalent in today’s day and age than memes? Why not try your hand at creating some new catchy vegan slogans or images to share online? Currently this is the route my vegan advocacy is taking. There is no need to share the art you create on your personal accounts if you’re trying to avoid confrontation. You can simply publish them on your blog or even in chatrooms. Who knows? Maybe one will go viral and make a huge impact!
  3. Donate to Sanctuaries: Farm animal sanctuaries are doing the important work of protecting animals that have been rescued. Obviously it takes a lot of money to house, feed, and care for these animals. Donations are a great way to ensure that they can keep doing so. You can even start your own fundraiser or volunteer at a sanctuary near you.
  4. Foster an Animal: Veganism isn’t only about helping farmed animals. It’s just as important to do our part for the various other types of animals in shelters around the world. You can always donate to your local non-kill shelter, or offer to foster animals until they are able to be adopted.
  5. Share Your Food/Recipes: This is a little bit trickier given the pandemic, but as long as you take the proper precautions, sharing your delicious vegan food with non-vegan friends and family can be a great way to bolster the vegan movement. One of the main things people fear about veganism is not knowing what they would be able to eat. Everyone loves good food. Even if sharing your recipes with others doesn’t make them go vegan, it can lessen that fear of the unknown. In addition, it may keep an animal off of their plate for at least one meal, which is a win in my book. Sharing my vegan creamer at work has led to our non-vegan intern switching to it at home!

I hope that you’ve found these suggestions helpful and that you’ll give some of them a try. There are many ways to make a difference, so don’t get discouraged if activism is a bit too damaging for your mental health. You can always find new, creative, peaceful ways to help a cause that you are passionate about. Again, as I stated earlier, please let me know of any other resources you think I should add to any of the sections above. I would love to pack this post with as many options as possible to get people involved.

Doomsday Preppers

This may seem funny to a lot of people, but I genuinely respect the people that are currently stockpiling food, water, ammunition, etc. and otherwise preparing for the end of the world. There have always been people like this, and I can see why in the past it may have seemed crazy. But looking at the world in 2021, I don’t see why anyone is still expecting everything to turn out okay and continue on as normal indefinitely into the future. There is just no rational or logical reason to think that.

All of the science points towards an inevitable societal and environmental collapse happening within our lifetime. It is no longer just something for our children or grandchildren to worry about. We are going to experience catastrophic changes within a matter of decades. That may still seem like a lot of time to right our course to some people, but even if that was enough time (it isn’t) the fact is that we haven’t even started trying to change in any meaningful way. I fully expect to witness the end of the world, if not entirely then at least as we now know it.

This is something I’ve mentioned in passing in a few of my other posts. However, in those posts I was focusing more on the mental and emotional impact of feeling this way. The frustration and pain of not being believed or taken seriously by the majority of the population. That is its own separate issue. Today I wanted to focus on my personal inner conflict with where to go from here having accepting these things to be true.

I can understand to a certain extent why hardly anyone seems to accept this ultimate outcome for the planet and human life specifically. It is hard to deal with. It is scary. It leaves you feeling empty and hopeless a lot of the time. But I’ve never had the luxury of being able to avoid the hard facts of an issue. That’s part of the reason I became vegan even though it certainly would have been easier to keep my head in the sand. I just can’t deny reality the way a lot of people can. I don’t have those same defense mechanisms when it comes to avoiding the ugly truth. Maybe it would be better if I did. Maybe I’d be happier that way.

My problem isn’t whether or not to believe these things, it’s what to do with this overwhelming, devastating information. For a while I thought I might be able to influence change, to shift humanity into living in a way that would prevent this doomsday from happening. I pretty quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. We simply don’t have enough time to break through the strong illusions of the human race, the greed, the selfishness, the idiocy quite frankly. Now I’ve switched over to contemplating how to mitigate these coming disasters for myself personally. How can I ensure my family and I suffer as minimally as possible?

I genuinely want to use however long I have left in peaceful, stable times to start preparing. My mind often drifts to strategies of stockpiling food and water, teaching myself basic first aid, studying the local plants, learning what can be eaten or used for medicine, how to purify water, how to start a fire, how to effectively grow crops, etc. The only reason that I haven’t actually started any of these endeavors is because the thought of why I need to is too painful. While all of these activities interest me and even seem fun to a certain extent, the underlying reason for them causes me too much grief for me to think about it for very long. Not to mention the anxiety I feel when I realize just how much I’ll need to learn. Part of me wonders if my time is better spent in a blissful state of self-induced ignorance. If I’d be happier overall spending these days trying to enjoy a normal life for as long as I’m able to. Rather than struggling now in order to make my future struggle somewhat easier.

After the events of this past year, these heavy thoughts have been weighing on my mind even more than usual. I think I’m finally ready to start gathering my resources. The amount I’d need to learn and do is overwhelming, but nevertheless I have to try. I’m going to do my best to have fun with it, to make a game out of it. To try to focus on the moment and the actions as I’m doing them rather than the reason behind those actions and the dismal, frightening, unpredictable future ahead.

This summer I am going to begin by stockpiling knowledge. I’m going to gather up books on all of these topics. I’m going to start trying to identify and memorize different useful plants in my area. I’m going to devote myself to my gardening. I’m going to buy some type of water filtration device. I’m going to teach myself basic survival skills. I may even buy a gun and spend some time doing target practice with my uncle. I no longer mind if anyone thinks this is funny or that I’m crazy for believing what I believe. My only hope is that by expressing these thoughts and feelings, others may be moved by my certainty and resolve. Many people in my life believe that I am extremely intelligent. I hope that eventually some of them may trust that intelligence enough to follow me, to listen to me, even if what I say is hard to hear.

Photo by Matthias Groeneveld on Pexels.com

Free Vegan Resources

Even after six years of veganism I am still finding new and exciting additions to my bountiful collection of resources. This past week I have stumbled upon two that I just can’t help but share with everyone I can. The first one I found accidentally as I was looking into details of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell for a co-worker of mine. This individual despite being certified in nutrition and fitness training for some reason believes that cholesterol does not make someone any more likely to get heart disease!

This continues to astound me so I suggested he read The China Study because despite not having read it myself, I knew that it was the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and strongly advocated for a whole foods, plant-based diet. After only a few simple searches I was able to discover that there is a PDF of the entire book available for free online! Click the link to check it out. While I doubt my coworker will take the time to read it, I have been reading it myself, and have learned a lot so far. Although years of arguments with non-vegans has taught me that solid evidence and facts and peer reviewed research is still never enough to convince someone of something they are determined to deny, it is still a helpful tool to have if you do happen to find someone who is interested. It makes it even more accessible when you can find this type of information for free from such a credible source.

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The next incredible resource that I came across this week is perfect for those that hold the mistaken perception that veganism is expensive and difficult to manage. I was looking for a free plant-based meal and workout plan in order to help me get out of the plateau I have reached in my fitness journey. While I have yet to find exactly what I was looking for, I did find an incredible vegan meal plan that could greatly benefit others. I hadn’t ever even heard of the website Plant-Based on a Budget before. It would be a wonderful resource for anyone dipping their toes into a vegan diet. This site gives you a full month of meals including recipes and shopping lists all for free! (There are some you can pay for, but the link is to the free version.) You are even able to choose a plan based on how many people you need to feed. I could hardly believe something so helpful had been right under my nose this whole time.

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I have shared both of these websites on my Facebook page in the hopes that those too timid to attempt a vegan diet before will be emboldened by this new information. I have certainly grown a lot since I first transitioned to this lifestyle. Instead of flaring up arguments with aggressive, impassioned proclamations, I’ve learned to just live by example and share information in an open and compassionate way in the hopes that those who are ready will find it helpful. I’ve learned that there is always more to learn and discover even six years in.

I am continuously inspired by the ever-progressing availability and amount of information there is about veganism. Things have changes so much since I began this journey. Each day the choice becomes easier and easier for others to make. I truly believe that the only possible future for humanity is a vegan one. I hope we all get to see it.