I recently went to see my second spoken word by Greg Bennick, the vocalist for Trial and activist extraordinaire. Trial was a band that was unrelenting in their belief that we can, and we must stand up against the injustices of the world. Needless to say, Greg definitely practices what he preaches. He’s travelled the world providing aid where needed and started a charity called One Hundred for Haiti. Before you start feeling inadequate and wishing you had a “What Would Greg Do?” bracelet for inspiration, relax, because that’s not the reason I’m talking about Greg.
The first time I heard Greg speak, earlier this summer, he talked about the Trial song “Unrestrained”. He discussed taking our passion in the hardcore scene to impact the rest of the world. What really resonated with me, was how he spoke of using whatever resources we have to make a difference. Greg humbly explained that he has no technical skills whatsoever and that his best resource is his voice. He speaks with charisma and his words hang in your head for a long time. Whether most of us realize it or not we have some talent or ability that can be used to make an impact, even if we’re not always as inspiring as Mr. Bennick. So now that we all appreciate our talents and know we can save the world in our own special way, nothing left to talk about, right?
If it were that simple, I would have ended world hunger by picking up pencils with my toes or cured cancer with my guacamole. Sadly, I’ve done neither. The trick to using your resources is knowing how they work and what you can do with them. I can’t help but think of the “arm chair activists”. The folks who frequently post clever political memes, share their unsolicited opinions about controversial issues, and suggest you “like” the page of various charities. These are the folks that know a lot about the issues without ever doing anything about them. While these “activists” may not be doing anything outside of their couch cushions yet, I’m going to argue that they are poised to do some real good.
Awareness and outrage must precede any action. There has to be a motivation to act and it definitely doesn’t occur overnight. It makes sense that the first step in becoming an activist is gaining knowledge about an issue. Whether we like it or not, the internet is the easiest place for people to hear opinions and get the attention of others. Even though the “arm chair activist” may not be doing anything aside from expressing their opinion, they’re attempting to replace ignorance with real issues. I’d even suggest that this type of person is at the beginning stage of the activist life cycle, and should be encouraged to keep growing and taking on more responsibility as someone who gives a damn.
I mentioned knowing your resources and what you can do with them to improve the world. You may feel like the only resource you have is your facebook profile or your tumblr, but I have a hunch there is more to you than an internet persona. Chances are, you’re capable of compassion and focusing your energy on another person rather than yourself. More likely than not, you are capable of connecting with people and demonstrating that they are unique and matter. This may not come easy to you, nor may it be something you think you can do, but it is definitely something you can try. Even more to my point, you most likely have a job or a hobby that can somehow be channeled into improving the world. If all you have is a means to make money, then giving a small amount of that to a good cause is a meaningful action.
So if you have taken nothing from the above pep talk, please understand one thing. We are more than our opinions, and we are more than our skills. We are beings capable of demonstrating compassion and making the world a better place, even if we’re just starting to figure out how.