Barnhart Media

Citizen Buddha

don't be a victim. be a big damn hero.

Trying to get rid of your pain only amplifies it, entangles you further in it, and transforms it into something traumatic. Meanwhile, living your life is pushed to the side.

A great summation of the frustrations of political activism. The quote is from “Get Out of Your Head & Into Your Life” by Stephen Hayes & Spencer Smith; the authors were not writing about politics but about mental health. Yet the applicability to politics is clear.

Few people get involved in politics because they are happy and satisfied with how things are going; they may feel that way and get involved to ensure things don’t change – that’s fear-based activism. Others get involved because of negative impacts on their lives; others because of some emotional impact (“I hate this president!”).

And what is the nature of these kinds of political activism? To a large degree, and often mostly, oppositional. The search for enemies. The need to find and blame “others”. A negative politics that amplifies negative emotions and not only sets citizens against one another but allows individuals to focus on their anger, their pain, the fear, their hate.

A focus on the negative aspects of political issues is allegorical to an individual who focuses on their pain, their perpetual victimhood. Or, as Hayes and Smith put it:

Learn to look at your pain, rather than seeing the world from the vantage point of your pain.

The most effective political activists are not those who wave their victimization as a bloody flag but those who take one step to the side so that their activism isn’t about themselves but about the circumstances, including attitudes and beliefs and laws, that were the cause of their own issues. Instead of “The system has robbed me and I want my share of the pie!” the effective advocate’s message is “The system is flawed and is causing harm to people”.

It’s a subtle difference.

It’s a vital difference.

T.A. Barnhart