In the world of activism and social consciousness, we tend to feel the need to pick an issue, the one cause we feel is most worth supporting, and then it’s a mad rush to let the world know about that issue and fight for what scarce resources are out there. We get lost in the issue itself, and forget that it’s about something bigger.
One of the things I have been most impressed with not only with Sister Cities, but with all the organizations and communities I’ve been working with, is that they don’t just work on their one issue, they are part of the social movement. This social movement isn’t just about advocating for the poor or speaking out about harmful international policies or about environmental protection (even though it is about all of those things), it’s about engaging in a critical process that will never end. The thing is, the point of the social movement is not to achieve success on a checklist of demands, it’s about seeking JUSTICE and DIGNITY. And wherever those two elements are absent, it’s about mourning and inviting the rest of the world to mourn, and then to inject it with justice and dignity.
When I was in Chile a few years ago, the student movement was still nascent but well under way, and I witnessed demonstration after demonstration of different majors and student organizations. I asked one of them one day what exactly they were demonstrating for, and at the time their response seemed laughable. “We are protesting to practice protesting, so that we don’t forget that we have the right and the responsibility to protest.” They had no specific demands. Every year, they organized, made posters, and marched in front of the university instead of going to classes one day. Their demands were students’ rights and better education – but how? That was not the point.
I shrugged that experience off at the time, but now that I am here, waist deep in the social movement, I see that they are right. The way the world works, things will always be broken. People will always make poor choices. That means we can never stop engaging in the critical process, and I really think it’s great that it’s designed that way. The thing is, when you are engaged in this critical process, you are in a constant state of seeking GOODNESS in everything, and seeking CHANGE where goodness is absent, whether that be personally, in communities, in business, in art, in religion – in everything.
People involved in the social movement here have seen that the poverty and hunger that plagues the majority of the country is an absence of goodness. They have seen that policies that consider environmental impacts over potential profits are full of goodness. They have seen that women and youth in leadership brings goodness to communities. That is why the social movement exists, and that is why it will never end. And though people might invest themselves in one particular area, the movement is never just about that one issue.
So when you ask a woman working at a health clinic what is the gravest problem they face, she might tell you it’s lack of education. If you ask what the biggest problem is behind environmental issues, someone might tell you it’s health. Everything is connected, it is all part of the bigger social movement.
And now, recommend you watch this: