10 ways to save the world
Know your rights. Trust your bullshit detector. Shout back. Read more. Love more. Here are some tips for making the world a better place
Not to immediately disappoint you, but I haven't written a list of steps you can follow to actually save the world, mainly because the world is absolutely fine, it's just all the weird human structures teetering on the surface of it that are in trouble. There are a whole bunch of things going on that more of us should probably pay attention to, like the fact that our government is funded by professional tax-evaders, or that poor doors aren't an Armando Iannucci joke, or that the Met police are seriously suggesting a pay-to-protest scheme, or that Bruno Mars thinks it's OK to verbally harass women in music videos (don't believe me just watch). Sometimes it can be hard to see where you fit into all of this; now that we live so extensively through social media, it's even easier to convince yourself that sharing an inspirational quote and a Riot grrrl zine cover can fulfill your daily quota of political engagement. How about we stop kidding ourselves that agreeing with a handful of Guardian articles makes us active citizens, and start engaging, in new, unique ways, with issues we're concerned about? Read on for some ideas on how you can help save the world, from something as small as reading a book right up to organising sit-ins and making your voice heard. Oh, there are also some other tips in here, like how you shouldn't scan every single restaurant you walk into for your ex, but I'll explain those when we get to them.
Okay, thank you, critics, I'm aware that I'm starting with the annoying, easy one, but congratulations absolutely every living human, you've got this one in the bag. The problem with trying to get into the mind frame of an activist is that the stock image you might have of one is somewhere between Hunger Games 3 and The Incredibles — basically, quite a lot of lycra and being a fictional character. The truth is you can be any kind of activist you want, from the curated RTs of a cutester apptivist (just coined that, quite proud) to starting your own change.org petition. Don't do yourself the disservice of believing you're powerless to make a change. You're not.
2. Trust Your Bullshit Detector
While there are some issues that are quite easy to take an immediate position on (though you should always be careful with this), there are other less obvious ones, which slip into the mainstream undetected. Learn to trust your bullshit detector when it tells you that Robin Thicke is behaving like a predator or that Bruno Mars is catcalling women or that Chris Brown shouldn't be invited to cosy up to Ryan Seacrest on the Grammys red carpet. Sexism, as an example, exists in all shapes and forms and it's up to you to decide what does and doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. Trusting your gut feeling will help you to reach out to other people who feel a similar way, helping to create communities of like-minded people determined to stamp out prejudice.
3. Question Everything
On the other hand, make sure you don't jump to conclusions. One of the most important things the internet provides is the means to research and explore the way different people tackle different issues. Seek out perspectives and opinions that don't sit comfortably with your own and consider how intersectionality can play into ideas of institutionalized inequality. The more you read, the more power you channel into your own perceived idea of freedom. Bookmark everything and remind yourself that just reading articles that reaffirm your current worldview is hardly groundbreaking. Oh, and get f.lux, because nobody wants to get eye strain sitting up until 3am reading 200 comments on a post about no-platforming. Ouch.
4. Be Inspired
Not sure where to turn for inspirational examples of young people fighting back? Look no further than Sasha Salmon. In 2010, after the government announced plans to triple university fees, LSE student Sasha got together with peers to organize a highly publicized sit-in protest lasting over a week. "I had never engaged with anything in the student union or politically in public before this moment," she says. "But I found myself in that room because I was struggling financially as it was and I thought the increase would make things more inaccessible." Slipping into the role of activist came naturally to Sasha, who is now one of the only black, non-Oxbridge alumni on the Civil Servant graduate course. "If you feel passionately about something, you should advocate for it in every way you can — at work, at home or in the public sphere. It's vital that young people voice issues they face in their communities, whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, or by writing articles or making short films. Find opportunities to debate these issues with others through unions or societies at university and college. A group is usually louder than an individual."
5. Don't Just Read the Label
Saving the world is a pretty big job and up there at the top of the list is ethical and environmental stability. As consumers it's our duty to understand what the market we're unconsciously supporting really promotes. Use your initiative to look past the prescribed formula for understanding how things are sourced, produced and marketed, and figure out if you really want to be complicit with the system. Do some research, find out what the living wage is where your T-shirt was made, find out if anybody actually gets paid the living wage there, find out whether the farmer who provided Tesco with that carton of milk got paid the legal amount. Open your eyes to the reality of industries that are consistently trying to keep you in the dark with deceptive labelling, and actively decide whether or not you want to support them.
6. Shout Back
There are more ways than ever to shout back against institutionalized sexism, racism and elitism. Movements like Everyday Sexism and Hollaback have used social media to create safe spaces where women can share stories of harassment and are galvanizing a global network of people sick of being treated like window displays. Know your rights, connect with other protesters using hashtags, and realize that if there isn't already a platform supporting the ideas you're passionate about sharing, that's just all the more reason for you to create one yourself.
7. Use Your Resources
When Daisy-May Hudson [also featured in this issue] decided to make a film about her experience of the housing crisis in London, she put her idea on an online crowdsourcing platform with the hope of finding funding. By the end of the month she'd exceeded her goal of £10,000 and is currently in the process of making Half Way, a documentary, based on her family's homelessness, which "attempts to put a human face to the statistics behind the UK's housing crisis and spark positive social change". Daisy explains that putting the project online made her realize that practical help was as indispensable as financial help. "So many people got in contact, offering their services, things that I hadn't even thought of, often for free," she says. Her advice to young activists is to find power in the kindness and support of others by reaching out however you can. "When you feel angry or frustrated about something, know that you can create something that people will listen to. I think everyone is dissatisfied with what's going on globally, and you'll be surprised how many people are grateful when you speak out about it."
8. Read something that isn't Twitter
I just finished What is the What by Dave Eggers and I think you should read it. Hey, I get it, recommending books in articles is kind of annoying, but cultural context and self-awareness don't always come on the front pages of national newspapers, so in this case I think it's worth it. What is the What is a novel based on the real life of a Sudanese 'Lost Boy' named Achak Deng, who travelled through a lion-infested desert to refugee camp after refugee camp, somehow ending up as a gym receptionist in Atlanta. It's not a happy story. The thing is, it's very easy — especially if you're the kind of person who complains about sandwich fillings or not having 4G — to feel so ignorant, tucked away in your own familiar life, that you're unable to make a difference to anybody vulnerable or lost. Well, Dave Eggers will prove you wrong. By listening to Achak's story in a memoir written nearly a decade ago you're helping a voice to be heard and shaping your own narrative with what you learn. Read more.
9. Think Outside the Box
If placards and marches don't do it for you, there are countless other creative ways of engaging with social and political issues — ones that don't involve being on your feet for ten hours and possibly getting kettled in Parliament Square (I had to wee behind a statue). Founder of Secret Cinema Fabien Riggall puts on film screenings in response to political events, the most recent being The Great Dictator. He sees cinema as an opportunity to "influence and inspire people", allowing them to connect with one another over divisive issues and find solutions through art and experience. "This broken system does not support access to culture," he says. "Be the culture, create channels, use technology and take issues into your own hands."
10. Like Less and Love More
Do yourself a favor, take some advice from Nick Cave and let love in. The more you trust and support the people around you, the more willing they'll be to come and sit on a freezing concrete slab at 6am waiting to shout at a group of property developers. Oh, and love yourself too, because, really, honestly, what is the point in not loving yourself? Try not to get so caught up in the small things. Stop scrolling through Instagram before you've even sat up in bed in the morning, stop looking for your ex every time you walk past a restaurant, and stop comparing yourself to people whose entire job it is to be really, really soft. Send love out, let love in, and then get out of bed, clear your throat and get ready to make a change. Loudly.
Text Bertie Brandes