Get Off Your Ass
For a post about 2016, I know I'm three weeks too late. Bear with me though, it took a LOT of effort to pull something positive out of that year. A huge number of beloved celebrities died (culminating with Carrie Fisher: sci-fi darling, outspoken feminist/mental health advocate, and raunchy badass). Innocent black citizens were shot again and again. Brexit. Aleppo. Pulse Nightclub. And perhaps most distressing of all, we had to endure not only the campaign but, gallingly, the election of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
I've heard several people say that 2016 was a pretty good year for them. Others have tut-tut-tutted the rest of us for our superstition, not understanding that #Fuck2016 is a coping mechanism for those of us who are near our emotional and psychological breaking point. Luckily for the Positivity Police, I can say something good about 2016.
2016 was the year I got off my ass.
For various reasons (which some of you may know better than others), I have never been a great at taking initiative. Worse, I had grown increasingly cynical. About me, a friend once wrote on her blog that, while others accused me of negativity, her perspective was that I had incredibly high expectations for humanity, and humanity consistently fell well below those expectations. She was right. I was mired in the perception that most humans are simply nearsighted, awful creatures.
My job was no longer enough to give me ample satisfaction. I felt powerless. I was blasting links into my social media sphere and snarling at trolls in comment threads: yelling into my own echo chambers and yelling at others. What else could I do? The system is rigged. Capitalism is a pyramid scheme. Etc, etc...
Then something happened. Some of my friends, two in particular, told me to get off my ass.
They did it gently at first, with advice like, "Maybe you should get more involved," Or, "What have you got to lose?" or even the oh so cloying, "We need people like you." I resisted at first. After all, I voted, and I engaged in progressive dialogue and debate on social media. What more could reasonably be expected of the average citizen? If the world is still a crappy place, it's solely because the progressive politicians we elected aren't doing their jobs, right?
I'll tell you what I did. It began in late 2015, but I don't count that because I didn't just start doing it, I kept doing it, and that's the key. I started writing again, doing tight think pieces about technology. But I didn't just blast those pieces into my social media echo chamber, I submitted them to people like OpenMedia and boingboing, organizations I knew were like-minded and had the ability to expose my works to larger audiences. Two of my very first new articles, on encryption and municipal archives, were reposted by the aforementioned sites and received wide readership.
In April, OpenMedia asked me to get more closely involved and write material just for their site. They have been enormously supportive of me and enthusiastic about my work. With them, I've had the opportunity to educate and influence lots of minds.
The same month, one of my aforementioned friends finally twisted my arm into joining my local constituency association for the BCNDP. Working with them, I hope to help sweep out our morally (and sometimes literally) corrupt government.
Since then, I've taken the time to speak to our lawmakers at public "town hall" events. I could tell that I changed minds, minds that went back to Ottawa with knowledge and opinions I had imparted. In my own small way, I am making a huge fucking difference. Yes, this post is slightly more self-congratulatory that I prefer to be. But you know what? In a shitty world, after a shitty year, the fact that I made a difference is the one glimmer of goodness I can truly clutch onto.
So I'm going to give you the best, most loving advice I can give you:
GET. OFF. YOUR. FUCKING. ASS.
Did you go to one of the Women's Marches yesterday? Good job getting off your ass.
Did you join a progressive political party or action group? Good job getting off your ass.
Are you volunteering your time for a worthy cause? Good job getting off your ass.
Are you going to keep doing it? Not just tomorrow, but the next day, and the next? Good job getting off your fucking ass.
Allow me, for just a moment, to me wipe away the good feelings you had watching the news and social media yesterday: He Who Shall Not Be Named won because progressives didn't get out and vote for Clinton. Some didn't like her. Some were angry about Bernie. So American progressives didn't do the one thing, do the absolute minimum thing that they could do. That's not good enough.
Didn't like how Hillary was elected candidate? Get involved in the party. Campaign for procedural change. Get off your ass.
Worried that He Who Shall Not Be Named is going to turn the US into a police state? Join the ACLU. Give them your money. Give them your time. Get off your ass.
Not satisfied how Justin Trudeau's administration has panned out? Join the party. Voice your concerns. Write letters. Join a political action group and badger the government into making it right. Get off your ass.
I got off my ass because I suspected (rightly) that my political impotence was harming me more than the challenges of getting involved would. I got off my ass as self-help; perhaps that will work for you too. But more importantly, the world changes for the worse every time that good people sit on their hands and do nothing. Our apathy and cynicism allow bad people to win. I'm tired of being polite about it. I hope you are too.
Get off your ass.