Statistically speaking, dear reader, you are probably not an elected government official. I’m not either, and sometimes I get this feeling of self-consciousness about being overly engaged with politics. Like, if I don’t work in that field, why do I spend so much time tracking the news, talking about it online, and all that stuff? I can’t make any difference anyway. If you’ve had similar concerns, then I think the answer is, uh, two things: 1. If it’s obsessive, then yeah, you should seriously limit your internet politicking time. 2. “I can’t make any difference anyway” is just flat out not true. You can make a positive impact on peoples’ lives, and I’d hazard a guess that many of you already are. Here are a few thoughts on how we can keep doing that. The details below are pretty US-focused (being a United Statesian myself, it’s the stuff I know best), but the general principles apply much more broadly. This is a pretty short and disorganized bit of writing for the monumental topic of “making the world better,” so please add your contributions and corrections in the comments.
Do you have excess cash? Too much money in your wallet, causing extra drag and preventing you from winning the 400 meter dash? Well have I got a solution for you: give a little bit of it to organizations that do good stuff! On such group is RAICES, which provides free legal services to immigrants and asylum seekers, among other things.
Before the fundraiser, RAICES had 68 employees. Now, the organization has over 200, more than tripling the size of their staff in less than a year. They are the largest pro-bono legal services provider in Texas and possibly even in the country. They have multiple offices across Texas and the region and have expanded to Los Angeles, Arizona and New York.
They created two new departments: social services and advocacy. Social services helps with non-legal issues, like resettlement, migrant rights and basic needs like clothes and shoes. The advocacy department, meanwhile, focuses on ways to change the system at large. There’s also a new litigation team which collaborates with organizations like the ACLU to file lawsuits on systemic issues within detention centers and in other spaces.
A significant part of the budget went toward immigration bonds and getting people out of detention. This year alone, the organization said they paid $1.9 million in bonds, helping 238 people get out of detention.
There are plenty more, including Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NAACP, Amnesty International, SPLC, IRAP, and others. Donating to non-evil candidates for public office is also a great option. Speaking of which…
First up, because of that amazing transition I just wrote, political campaigns. Being able to legally participate in our political system is awesome, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. If there’s a candidate from your area – and yeah, in the American context I specifically mean a Democratic candidate – who you want to see in office, then help them make it happen! One cool aspect of this is that your efforts aren’t really wasted even when the candidate is a long-shot. Challenging even seemingly entrenched Republican candidates forces them to spend money and time defending seats that shouldn’t need defending, and sometimes it turns out they weren’t so entrenched after all. In a world where Alabama has a Democratic senator, anything is possible.
Volunteering with a political campaign is certainly not the only form of politically meaningful engagement, and you may have more impact by directly focusing on certain issues at a local level. Services for marginalized or at-risk groups, through schools, shelters, clinics, and other facilities are always needed. Donating and volunteering for environmental causes is about as political as it gets, and can really make an impact to your own community. I don’t have a list for this like above, partly because volunteer work is often locally organized. But try it out – I googled “[people or causes I want to work with] volunteering in [various places I’ve lived]” and every time I got more hits than I expected.
Take care of yourself
Everything is political. Well, ok, it isn’t, but then again, kinda? Anyway, here’s a Tom Lehrer song exemplifying this idea.
Where was I? Right, my point is, burning ourselves out doesn’t make us more effective agents of positive change. So if you find yourself going down a rage spiral on the internet (including right here), please consider pausing for a while to do something you enjoy, like going outside, or something you’ve been putting off, like going outside. And presumably, given this site’s origin, there’s something in music or film or games or the arts or sports that you like. Speaking for myself, stepping back and engaging with those things instead is what gets me through – and a lot of it turns out to be political anyway.
Please keep it civil in the comments, and let’s have no threats against anyone. Have a good weekend!