Becoming a Human Rights Activist
A quick lesson in (defending) human rights issues. (From a post we wrote on June 16th 2020 on Facebook.)
- Get out of your head. You don't need to prove anything to me about how broad your thinking is or how not-racist or not-ableist or not-whatever you are. This isn't about you. I promise.
- Realize you have privilege. You have privilege to have access to a device to read this message even if you are reading it from a library computer terminal and that's all the Facebook access you have. If you own this device that's privilege. If you have been given it by a government agency, that's privilege. You have privilege to have woken up and gotten out of bed. To have walked, rolled, or even crawled to the bathroom to have your morning pee. We are each of us privileged in some way. Start looking at and realizing your privilege and that not everyone is as privileged as you are, no matter who or how many challenges or disabilities you have. If you're reading this, you have privilege. Some people right now don't have the will or strength to even lift their cell phone to read this message. Some people have no Internet access whatsoever.
- You don't have to get exhausted thinking about each and every separate human rights issue to be a human rights activist. Every issue is important. It should be an absolute NO BRAINER, and there doesn't need to be a choice between issues. Right now, Black Lives Matter is HOT. Throw your weight behind it. No second thoughts. You have a pet issue? Are you a trans rights activist? Welcome aboard. Gay rights? Disability rights? Mental health rights? Women's rights? Health care access? Free schools or colleges? Come on in, hold a sign, yell, scream, sign petitions, etc. The only thing you should question is when you are NOT standing behind a human rights issue. If you stand for Black Lives Matter but you hesitate on trans people having access to health care, if you are a women's rights activist and you have to think twice about disability activism, etc. If you're picking battles and saying "We deserve rights and access but YOU do not" then question yourself. That's where to put your negativity — inwards.
- If you can't relate to any of these struggles, you are not exempt. One bad day can put you in a number of categories where you lose privileges in an instant. One walk in your backyard can give you Lyme disease, a gift that keeps on giving. COVID-19 can set you back months if not years in your health. Aside from disease: age, accidents, and more can bring you the harsh reality of having to face your internalized ableism and loss of privilege. The rights you fight for today may be the rights you need tomorrow. Or perhaps these are your loved ones issues: your spouse, a parent, a bestie, or your child could come out as queer or trans to you. You could be dealing with a loved one who gets sick, depressed, or gets into an accident and has to deal with both physical disabilities and PTSD, depression, and anxiety. These are all part and parcel of the human condition, thus protecting access and privilege for these people is human rights.
- Question the commodification of your time and agency. Time is life. Work, for those of us who can and want to, is a privilege we should enjoy not be chained to. The overwhelming majority of people want to contribute to the world in some way, and not all ways of contributing to the world are commodified equally. Rather than forcing people to work, ask why they don't want to; offer more carrots don't chase with more sticks. And if you don't want to do the work you're doing it's really good to soul-search on why you don't want to and what you'd rather be doing with your time and why. Look around at how people contribute to the world and whether they're being financially compensated. And whether that compensation is fair. Why do we compensate people more for creating data and paperwork than feeding or healing people? When we claim to be compensating people more for good leadership, we should really ask are these people good leaders? Are they really LEADING? Are the fruits of their labor really delivering value to humanity? Or are we paying people more just to drive more manhours of labor and create more desire for things we don't really need that will fill landfills faster?
- Realize that a lot of the detriment to human rights is in the name of maintaining a labor pool to drive wealth up the chain. I won't walk you through this one. Steps 1-5 are a lot of homework for many folk. #6 either will come naturally to you, or by the time you truly do 1-5 you can step back and do the soul-searching needed to realize #6 fully. We'd be happy to talk to you about it in detail.
Spare some manhours defending people's human rights.
Thank you all, please take great care of yourselves and make this a fabulous day.