On avoiding the trap of political outrage

If you are associated with people who are political activists, you will likely be presented with events from time to time and you will be asked  “why aren’t you outraged by this?” It can put you on the defensive. It can make you feel uncaring, selfish, or apathetic. You have to agree that a massacre or child abuse or great poverty is outrageous, and you feel at that moment that a) something should be done and b) you are somehow deficient for not doing something about it.

This is a trap. First off: is there something you can immediately do to stop this? If you can, then do it. Chances are you cannot. So outrage aside, you need to make a plan either to take action in the longer term, or not take action at all. But why would you not take action at all? Simply because there are more terrible things in the world happening than you can possibly tackle. Even if you were to devote your life to them, there would be many many more things you cannot do than you can. You need to have a plan to do what you can.

Feelings like guilt or or pity or outrage may spark you do something. But if things stop there, such feelings are self-indulgent. Instead, pick something that you are motivated to improve and work on.Can you do more? Do more.

Just avoid the trap.

(Originally posted at Posterous on April 24 2011)

 

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