You can’t be neutral on a moving train

17 Sep

I recently talked to some people at a protest of CVS in Dundee, and one of them displayed some serious doubts about how much good organizing really does. She was feeling a little jaded and hopeless, a little small. I understand where she’s coming from. Whether it’s trying to stop the Keystone XL or prevent a CVS from crashing in your neighborhood, these fights can seem too big. Organizing people, finding common ground, making plans, jumping endless hurdles from all around; it can wear you down.

We get messages on the news telling us the world is a mess, that people are capable of being truly awful, that chaos is the rule of thumb and we’re just one piece of a puzzle too big to understand. It seems like all we can really do is duck our heads in the sand and hope our little corner stays untarnished somehow. We look to politicians with hope-saturated speeches, to political parties that claim our best interest is at heart. It can be tempting to fold, to say that today’s world and the people in it aren’t worth the energy. You want to give up.

I am asking that you don’t. It may sound trite, and hell if it isn’t, but you do make a difference. You have it skewed if you think otherwise. There is no law set in stone, no natural order that says people have to be powerless and treated like shit, that big businesses get to make the rules of the game. There is no divine right by which politicians claim power and make people beg for them to consider their pleas. You can flip all of this on its head.

I’m not saying it’s easy. No issue is black and white, and this world will never be perfect. What I’m saying is, (to quote someone else) “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” If you are alive and part of this world, you are part of what happens. Despair, apathy and inaction are ways of taking a stand. They are taking a stand for letting the world go to hell. They are standing up for the status quo.

I am asking you to take a stand in a different way. Care. Give a shit. Don’t sit there and let something you think is wrong just happen. When you discount your ability to contribute to a cause or movement, when you discount even the smallest of actions, you don’t only do a disservice to yourself, you do a disservice to everyone around you.

As people, we are capable of cruelty, laziness and being selfish to the point of self-destruction, but we are capable of a whole hell of a lot more. Compassion, justice, hope and sacrifice are as much a part of who we are as any of the other crap. Don’t underestimate what you can do, what can be accomplished when you decide to band together with people and take a stand. You may fail sometimes, but it’s better to fail a few times trying to actually change something in this world than it is to sit back and passively let other forces shape everything. History is happening. Go be part of it.



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