It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.
To speak out against an unjust war was treasonous; to speak against the treatment of blacks made you a communist. But if you feel in your heart that you have a responsibility to advance justice and human rights, then do it.
There are two things over which you have complete dominion, authority, and control — your mind and your mouth.
Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom — that the current economic and political system is the only possible one — the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint?
After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.
And even when they refuse to listen, I’ll keep talking anyway, hoping on a slim chance that the things inside my head are worth something to someone.
Actually, if you ask me, this country could do with a little less motivation. The people who are causing all the trouble seem highly motivated to me. Serial killers, stock swindlers, drug dealers, Christian Republicans. I’m not sure motivation is always a good thing. You show me a lazy prick who’s lying in bed all day, watching TV, . . . and I’ll show you a guy who’s not causing any trouble.
If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don’t embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.
Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared,” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive, and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
How different my own activism would be if every time something happened, I asked myself, “What would I do if this was my family?”
A lot of you cared, just not enough.
It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame. This is the tragedy of the world. For we can do nothing substantial toward changing our course on the planet, a destructive one, without rousing ourselves, individual by individual, and bringing our small, imperfect stones to the pile.
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
The important thing is that when you come to understand something, you act on it, no matter how small that act is. Eventually it will take you where you need to go.
What good shall I do today? What good have I done today?
When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.