New Year Revolutions: Mobilize, Not Mobile Apps

Illustration by Nikoo Nooryani

Thanks to messy buns, people think that good things happen when you don’t really try. But I can assure you that’s exclusive to hair and photographs, because unlike unsuspecting selfies in which you skyrocket from six to ten, social change doesn’t come equipped with enhancement filters — and selfies of you protesting in sepia don’t count.

Sure, social media serves as a starter platform, but what we (and the world) need is mobilizing action — like get off your bottom right now and actually do something action, not “Share Post Now: (Public),” or “Sign This Petition (Using Autofill)” action.

(Are these jokes ~relevant~? Trying to cater to a younger audience —a  Gen Z-er told me I’m “not a Millenial” last weekend.)

And today seemed like the day to say something because there was a Twitter miracle.

I woke up and habitually checked my phone, loading the routine emails: my Grandmother posed with flowers, a man named Carson endorsed me on Linkedin, and the New York Times Daily Briefing had arrived: Donald Trump is still doing Donald Trump things, and, apparently, an iceberg might not have sunken the Titanic, instead, it was a coal fire. This is quite devastating — to think one of my favorite tragedies may have been proven untrue. #NeverLetGo

But something David Leonhardt, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, said regarding the attempted elimination of the House of Ethics office, really struck a chord:

“Most fights won’t be so easy. They will require more organization and sustained effort. They will require making phone calls and attending meetings and marches, rather than merely posting outrage on Twitter and Facebook. And they won’t always succeed. But it’s important to remember this fight, because there is reason to expect that even bigger ones are on the way.

So I did what I always do when I’m moved: I screenshotted and tweeted it, and low and behold, David Leonhardt responded. Which I then screenshotted and texted my dad who said “Wait!!!!! Yayyyyyy”

Mr. Leonhardt is right— there are bigger fights on the way. And posting on Facebook isn’t enough to overcome, and making ~edgy~ political memes certainly isn’t either.

And ruining the holidays by raising your voice at right-wing family while eating way-too-big birds doesn’t actually change anything — except Aunt Sharon’s appetite. (Regardless of hypothetical Sharon’s political leanings, those birds are really just way too large, especially with Millenials shoving Marxism down our throats along with all that Tryptophan.)

So here’s what we should do: start small. Call your local representatives. Work with a union.

Find a movement and/or organization you care about. Here’s a list of them for you to look into. Consider donating, because many nonprofits’ existence depends on the generosity of each and every individual supporter. But most importantly: give your time to them. Fill trash bags with unused clothing and drop them off at the local homeless shelter. Volunteer — either “on the field” serving hot meals, or as an after-school tutor. Adopt a family. Offer to do something as simple as assisting a nonprofit with social media.

Millions of people’s lives are enriched and supported by these organizations. Millions of children learn to read and write, and millions of families eat because of them. And you, as an individual, one tiny human, have the ability to help them. Because these organizations and movements, while not “flipping the system” this moment, do incite real change: you’re keeping people alive, healthy, and hopeful — and if that’s not the universal goal of doing good, I don’t know what it is.

So please: don’t sit on the sidelines and merely complain. Don’t insist that what we do is insignificant unless we take down the man, especially when these organizations, nonprofits and unions are only able to successfully operate with the help of individuals like you. We take down the “man” one by one.

Then there are those who scorn charity — those who focus only upon the gargantuan picture. Because nobody deserves to be “at the top” and “give” to help those at the bottom — because there shouldn’t be a bottom in the first place. Yes, correct.

Even Oscar Wilde, with whom many Millenials are in agreement, went so far as to say that “solving the problem of poverty” is “not a solution,” but an “aggravation.”He urged that our only hope was “reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible,” exhorting that “charity degrades and demoralizes” and “creates a multitude of sins.”

(Wilde was born to an elite, intellectual, upper-class family: his father a well-to-do doctor, his mother a revolutionary poet and artist who chartered a literary salon.)

((Ironically, Wilde’s father was quite the philanthropist— he privately founded and financed a hospital to treat the underprivileged.))

But I can’t comprehend how letting your peers suffer isn’t degrading, when all you’re doing is lazing around, denouncing how sad it all is: You consciously sit stagnant.

But if you have the luxury of sitting at a device connected to Wifi (or 4G) to read this, can remember your last meal and have a place to live, your decision that charity is “bad” is one of purely privileged ignorance — you’ve never, and likely will never, know a world in which you need it, rendering any realistic comprehension of the concept of “charity” futile. Your self-elected oblivion is entirely selfish, and, as a result, you are directly contributing to the systematic oppression of the people you have decided are being “demoralized” by the actions of  others who actually care enough to try and help another living being.

Yes, you, are singlehandedly, and willingly, perpetuating — and invalidating — the cyclical suffering of the masses, because you refuse to “support” the “system” or face the reality that this is the world that we live in — that so many are forced to live in while for most, these conditions are uninhabitable. And it’s your shallow self-indulgence that normalizes their daily torment  (essentially justifying the actions of those who cause it) — you don’t feel it, therefore, it’s no matter, though it is a very urgent matter for the minorities and marginalized communities who are directly affected by the state of this nation.

But I guess you don’t see them all the way from the top?

(Which shouldn’t exist anyway.)

And since you refuse to settle for less than spearheading some grand movement, writing the next great American novel that will change the way we view Neo-Capitalism for good, ultimately provoking a cosmic societal shift and saving the country from its own demise (which will not happen, look at Great Gatsby — that social-commentary evolved into a party theme), I’d like to inform you that you’re quite likely a fake, a “phonie,” if you will, and don’t really want to change the world for the better —  you’re a delusional narcissist.

Because even if you see charity like Emerson did: a “good action… some piece of courage or charity,” completed as though it’s a “fine” or  some sort of “apology,” um, spoiler alert? We have a lot to apologize for, and the only active apologists I’ve seen lately are in defense of the Alt-Right Neo-Nazis.

So please, continue to revel in your privileged guilt. In fact, force yourself to swallow it whole, along with all that Marxist Theory you forced your families to fathom while suffering symptoms of Tryptophan.

Whether you feel it or not: We do have an obligation to the world, and it’s up to each and every individual to fulfill it — this isn’t the time to “go big or go home.” You have to go in the first place — as in, leave your home.

Then, after you give even just a minute of your time to something larger than yourself: Yes, do fight the “man.” Mobilize. Bring your friends. Tell everyone to join. Tell Aunt Sharon over a big bird, too! But don’t stop after the Women’s March (hope to see you there!) or whatever’s trending next — we mustn’t stop now.

But so, so many of us stop when we hadn’t even started.

Apathy plagues this generation. Because while we do care, our resistance is repeatedly temporary. We get upset, then we stomp, then scream things like “TRAMPLE THE PATRIARCHY,” but once we share a “think-piece” and furiously squawk into Facebook, (subsequently arguing with strangers in comments convinced we’re “enlightening them” — we’re not) we move on with our lives — all the while never having left the couch to donate to the coat drive next door.

(#Kony2012)

Posting and protesting isn’t enough — it’s your hands-on action, too. But most importantly, it’s your perseverance, no matter how arduous, debilitating, and discouraging it may (and will) be.

It’s hard work — this is no messy bun. But activism isn’t a trend (I actually think that messy buns went out with Uggs.  The cool thing now  is a ‘lob,’ right?), and remember how I said social change has #NoFilter? The country is hideous right now.

So, if you call yourself an activist: be active.

(I will now repeat this to myself on the elliptical, which I staunchly avoid as I write this.)

Otherwise, we’re on the Titanic, ignoring an iceberg and coal fire, forbidding Jack from the floating plank because we don’t want to dehumanize him — watching him drown to death instead.