Civil Disobedience for the Not-So-Radical

Civil Disobedience for the Not-So-Radical

I was watching Matt Damon read Howard Zinn’s 1970 speech on civil disobedience today, and was thinking about that idea: civil disobedience.  Everyone I know is fed up with the way things are… with the state of education (focusing on tests vs. actual learning, common core vs. experience and useful knowledge, short on experiences of nature and practical application, long on sitting, memorization, and adherence to arbitrary “one-size-fits-all” standards),  the state of health care (completely beholden to huge pharma, emphasizing supposed cure over prevention, unable to have a productive dialogue about natural health, nutrition, and exercise as keys), and the general condition of our bodies and our society (slaves to corporations, addicted to media and entertainment, emphasizing style over substance in just about everything we do, and getting sicker and dumber every day)… and the question came up in my mind:

How could I act in 2014 to actually change the world? 

I mean really? What could/would I actually do that would be responsible to the planet and to my society, while also being responsible to my body and (most important for me) my son?  I can’t go out and chain myself to a tree, get arrested, and leave my son to fend for himself.  I have to balance my obligations.  But I could damn sure be doing more than I am.

So here are some thoughts, things I could actually do to better “walk the walk” in 2014:

Eat more green vegetables. This one thing is probably the most significant thing I could do for my health and well-being.  It requires effort and intention, but not a herculean amount of either, and it’s also arguably the most radical thing I could do to defy all of the above structures in this country at once.
Consume far less media, and be more selective in what I do consume.  Less “news” and infotainment, and more art. Fewer screens and more pages (my personal choice).
Exercise more.  Yes, I know… classic New Year’s resolution.  But we’re either going to make a priority of it or we’re not.  I attended a seminar this year about exercising, in some way, every single day.  10 minutes.  15. Walking. pushups. anything.  Making it non-negotiable. And keeping track of it. This simple, and doable, and it snowballs. But the key (at least for me) is making the decision. Converting “this is what I want to do” into “this is what I do.”
Create more. Art. Music. Writing. Mud pies. Sand castles. Paper airplanes. Walking paths. Ski jumps. Kids make things, and then they use them. I need a computer shelf on my desk. I have four boards in the basement. I’m not buying it; I’m making it. Let’s get out of the frame of mind of dependence on others to make what we need, and look for ways to create. Reducing dependence on others starts with belief in our own capability. That’s often more about time and eagerness than about skill or talent.
Invest in my friendships. This is a big one for me. When left to my own devices I isolate. Then I look up and wonder where everyone’s gone. You may be different, but this year I want to call people, go visit them, think of things to do together, think of gifts to give that will feed the souls of those I care about.

The thing is… civil disobedience doesn’t have to be camping out with the Occupy movement for 15 months in front of the NYSE.  It starts at home. It starts with small decisions and grows from there. My obligations are what they are…but they change over time. And building a life of quiet activism leads to a life of not-so-quiet activism. Taking these actions today will likely free me to do more, to be more aggressive, to be more passionate and outspoken in other things in days and years to come, and will demonstrate to my son what my priorities are…leading him by example to create a life in line his priorities early on, rather than trying to change course in his forties.

What could you do?

Perhaps you’re ready to take on the giants.  But perhaps you’re not, and your fear of the windmills is keeping you from just eating a salad.

Think forward. Forget whether your actions are big enough, and change your inner dialogue. What does today require of you? I think this is what my friend Jai calls Living by Fair Means: “living within your means, making decisions based on need, and making good on your own rhetoric.” That sounds like a good start.

Leave your thoughts in the comments – I’m eager to hear what manageable things come to mind… what quiet (or not-so-quiet) forms of civil disobedience are within your reach.  Because the quiet voice of one person, magnified a thousand times… isn’t that quiet anymore.

Happy 2014.


And in case you didn’t click through the link above… here’s the post that got me thinking: