I don’t ‘get it’. Why are some people so upset when you tell them that you belong to an advocacy group? When I think back (way back) to my childhood, I realize that even at the tender age of eight, I found myself defending any individual or group who seemed to be getting the short end of the stick. I remember sitting in Mr. H’s living room next door, trying to explain why he should sign the petition I was holding. It concerned a local agency for the then-named “…Association for the Mentally Retarded” (we were not terribly PC back then, but still concerned). Mr. H. asked seemingly inane questions(but at least he asked) about why ‘they’ should have any kind of support, and did his taxes not cover their sheltered workshop? He hemmed and hawed for thirty minutes, and in the end, Mr. H. said he had to “think on it”. Maybe more of us cared a little more forty or fifty years ago. Life was not as complicated (or so it seemed). We were not living in the state of hyper awareness we live in today. Thanks to the media and the Internet, we all became armchair voyeurs to the political injustices, atrocities, discrimination, inequities, disasters, and general mayhem that goes on in the world. Our choice of battles to fight has become vast and the pressure to join in everyone’s pet cause, immense. Miss Mimmosa tells me that she often has ‘the vapours’ just getting through the day. “It starts with my problem trying to decide what goes into the recycle box, and ends when I listen to the six o’clock news report and that nice young man who introduces all those people who want me to: call my MP, or to stop buying imported produce, or to send money to support the famine relief, or to sign a petition in support of banning the seal hunt…” I agree with Miss Mimmosa. It’s not easy to ‘get on the bandwagon’ with one or two or even ten ’causes’ when your faced with the realization that there are thousands more, just as worthy, that you must say no to. My theory is: Supersaturation of choices of issues and causes to support, has paralyzed some people. Others (from the good old activist-heavy ’60’s and ’70s) are too old to “take up the struggle”. Still others are feeling that the personal ‘payoff’ in supporting an advocacy initiative is not sufficient. Sigh. Here’s my solution. This works for ME. I have no idea if it would work for YOU. I vigourously support and work on issues that I KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT. It makes a difference, when you speak from personal experience. I ALWAYS do a small analysis to determine priorities:
- Is this something I am passionate about? Or is this interesting as an observer?
- Do I have, or can I make the time necessary to be involved with this at the level I choose?
- What skills can I provide?
- What do I know about this issue or group? Where or how can I find out more?
- Can I deal with any ‘fallout’ that results in my activity as an advocate of this group or cause? (work, friends, services, notoriety?)
- Will I establish a personal time-line for my level of involvement and stick to it? (you may care, be passionate, but you can’t do it all alone)
What are my advocacy concerns these days? Most deal with disability groups, and the issues of equity, inclusion, and quality of life. My other interests are Environmental. I am president of the Halifax Chapter of Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Chair of Halifax Regional Municipality Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, ‘telephone tree’ for my church’s (Universalist Unitarian or UU) Planetary Concerns committee, planning person on the ‘Mosaic for Mental Health’ project and member of the VISTA (Visually Impaired Safe Travel Advisory) committee. That’s my quota. I lend my name in support of others that I can not be active in for the obvious reason; time. It’s not fair to take something on that will result in meeting being missed, phone calls and e-mails not being returned, or worse, BURNOUT. Watch for that, but for goodness sake, be active. Advocacy is not a scary word. It makes the world accountable.