As people became more engaged with the Centre, they would often come to me and ask why we weren’t involved in certain initiatives within the community. Sometimes they wanted the Centre to get behind a march against war. Other times it might have been protesting a particular government bill.
Regardless of the request, my answer was always the same: we are never against anything, we are only for something.
This is a hard concept for some people to accept. I recall one person telling me: but isn’t identifying what is wrong with the world a way of making sure that we change it?
In my experience, identifying wrongdoing rarely leads to action. More often it leads to more of the same, which is really complaining except on a larger scale.
What I see is the action that is channeled into making ourselves known, rather than being channeled into something productive.
Recently a friend told me about a protest that has been going on outside a retail clothing store for the last five months in Vancouver, B.C.. About 10 people turn up every Friday night, sometimes on Saturday afternoons too, and for about two hours yell and wave signs about animal cruelty. What they’re protesting is the sale of leather belts and coats with fur collars. The protest has resulted in irritated neighbours, regular interactions with the local police force, and disruption of a legal business.
Animal cruelty is a terrible thing – and whether or not the store is engage in that I won’t be the judge. But protesting outside one store once or twice a week is not taking action. It’s illustrating ego – and result is the spread of more negativity.
In other cities it might be commonplace for anti-abortion protesters to show up with placards outside a hospital. Here too, this is protest for the sake of display, rather than taking action. The protesters could make their point by advocating for improved support for young mothers, greater sex education or any number of other actions.
What I see is that when people protest, they get caught up in the negative emotions and it spirals down from there. It isn’t long before a victim-mentality takes hold, and there is no hope for anyone.
In comparison, when we are “for” something, we demonstrate positive action. We gain momentum, and we move the agenda forward.
Every great social change has been on the side of the positive. Martin Luther King was “for” the freedom of black people to live and work as equals. He worked to open doors, rather than close them. And more recently, those advocating for gay marriage where “for” the equal rights of people from all sexual orientations.
Sure, life isn’t fair. But as long as we remain on the side of the complainers, we isolate ourselves from everyone and ultimately advocate for no one.
Being “for” something gives us a positive focus. It reframes our concerns into something that has the backing of hope. And when we have that, everything conspires to support us.