Activism Overload: Tell Us How To Help

It is super important to me to help others and to care about everyone in the world as my family.

It can be really hard to know how to do that, though.

I guess I am starting to understand the people who complain about political correctness and how stifling it is. It can be really exhausting when you want to help, you’re trying to help, but no matter what you do or say, someone is going to yell at you and tell you that you’re offending them.

Something happens and you hear about it on Facebook or Jon Stewart and people expect you to get up in arms about it. Be outraged. Why aren’t more people upset? And your newsfeed fills with articles about whatever it is and how people aren’t caring enough and they’d rather read celebrity gossip and get outraged about that. (For the record, I read both. Reading celebrity gossip doesn’t mean you’re not also reading about human rights violations).

These articles never tell you what you can do about it, they always just complain about how no one is caring about this thing even though we are all reading dozens of articles about it and those articles always end up just saying that we don’t care enough.

But you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. Tweet about it? Sign petitions on Facebook? Do those things make a difference? Is the leader of the country where bad stuff is happening going to go to Twitter and see a bunch of hippie Americans complaining about it and say, “Gee, I guess I shouldn’t do that.”

Well, maybe yes. So you try to do your part. You make noise, you “raise awareness” whatever that means. You tweet and you call for action from someone who actually can do something. You make hashtags trend. People tell you that’s a victory.

A few days later there’s a backlash of articles about how the west  or white people or men or whoever cares about the wrong issues, is outraged about the wrong things, is not listening to those they are trying to be allies for.

The same people who told you that you need to get outraged and make noise then call you out for not being outraged in the correct way.

And eventually you just don’t know what to do and you give up.

I find myself in that exhausted, given-up state a whole lot.

When a new outrage breaks, I wonder how long until we hear another side to the story, as there always seems to be one.

I want to help but there’s two problems:

  • Not being given any action step that I can do to effect change
  • Getting yelled at for helping in the wrong way when I try to figure out an action to take

There’s a lot of issues out there and a lot of things to get outraged about. It’s very difficult to take a stand on all of them.

So you might not hear me speaking out against atrocities but that doesn’t mean I don’t care or am not paying attention. I only speak out about something if I am very, very, very certain that I understand all the facts, the implications, the history and that doesn’t happen very often.

I try to help and support my fellow humans the best that I can and I do that by things like donating to Rang De or Kiva, bringing food for canned food drives, meditating, and trying to help the people around me.

Does it help? Is it enough? I don’t know.

I’m always open to suggestions on how I can do more.

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Hindu American Foundation says we can help by donating to them and their advocacy work:

I don’t want to silence anyone. I don’t want to make things all about me. I honestly want to help and I know I’m not the only one who really wants to help and is put off and separated from whatever cause it is by people complaining about me and/or people like me. You can’t help feeling like: Really? You’re complaining about that? You’re complaining about your allies? No chance are you going to effect change with your enemies if you’re busy belittling your allies, right?

But then if we say, “Tell me how you want me to help” what we get told is that it isn’t their job to educate us. Learn about it on your own, care about it because it is worth caring about. And we do. We do our best to learn about it and to advocate for it and then we get yelled at for doing it wrong.

“I thought you wanted me to defend you. You asked for me to make noise and defend your rights.”
“Why doesn’t the west care?” quickly turns into “Why do white people always think they need to rescue everyone?

So yeah, it’s really hard to get people on board for a cause when you’ll be yelled at for joining it incorrectly. I know it certainly makes me want to completely shut down and not care about anything. I’m not saying my feelings are right here, just explaining that this is what I’m feeling.

If you want something to change, please tell your allies what you need or want from them.

Another suggestion of a real action step that can be taken


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.