When you think of people who are interested in or claim to be active in politics who are we referring to? Is it that guy that makes sure to scream “TAXATION IS THEFT” on every pro-government spending post they see on Reddit? Is it the girl with the Instagram account to promote *Insert cause here* but in reality, it’s mainly just selfies? Or is it that one person that’s gets hooked on the issue of the week and shares twenty memes a day about it? Hopefully, none of these people are who come to mind when you think of real politics or political activists. Sadly though, outside of (maybe) voting, this is the full extent we see “political activists” really get involved in politics.
The issue is as old as debate itself. Armchair philosophers and various forms of “slacktivists” crusading for causes through drunken talk at their local bars, at dinner parties, or through mini essays in Facebook comment sections. Now it needs to be said early on that discussing politics, forming informed opinions, and sharing them is important to political discourse, but stopping there needs to stop. The problem with only talking about politics is that it disconnects theory from praxis; talk without action is cheap. I already know this will be met with a thousand and one responses of “Oh no! I can’t have an opinion unless I’m out saving babies!” or other sarcastic remarks. In my experience though that kind of reaction generally comes from those that are guilty of this very thing.
I could sit here and tell you all about how to do a kickflip on a skateboard. The way your feet need to be positioned, the way your legs need to move, etc. but none of that will change the fact that I can’t skate to save my life. Talking on a subject, or even having in-depth knowledge of politics matters little without something actionable to come of it. You don’t need to go out and join every protest or committee to make a difference, but you should find ways to turn the wealth of knowledge you’ve likely accumulated on the topics of key interest to you into something that can make a difference.
This could be as simple as participating with your political party of choice, writing a letter to your local representative, starting a blog and spreading the message you stand for (in a way that makes it more impactful than a generic meme post on social media) etc. Maybe you’re adept at fundraising. Maybe your skill is writing about politics and spreading a message. Maybe you excel at the real-time application of Robert’s Rules for conducting meetings. My point here is simple: real politics isn’t a thought experiment; it is people going out and fighting for their cause. You can disagree with groups like Antifa but its important to at least respect that they go out and act on their politics. How many people have you seen that talk about politics that can say the same?
Thomas Paine and Adam Smith completely changed the world of politics by fully writing out their theories, getting them out into the public sphere, and keeping the conversation alive. Do not confuse this level of activism with simply posting something on social media in 140 characters or less. A political theory without praxis holds no true weight to it. It becomes little more than soap-boxing and prattling without being able to take or enforce some form of action to go along with that which you claim to stand for. It’s an overused quote, but it still holds true to this day: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So, where will you start?