Activism and... Resolutions

IssueDecember 2010 - January 2011

As it is the season of New Year Resolutions, we asked some people around the movements about their experiences of trying to change themselves, live more in accord with their values, or become better activists.

Wow. I’m just trying to think. Lately I’ve been developing…. I’m a complete newcomer, I’m more of a spectator at things, rather than taking an active role in things. I kind of see things in a critical eye. I don’t feel I have a place yet in society, well I do, but I’m trying to find what it is. This week I watched this programme “Centuries of the south” by Adam Curtis. It’s quite based on Freud and his nephew Edward somebody, I’ve got his name written down somewhere, Edward Bernays. Edward Bernays was really successful in the United States. He realised that you could use propaganda in peacetime as well as in wartime. He used it to meet people’s carnal wants, to get them to want to buy things, to make them think things by appealing to their human desires.

A tobacconist guy came to him saying: “I’m losing half my market because of this taboo on women smoking”. So this psychoanalyst suggested using the phallic symbol of the cigarette to make women feel stronger.

He got these debutantes to take cigarettes in their stockings, and they got them out and lit up during this big parade as a symbol of liberation – it was a set-up to make women buy cigarettes. That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking about right now.

I don’t know how I could progress. The more and more I look into things, the less they are what I thought they were.

The alternative punk scene and the alternative hippy scene, they’re actually part of the mainstream like when they had that big protest outside the White House to stop the Iraq war.

George Bush came out on the balcony and said: “Isn’t this brilliant it shows how much freedom we have.” He stood it all on its head.

I’m confused about where I stand on the protest thing.
I don’t know whether this makes sense, but I see myself more as a fascinated spectator. I was reading about how a lot of people are spectators, less and less people engage actively now. People go to see things rather than to do things.

If you’re asking me how I want to improve myself, I don’t think I could improve myself! It’s good to be critical about things all the time. Believe in things, but also look at yourself in the mirror and realise... laugh at yourself. Even if it all seems totally hopeless, it doesn’t matter.
Woman, 20s

Sorry, my brain is just not working right now. I’m not very good at philosophy.
Man, 30s

Every year I do this at New Year. I make resolutions: I have to get better organised and use my time better and plan it out and be more effective. By the middle of January, I’m back to the usual of just trying to survive and deal with what’s coming at me.

Then I spend the rest of the year in the same muddle as ever. If anyone else has the answer, please let me know!

As for resolutions, living my values, I have tried to live more simply. Whatever campaign you’re involved in, you realise they all interrelate and living more simply is an important part of it all. But it’s also about coming to terms with the fact that you can’t be perfect. I get stressed about wasting things or doing things which are not 100% right, and I have to tell myself to relax. Also, it’s not just about doing the right thing, it’s about being seen to do it, talking to people about, especially if you come into contact with people who’ve never thought about these things. So I explain why I’m wearing scruffy patched-up clothes, or eating food from a skip, or turning all the lights when they’re not needed.

Equally, you can’t be too hard on yourself when occasionally you need a treat or you need to turn up the heat because it’s too cold!

Over the years you probably do make changes.... I’m interested to hear whether anyone else has the answers....
Woman, 50s

I have lots of diaries that run out after a few weeks or months.
Man, 40s

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