Activism That Works

bestfriends.jpgThese two opening paragraphs from a recent email capture why I love the Best Friends group so much:

“Dear Members and Friends,
When bad things happen to homeless pets, there are two choices: focus on what’s wrong … or on how to make things right.
At Best Friends, it’s about how to make things right. Because it’s what you want for the animals – and it’s what we want too. Here are a few ways we’re doing just that:”

The article goes on to share news of latest developments at the Sanctuary.  Each one I read makes my heart grow bigger!
I used to be an active member and contributor to PETA, but over time found their mails more and more difficult to read.  The newsletters would sit on my counter for days and sometimes weeks before I could bring myself to pick them up.  Their letter-writing campaigns were often critical and negative-based, and their most public campaigns usually included chains and fake blood or something along those lines.
Not that they didn’t share good news and tell about things going right, but a lot of the material included horrific photos and a strong focus on what’s gone wrong. 
(You can even sense totally different vibes just from looking at the two different sites.)
In fact, I wrote about this topic not too long ago for Catalyst Magazine (page 34).
I’d love to hear from you resources and groups you know of committed to making positive change, and doing it without scare tactics or inflamed horror stories.  Whether it’s an environmental, human rights, political, or animal rights group, let’s get more acquainted with organizations committed to activism that works.  (I know it’s not just Best Friends who is diligent about the vibe they create!)
Thanks in advance for the resources you highlight with your comments!
PS – having said all that, I just want to say I have tremendous respect for the work PETA does.  Especially their undercover efforts.  Bless them all!

  • September 22, 2008
  • cheritycall says:

    Hello, Give something for help those hungry people in Africa or India,
    I made this blog about that subject:

  • Thank you for the birthday wishes, John! 🙂

  • Yeah, I totally get that, Anna: “I want to be a part of THAT.” Good vibes are attractive, aren’t they?

    Thanks for posting!

  • Judi, I’m so sorry to hear about Marvin! Not so much for his sake, but for yours.

    I know what a dear he was to you – well, IS to you, right?

    Sending you much love, as I know you sent him. Lucky guy to be with you, even if it was just three months. (You know how animals can’t gauge time worth a crap, right? So it probably felt like a good long lifetime to him.)

    Thanks for posting here, Judi. Your perspective is one that feels really familiar to me. On MANY counts. 🙂

  • Anna says:

    Jeannette, your husky story reminds me of a time when I was called to pick up a dog that had been tossed out the window of a car as it drove down the highway. Similar experience as with the husky — this Beautiful spaniel cross was shaking when I arrived to get him, and yet he walked right to me as I approached. Total trust, despite what had just happened minutes earlier.
    Animals know. They’re like little children that way.
    To the topic – there is a bizarre fascination with morbidity in society, which I believe accounts for the success of publications like The Enquirer, political campaigns based on smearing opponents, sensationalized news reporting — even those late night shows of Third World starvation are really little more than emotional blackmail.
    Show me images of babies with distended bellies from starvation and I feel anything but joy. If I give money here, it’s going with all those feelings and thoughts of anything but joy. How can that be good for the cause?
    Show me pictures of little kids getting an education, people working together building proper shelter, tending to crops, even hauling clean water in buckets, and the money I send there will be at one with my feelings of joy, and hope, a genuine loving desire to help. Even if both scenarios raised the exact same dollar amount, we all know which set of funds will be of greater benefit.
    Personally, when I see the good an organization does, if I can see joy, and love, well heck, I want to be a part of THAT – it leaves me feeling much better than what the morbidity mongers leave on my retina.

  • Judi says:

    Hi all,
    Thanks Jeannette for the perspective of do we need to know what is wrong to fix it. I guess I’m still a bit stuck on this one. I do think you are spot on with it being a “contrast” issue. “I know this is what I don’t want so I will focus all my energy on what I do want”. But I guess if I hadn’t seen the pics and vids of the suffering I wouldn’t know about the contrast and wouldn’t necessarily be focusing on what I did want. Not sure. Perhaps if I believed everyone loved and respected nature as much as we all obviously do, I would be focusing on that belief as my reality and therefore creating more of it!
    I do so agree about holding the positive when being involved in rescue work. Our Marvin was very sick when he came to us as a result of being sorely neglected. I could have held this picture of him forever and held him in that space. But I knew what an evolved soul he was and treated him as such. I wanted to hate the world for treating him so, but he inspired me not to do so. Sadly he only had three wonderful months with us and was pts three weeks ago. I could so easily fall into railing at the world that he didn’t have longer once he was safe and loved. But from what we have all said here I will hold my energies around all the wonderful people who rescued him and brought him to us and to safety.

  • Thanks for the two links, Judy, and for showing us we’re not the only ones who occasionally view something “wrong” that needs “fixing.”

    We’ve got good company, at any rate! lol

    Much love, my friend.

  • Judy says:

    gosh. . .. I’m a recovering activist. lol
    Prior to becoming a coach, I was a social worker for 25years. I’m glad I always worked in places where I could support folks to have the life they desire.
    I learn to view the world in terms of what needs to be fixed. Even today, I catch myself seeing the world and myself from this point of view.
    I like organizations or groups that bring people together-for fun, empowerment-it doesn’t really matter. I’ve broadened my point of view of activism and social change-don’t we all do that just by intentionally creating our life? Writing in blogs like this?
    A fave group from my youth development days is, an organization that fosters youth leadership and improved relationships between youth and adults. I’ve used their publications extensively.
    haha, I also love, a for profit organization that hosts retro dances for middle aged lesbians in Portland, Seattle, Eugene, Phoenix and Tucson. Music we know all the words to, and know how to dance to. …haha, 200-400 middle aged lesbians dancing and having fun, and still home before midnight, that’s activism, right? (can i confess that I organize the Phoenix and upcoming Tucson dances) ha ha. . .I do like happy activism.

  • Mm, I know at least one of those magazines, Jen – thanks for plugging them here!
    I think it says something about YOU that you’re able to see it’s easy to focus on the positive in your volunteer work – because I know folks who might be in that same position and do nothing but complain about the people who create our work, if you know what I mean.
    What I’m saying is it isn’t necessarily a given that because we get to work with the animals that we experience it as positive.
    Example, I remember a husky we fostered a couple years ago who had been dragged behind the truck by his owner (the shelter called us in on emergency to get the dog out before the owner came to pick the dog up – because he WAS coming back for his dog and the law couldn’t stop him from claiming him, if you can believe it).
    Anyway, we’ve got this unbelievably sweet big husky laying on the dining room floor, who literally can’t move because of the pain he’s in, and (understandably) all my ex could do was swear about the guy who would do this.
    I was thinking how amazing it was that this dog still trusted people – strangers, even – when he was in so much pain, and how brave and smart the shelter workers were to call us when it was imperative …
    Same situation – two different perspectives. (And I will say that sometimes I’m the one doing the swearing. I think it was just easy to offset my ex in that case, rather than get swept up in the negativity of it.)
    My point being that you have an empowering perspective, Jen. Kudos to you for that.

  • Jen says:

    Hey folks,
    I volunteer in the barn at a rescue group near my house and it is SUCH a blessing. It’s easy to focus on the positive concerning the care and well being of animals when I’m there.
    I wanted to put in a plug for two magazines that I find embody the feeling of “positive activism”; Ode and Yes!
    – Jen

  • Oooh!! This is a good question, Sharon!! Where is everyone on this one?! I want to hear some opinions on this!
    When you said this, Sharon: “If they only see evidence of happy animals they can happily live in a fantasy world where nothing bad happens to animals.”
    It made me think about the “ignorance is bliss” quote.
    If we were blissfully living in our fantasy happy animal world, what would THAT create?
    Well, we’d all have to be there, wouldn’t we, for that to happen? As long as others are out there doing their thing, creating their thing, … I’m getting off track, perhaps.
    The question seems to be, do we have to KNOW what’s “wrong” – oh boy, that’s another hot topic in itself –
    I’ll restate: do we have to KNOW what’s happening in order to create something else. As in, its opposite. ?
    And Sharon, I will be the first to say, that it was seeing the suffering of others that inspired me to want to curb it … so I get how you’re saying those inflammatory photos and videos serve a higher purpose.
    I just think it can be another way …
    In fact, I KNOW it can …
    OR .. is this where the contrast fuels the new desire? Maybe that extreme exposure to a “don’t want” really is necessary in order to fuel the new manifestation.
    This is interesting.
    I’m looking forward to hearing from others of you on this, because I know this group contains a lot of folks who are passionate about various causes!

  • Judi says:

    Thanks Sharon. That’s a GREAT answer to my question. Hits the nail on the head for me!
    You are so right, we need to be showing both sides. It’s when I see that things can change that I get fired up and positive that great things can happen. Seeing the really heartbreaking pictures informs me (as if I need more of that!) but can pull my energy right down for ages and make me sad and SOOOO angry.
    You are spot on – we need a good balance of both to keep us informed but positive.
    Thanks for that.

  • sharon says:

    Judi, I dont think the point is not knowing about it. I think knowing about terrible things happening in the world does not necessarily make us create negatively. It is what we do with what we know that matters. In the same way, knowing that there are rich people in this world will not make you rich.
    What creates your world is your mindset, i.e how you see the world. You can two people in the same situation and their results in life will be completely different depending on their mindset.
    So in answer to your question, I think it is okay to let the world know about dreadful things which are happening, but together with that the videos and the pics should also go out with a message that things can change if we cultivate a positive mindset. Hence the phrase, ‘Activism that works’.
    @Jeannette- great post!

  • Judi says:

    Hi all,
    I am totally with all of you on the need to keep ourselves focused on the solution and not the problem, on the positive and not the negative. As all of us here “know” that to focus on the problem/negative brings more of it, and to focus on the solution/positive brings resolution.
    However, and I’m probably going to be shot down in flames now (!) but if I remember rightly, years ago when I was innocent of how much animals suffered in so many ways, if I hadn’t seen some of the bad pictures I would never have woken up and started to be part of the force for positive change. I would have carried on living in ignorance and having absolutely no idea how many ways humans had found to abuse our fellow creatures.
    How do we suggest now then, that all those other people out there who are still living in ignorance are going to wake up to the cruelty if they don’t see the vids and pics? If they only see evidence of happy animals they can happily live in a fantasy world where nothing bad happens to animals.
    This is a very, very difficult one I know. I don’t have an answer. Does anyone else?
    Animals are my world and I too have a tough time looking at the dreadful pics and LOVE to see the pics of the rescued ones etc. So am totally with you all on that one. It feels so good to know we can bring about change.

  • Yeah, those are the magazines and newsletters I eagerly read (and end up acting on and contributing to) – the ones with happy stories, the ones that show the progress, the ones that make you proud to be human!
    Thanks for helping me feel my “connected” core value, Kristy – you feel like a like mind to me! 🙂

  • Kristy M says:

    OMG I’m with you on the PETA one. They do amazing things and I am a supporter (and a vegetarian)
    but its really disturbing to see what the animals go through.. especially with pictures and everthing. They should stick with the pictures of happy animals running free 🙂

  • When that happens, no one will be able to deny the power of positive thinking!

  • I have to admit, John, I get pretty excited at the thought of what it would look like – scratch that – what it WILL look like – when fervent supporters redirect negative energy to positive.
    Pretty excited, indeed.
    Mostly because I’ve experienced that switchup myself!
    Thanks for chiming in, my friend.

  • PETA has gone ’round the bend. The normal reaction to them these days is to point and laugh. Not something to encourage, considering the original motivation was pretty noble. Until they recover their way, I’ll not be encouraging damaging behavior.
    On the other hand, there are several groups I happily support, encourage and lend a hand to, when I can. In my area there are groups dedicated to rescuing neglected animals, often specializing in just one breed with special circumstantial difficulties, like greyhounds or pit bulls. Another specializes in wild horse breeds. There’s one really great group that works with saving/rehabilitating/etc. possums, and the stuff they do with educating the public is not only very positive, but seems to be attracting (let the reader understand) very good things on behalf of North America’s only, and badly misunderstood, marsupial.
    There are others, too, but those stand out as beacons of positive activism. Very very cool stuff.

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