Friday, January 01, 2010

Advice to Self, Activist

Lessons learned so far:

If you are going to lead, you need a tremendous amount of tolerance for all kinds of personalities, those with strong or dogmatically held opinions, those who have just plain bad faith--and those are just your friends.

Always discuss the issue with the attitude that everyone is seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. Even if someone is obviously seeking some personal benefit, keep the language idealistic as far as possible. Always appeal to the highest nature.

You need to be focused and optimistic. All the time. You need a strong center, and if that strong center is spiritual faith, that will help just that much more.

You need to focus on the issue you are fighting, while recognizing what is practically attainable. If you don't do the first, everyone will try to turn the issue into some subset of their own little pet peeve. If you don't do the latter, you will end up isolated and unable to achieve anything. Or you may win a small battle and lose the war.

You need to be ready to continue even if defeat is inevitable. The forces of selfish interest are generally more concentrated, those of selfless community interest more dispersed and harder to galvanize into action. Entropy, lethargy and indifference are powerful forces to overcome. Rajas can sweep over tamas before sattva even wakes up.

Remember that there is something ineffable about the creation and cementing of community in idealistic action, which has value far beyond the issue of the day, and will pay dividends in the long term. Never confine your vision to the immediate issue.

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