Is Giving Money Activism?
The documentary I'm working on about the plight of youth who have aged out of the foster care system and the various ways we can help them was on a bit of a hiatus. Now I know what it means when a project is scrapped because of "artistic differences."
We're back to work, or at least we were this past weekend, and we were talking about how a film is about one thing (the plight of emancipated foster youth and various programs and legislation that help them successfully transition to adulthood), but it's really about something deeper (i.e., it takes only one person, and not even one related to an official "program" to change someone's life, and you can be that person).
This is an activist film, and to many in my town activism means writing a check. And sometimes it's a really big check that, for instance, funds the production of a documentary or starts a new Turtle Nest Village. And as much as I (as the co-chair of several organizations that deal with this issue) enjoy getting–and even writing–big checks (which I enjoy as an individual, as well), I think of writing checks as part of my philanthropy plan, and not as activism. I make a personal distinction between social investing/venture philanthropy/charitable giving, and what I want the audience of the documentary to do: get off their asses and get involved, and essentially change their lives in order to better the lives of others.
Activism, in this context, means if you are moved to care about this issue, do something (or change the way you do something). And if it's inconvenient or annoying or you'd much rather be doing something else, so be it. Do you think I want to be up at 5am blogging every day? Do you think I want to feel compelled to give two abused greyhounds a home and spend tens of thousands of dollars on them and basically change my life so they can have their needs met? Do you think I want to deal with the ridiculousness of the cat-trapping situation (which, thank heavens, has actually begun)? Do you think I want to spend 25 hours/week volunteering and serving on boards and advisory councils when I could be spending that time making money? Do you think I enjoy the reality that shopping, even for the simplest item, first involves a thorough search for potential human rights abuses, environmental impact, and sources of ingredients or materials?
Let me be clear: The answer is No. I'd rather be drinking mimosas for breakfast, training for a triathlon, traveling some more, learning how to paint, and polishing up my voice so I can sing jazz in some smoky club at night (okay, a non-smoking club). Activism is about your daily behavior, from eating to shopping to working to socializing and about how all of the decisions you make about the way you live your life and even the way you think about life, are informed by the changes you'd like to see in the world. It's about being a living editorial on current state of the world and the future you'd like to see.
What do you think?