Find the balance between finding joy in activism and fighting for the things you believe in.
Any activist, or anyone who cares about societal issues, will know how draining it can be to constantly have to fight and stand up for what we believe in. With the constant onslaught of the news and social media, doomscrolling can often leave us feeling deflated and hopeless. But activism doesn’t have to feel like that. It isn’t about feeling pessimistic and defeated. Finding hope and joy will ultimately lead us to better outcomes.
“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism.” as the author of Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit, puts it, “when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” Throughout the years, I have found this to be true. So often, we feel we should be fearful and deal with our struggles alone. But, by coming together and finding joy in our work, we become much stronger.
Activism is about imaging and aspiring towards a better future; it’s about envisioning a better world where everyone is healthier, happier, safer. And, it’s about picturing that and striving towards it. What is the point in fighting for a new world if that new world is not filled with joy?
So you might be wondering how you can achieve the balance of finding joy whilst also fighting for what you believe in. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be moments when you feel you’re fighting a losing battle, but pinpointing the things that bring you joy will give you the energy you need to keep going.
Think about where the joy in your life comes from. It might be spending time with family, hanging out with friends, connecting yourself with nature, listening to music or eating food. Wherever that joy lies, latch onto it. Being an activist is not the only thing that defines you. So often, activists feel guilty when enjoying themselves. But they shouldn’t. This new world we’re trying to create is one where there is more joy for everyone. We have to know what brings us joy before we can start building our new world around that.
Secondly, there is a lot in your role as an activist to be joyful about – you are literally shaping the future of society, and if that’s not something to be joyful about, then I don’t know what is. But there are also smaller moments to cherish; the little victories. Nothing makes my heart soar more than when I hear the hundreds of voices united in their call for action. There’s so much joy in knowing you’re not alone. There’s also beauty in the art, music and poetry that comes out of activism and taking up space with fellow activists. Inhabiting that space and providing people with a voice is definitely something to feel joyful about.
And it might feel like we’re fighting a losing battle sometimes, that we are defeated more than we win. But the small wins should be celebrated and amplified. Just this year, activists Mikaela Loach, Karin van Sweeden and Jeremy Cox took an unprecedented legal case to court. The trio forced the UK government to admit oil companies make more from subsidies than they pay in taxes. This is something the government had previously denied.
Whilst they may have lost the court case, the government’s confession is a huge win for the climate movement. Winning really isn’t a linear journey, and the small wins all add up. In the same year, Shell has pulled out of the Cambo oil field, and Siccar Point Energy has put the project on hold – this came as a direct result of protesting and campaigning. Change doesn’t just happen; it happens because we choose to fight for it.
By finding shared joy and passion, people are coming together with a shared goal for a better world. And whilst we may feel defeated sometimes, we must remember we are winning the fight for social and climate justice. We are creating change. And, for that, you have a lot to feel joyful about.