The Cost of Inaction


Today I read about the Winnemem Wintu and other tribes who gathered together for a practice run of a protest they will hold in the near future to protect their sacred ground and coming of age ceremony from the encroachment of heckling tourists and residents.  I was all fired up to write a scathing post and maybe a letter or two about how shameful it is that this kind of discrimination still takes place.  I was all ready and set to write about how ashamed and disgusted I am of being an American when I am reminded that our Native tribed are still abused, downtrodden, and essentially treated as second-class citizens in this country, even now in 2012.  I was just about to put pen to paper to write that it’s disgraceful that no one does anything about this issue to the point that the tribe is forced to civil disobedience just to be heard.

And then it hit me.

I, with all my fine words, all my well-meaning rage and disgrace, am really no better than the ignorant government.  Because, you see, my fine words and I are sitting in an office, or at home behind a computer.

Doing nothing.

There are plenty of people who pay lip-service to an ideal, plenty who will bemoan the state of the world without doing anything to actually fix it.  They do nothing.  And today, it hit me so hard that I paused in my work, leaned back in my cushy office chair, and actually thought about it.  With utmost surprise and shame, I realized that although my intentions were of the best, I have in fact become one of those people.

I have done nothing.

Where are the movers and shakers of today?  Where are the protesters, the leaders, the American system-breakers of this new era?  Where are the Susan B. Anthonys, the Martin Luther Kings, the Gandhis?

They’re sitting behind a computer, wrapped up in Facebook or Twitter or Angry Birds, frustrated by the world if they have any feeling or awareness left at all but still choosing to do nothing–either because they choose to or because they simply don’t know how.

I love technology.  I really do.  I’m good at it, and I’m old enough to remember a time when there was no cell phone, no personal computer, even no Internet (gasp!).  I think technology is a wonderful tool.  But we have become so focused on the next status update, the next text message, the number of Likes and friends, the next YouTube viral video, that I believe we have forgotten how to truly function with each other as human beings.  We have now been told and taught for many years that technology is the way to go, the way of the future.  And we follow blindly as sheep, herded to the next “amazing” gadget that’s really not much different from the previously amazing gadget released six months ago.  We allow technology to consume our attention and become an excuse to do nothing.

Yes, I realize the irony of using a blog and Facebook page to get this message out when I have just briefly expounded on the “evils” of technology.  But both blog and Facebook are tools.  We must learn to use them properly.

We cannot continue to do nothing.  There are too many important issues that need addressing in this world.  The rights of Native Americans in the US is only the tip of the iceberg.  What about the rights of women and children in third-world countries, protection of animals and the environgment, governmental abuses, corporate abuses, pollution, cartels, violence, and prostitution rings and slave trade?  Hiding behind computers, using the “anonymity” of the Internet, all of it must end–or be used properly–if we are to make real improvements.

I have done nothing.  Even these words will do very little because they are exactly that–just little words.  To fix the world, to make it better, more than words is needed.  Action is needed.  Solidarity and a sense of right are needed.  A reminder of humanity is needed.  We are all connected.

I will no longer be a sheep and do nothing.

Will you?

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4 responses to “The Cost of Inaction

  1. heavensangelsreadings

    I’d have to agree with a lot of what you said. I have found it easy to write about injustice in the world around me, yet very hard to actually get people involved to do anything about it in the real world,

  2. *1972. 1973 was the Wounded Knee occupation. 😎

  3. Oh, this post. So much love for you and it. I mean that. Let me deeply consider my response:

    Words are tools too. They can be considered “action.” That’s why there is a difference between “preaching” and “preaching to the choir.” Please, by all means, write… even about feeling bad that writing is all you’re doing. Some people, for instance, probably roll their eyes and shuffle their weight and look uncomfortable when you mention these problems. Others may widen their eyes, not having known the American Indian struggles are real and current, never having heard the name Leonard Peltier, never having travelled to Indian country, going around thinking they’re all doing well for themselves on casino revenue and chuckling about cliche immigration jokes (you know, the ones where the Indians are like “these immigrants should go back where they came from!”) as if that shows a deep grasp of contemporary indigenous issues.

    With words you can cut ignorance.

    Whatever you do, there will be people who respond negatively. With words people will call you a radical, naive, young (as if this is a condition to be cured with daily doses of drudgery and cynicism), liberal; labels meant to make it easy to disregard the uncomfortable things you’re writing. On the other hand, say you take action. Say you occupy Wall Street (or, as AIM did in 1973, the Bureau of Indian Affairs). Some will say you are changing the world, others will say you’re making an ass of yourself. Effectiveness is hard to measure. If you go on the rez and volunteer for the people, some will be grateful and welcoming, while others will criticize you for interfering, or even hate you for being white. There is no purely angelic act in the world that somebody can’t find fault with.

    That’s okay. I support you.

    There are many ways to support the efforts of Native peoples. Pick one, fueled by passion and learning humbly as you go. Add as many as you can handle, because we do deserve comfort and peace; it’s only modern American society’s folly to separate “comfort and peace” from “doing the right thing.”:

    “I guess you hate the people most who make the most justifiable demands. Because they go to the heart of our psyche. We know they are right, and therefore we have to destroy them if we can. I think a lot of people are really afraid of justifiable Indian claims to land and resources. They’re most afraid of the fact that the claims are morally right, because when you are confronted with a moral imperative against an immoral imperative on your part, you’ve got to hate the people who assert that moral imperative. And I think there is an irrational, guilt-caused hatred now that is beyond my ability to analyze. We hate them because their claims are totally justified — and we know it.” – Bill Kunstler on the political imprisonment of Leonard Crow Dog, quoted in Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

    • Thank you Rebecca! Words can be a form of action, yes, but sometimes they don’t feel like enough, you know? Sometimes it feels like your words aren’t good enough, or you don’t reach enough people to be effective in enacting changes, or your words just feel so inadequate. I like the quote you added at the bottom–very powerful, and true!

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