Activism vs. Self Care
7. October 2013 Leave a comment
This is going to sound a little weird because I took my German text, put it into Google translate and didn’t take the time to straighten out every detail. But it should make the content available for people who speak English. Here we go.
I have not blogged for ages and do not know how to do that – but I ‘m going to try it.
Today, I want to talk about the interaction or the contradictions between activist work and self-care. Activist work is not only to go out the door and to distribute flyers/ organize demos / to paint creatively on advertising, but also online discussions, to operate a blog (see what I did there?) or simply just to confront which prejudices you were fed.
I would now link to my clever self care post, if I had completed it. But I did not, so have a brief summary on self care. Self care can be done in many ways, but always contains taking care of oneself. Basic types of self care are to eat, drink and sleep enough. Above all, you should recognize when you have reached a limit and should postpone a task instead of doing it right now. The latter consideration is very important for activism.
Inside or outside
But before I’ll further address the issue that there may be conflicts between self care and activism, I would like to consider briefly whether this conflict is the same to all of us. You might have guessed it: No, it is not.
To make the decision whether you want to take care of activism or rather have a free weekend, this is only possible for a particular group of people. If my activism is to fight every day for the right to do the same things in public others who are not part of a minority do, there are only limited time periods off. If I do, however, mainly do activist work in my organization, but I can drop the issue when I go home – then I have completely different opportunities to rest. You can only really ask “activism or self care”, if you are sufficiently privileged. I write from a white and privileged enough perspective to actually ask me the question most of the time.
To Work, to rest or no choice?
I am writing this article because I feel this conflict regularly myself. All the things that I do ” at leisure ” on the Internet, are filled with activist themes. On Twitter, on Tumblr, in my feed reader – everywhere I follow people who deal with similar issues like me. Between cat pictures, there are posts about the deaths of refugees or new research on sexist violence.
When there is always something to do, it is difficult to answer where to make a cut. When will “I feel a little queasy” turn to ” if I do not close this page soon, I will be done with this week”? And most importantly: How can I close the page if the problem does not go away?
If you notice that our world is in a shitty place and you make the decision to do something about it, then you take over a responsibility. Not necessarily for a specific person but a responsibility to yourself. The question is, when do you take a break from your responsibility for a day or a week or even longer? When you get headaches? When the motivation to do anything disappears? When you have problems getting enough sleep and eating enough? When does activism become self harm?
As mentioned above “giving up the responsibility” does not look the same for everyone. Many, perhaps most, start activist work because they are personally affected – be it by racism and / or cissexism and / or ableism etc. Ie even if they decide not to fight at large scale, they are still not free from activist acts, but must continue to deal with the small bites and hostility society attacks them with. So how free are they really?
I have no answer to all this, of course . Resp. no answer that would work for many more people than myself. But I think it’s important that we pay attention to ourselves and each other. Where there is effort, there has to be rest, otherwise the power reserves go eventually empty.