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Right Activism: a checklist

Updated: Oct 15, 2022

Actions can be based on greed, aversion, and ignorance. Or they can be based on the absence of greed (generosity), on the absence of aversion (friendliness), on the absence of ignorance (wisdom).

Faced with a problematic situation, an injustice, something wrong, one might want to take action in that respect. But it is worth pausing and reflect on two points. First, any genuinely problematic situation or injustice is based on greed, aversion, and ignorance. The very fact of using these as bases for action is what makes the problem a problem (cf. AN 3.65).

Second, taking action to counter or alleviate the problem is going to be really helpful only insofar as that (re)action is not itself based on greed, aversion, and ignorance. Otherwise, it will just foster the same structure within which all problems arise and thrive.

There is wrong and right activism. The wrong activism is the urge to react to aversion and greed with yet more aversion and greed, like throwing fuel on a fire. Right activism does the opposite, it seeks possibilities of facing situations triggered by greed, aversion, and ignorance by relying on their opposite attitudes, like throwing water on a fire. This includes the wisdom of knowing that in some cases there is little that one can actually do, except perhaps not contributing to make things worse and escalate even more. But isn't this already quite a huge achievement?


As a non-exhaustive checklist, one might reflect on the following points:


(1) Do I directly contribute to the problem (by fostering greed, aversion, and ignorance)? If yes, stop that.


(2) Can I do anything to alleviate the problem (without fostering greed, aversion, and ignorance)? If yes, do it.


(3) Can I say anything, or speak to anyone, who might do anything or contribute in any way to alleviate the problem (without fostering further greed, aversion, and ignorance)? If yes, say it.


(4) Are there any people or groups with whom I could join forces in order to circumscribe, alleviate, or prevent the problem from escalating further (without fostering further greed, aversion, and ignorance)? If yes, join them.


(5) Greed, aversion, and ignorance thrive in a context that is itself shaped by greed, aversion, and ignorance. The most effective long-term strategy to weaken their grip and prevent them from arising is by creating a context unsuitable for them. This is a context of generosity, friendliness, wisdom. How can I develop, expand, and strengthen this context in myself, and outside of myself?


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