I’ve never really understood protesting: taking valuable time to preach to the choir, all in hopes that some mainstream media talking head might get you on video. The videos I’ve seen of protests typically seem to make fun of those talking on camera — even the videos made by the protest groups.
I’ve gone to one protest in my entire life. All I saw were able-bodied people who wanted to change the world, or at least a small part of theirs. Some would protest for an hour, some for days or weeks. What changes come from these protests? At best, one government falls and an identical one takes its place. At worse, people get arrested, pay their fines, and the system keeps moving on.
Protesting is a total waste of time. The only people who will listen are those who already agree with you, but most likely don’t have the time to make a difference. Preaching to the choir is something I do here, certainly, but I do it after I’ve already done all I can do to be productive — and then some.
I have a different view of what an individual can do to change the world, namely: bust ass. If you have an hour or a week to protest, you can do much more to make an actual change in your life, in your community and in your world doing something else. If you have time to protest something terrible 10 hours a year, go and work a part-time job for 10 hours: rake leaves or clean gutters two weekends. Take the $100 or $200 you’ll earn and hand it directly over to an individual who is being harmed by whatever social injustice you’d normally protest against. If the 100 protestors at the latest Occupy Whatever movement did that — just 10 hours a year — they’d be able to support a few families with their $20,000. That’s plenty more than they would “help” through protesting, and I’m sure some people are protesting way more than 10 hours a year.
What if you have a guy like me, already financially stable, who isn’t that interested in cleaning gutters and passing on the cash to someone else? Here’s what I do: I go and I use capitalism to make a difference. I don’t like doing work for free, in fact, I hate it. Volunteering is not where I work the best. I like getting paid, but I also like helping those in my community when they’re in need. In a world without government, it is every able-bodied individual’s choice as to help others or not. We do plenty of help just by shopping at a local store (or an online one), buying a cup of coffee or filling up gas in our cars: the money we spend is hiring people.
Not everyone can get hired though, for a multitude of reasons — some due to disabilities, some due to old age. These are the people that government fails the most, because they are truly unable to lobby for support. The military defense budget is something like $700 billion annually, of course the old and the physically and mentally challenged aren’t able to get their slice.
I don’t trust the churches either, at least not the ones with big buildings or pastors who drive nice cars. Originally, that would’ve been the community support structure, but as government took more and more “responsibility” on its shoulders, the churches shifted from charity and servitude to fear-mongering and … supporting the war effort. No real solution there.
One way you can bust ass, in a capitalist way, while also passing on a few bucks to people who make a difference is to focus inward in your local community. Within 6 square blocks of almost any village (or larger) residence you will find at least one person or household that can use a little assistance. Don’t call it charity. I’ve found widowers who have needed their gutters cleaned or lawns mowed or walkways shoveled and salted. Go on up and see if you can engage them to help — and offer your labors at a reasonable price. Say $5 for work that might cost them $50. It’s not like they’ve got the money to pay the professionals, so you’re not destroying an industry. You don’t need the $5, but that transfer of capital keeps the pejorative term “not for profit” out of the transaction.
Take your $5 and buy membership in a local organization that is proven to actually making a difference with the truly needy. I usually look for community organizations that are typically state or city funded, but also accept donations. These government-funded private institutions should be funded by individuals, not tax dollars, but we as a society have decided to put our responsibilities into the hands of our chosen “leaders.” I won’t do that.
One organization that I recommend — if you live in the Chicago area — is the DuPage Center for Independent Living. They’re a private business that focuses on helping people with mental and physical disabilities find independence from structure care or nursing homes. This small group of volunteers has done a great job with the blind, the deaf, the elderly and the physically disabled, and for years the government that primarily funds them has missed payments, putting them at the brink of bankruptcy.
They have a donate button on their website, but I don’t like making donations. Instead, I recommend subscribing to their business as a member (as little as $10 a year) — a business transaction, based on the foundations of capitalist “charity”. If you want to find a similar institution in your area, just do a search for (city name) independent living center. You might also try (county name) instead.
Again, I’m not saying to volunteer your time — but do offer your labor in exchange for a discounted rate. Cleaning gutters or raking leaves is a surprisingly good exercise, and if you’re cooped up in your small apartment, you’re likely not getting any. Offering a low rate is a way to form a bond of commitment, even if you’re charging only 5% of your usual hourly rate. Capitalism is not about greed, it’s about bringing two people together with capital as the intermediary. You’re earning a few bucks, and you’re getting a work out without a health club membership — not bad. Take the few bucks you’ve earned, and form a new capitalist relationship with a private institution that helps those that you already should be helping. The people who work and volunteer for these institutions do a better job than you, and with your membership, they might actually be able to pay some of those volunteers, creating new capitalist relationships that work through voluntary action.
If you want to change the world, you’ll do it best through capitalism: not crony corporate capitalism, but the original definition of capitalism: two individuals uniting to trade goods, services or capital, for the mutual benefit of both parties. Everyone profits from true capitalism, but it works the clearest two individuals at a time.
If you don’t have a charity to become a member-contributor to, consider joining The DuPage Center for Independent Living. If you’d like, enter “2abd.com” on the membership form under the “In Honor Of” field.