RE: Daily Prompt – My Cause: Civic Leadership

Today’s prompt was, admittedly, inspired by the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” that has stormed onto the social media scene. As I talk about the cause I am most passionate about, I’ll reference ALS and other charitable organizations. To be fair, an issue or cause’s importance is subjective to perspective. This post is a look through my lens-of-life, so take it in as you would a grain of sand from the beach: course, small, and among a vast host of others. 

In all honesty, I’m torn on charitable organizations. I see the need for dedicated staff and communities to focus on meeting specific needs, which our government can’t always address(diseases, disabilities, etc). These groups can take the time and talents needed to work through complex problems that our communities face.In order to dedicate that time and those talents, they need money. People have families, mortgages, and all the other fixtures of a developed middle-class existence that they need to pay for.

 I also feel that writing a check or running a 5K, doesn’t really address an issue or constitute “service.” Those things are a result of our society’s adopted reasoning that problems are solved by the Almighty-Dollar. Charity, as I’ve experienced it, is mostly detached advocacy. When we scroll through Facebook and see posts about causes, we might think, “Sure, I don’t like cancer. I’ll share this post and get the word out.” Often our inclination to help doesn’t go much further than that, which is okay. That dollar might help go to (insert disease research firm here) find a cure, but what about the problems that can’t be drugged or vaccinated? How much money will it take to make racism, gender/sexual inequality, or corruption go away? Charity cannot cure societal diseases. 

Why don’t societal diseases get as much attention? Where is the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise money for victims of sexual assault? Is there a 5K out there looking to raise money and awareness in order to remove money from politics? No, there isn’t. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Donating money to a charity, running a 5k, or any of the other popular charitable practices don’t require you to think.
    1. I don’t need an education to film myself dumping a bucket of water on my head, then post it to Facebook. I won’t have to analyse the pros and cons of cancer research in order to effectively participate. No one is going to require me to sit down and persuade a stranger that helping starving kids is good. Societal problems can only begin to be solved by thinking. Becoming an effective thinker requires time, energy, and practice. Writing a check does not. 
  2. Diseases and illnesses are not our fault. 
    1. The problems that affect humanity’s health are often not the direct result of human action. We aren’t responsible for creating ALS, Parkinson’s, and so on. We are responsible for problems like corruption, income inequality, and racism. I think it is easier for us to work on addressing an issue that isn’t “our fault”, than it is to look ourselves in the mirror and tackle societal issues. You see it on the news every day. Would you rather help pay for a kid’s cancer treatment, or figure out if your community really needs to openly carry weapons? 
  3. Charity is fast.
    1. Have a PayPal? Great! In 30 seconds, you can help stop hunger for a child in South America. Is there an app for ending religious persecution? Thought not. We live in a fast word, which is truly amazing! We have become accustomed to the quick fix and the high speed solution. Societal problems don’t have a timeline or a loading screen. 

Societal diseases are the things I am passionate about addressing. How do we cure those diseases? “Civic leadership.” My own definition of “civic leadership” is an attitude of an engaged citizen, whose goal is to act in ways that will mold their community into one that is engaged, progressive, and inclusive. It is an attitude that encourages discovery, debate, and stewardship. A civic leaders’ philosophical enemies are apathy, ignorance, and exclusivity. 

What does it take to become a civil leader? What are we going to have to give, if we want to commit to addressing the issues that are rooted in the very soul of our community? You won’t have to run a race, write a check, or drench yourself in cold water. Do these three things:

  1. READ
    1. The societal disease we face today are, mostly, centuries old! We have been writing about possible solutions for hundreds of years. Read everything you can about an issue you want to tackle. If you want to address our political system, start with reading what the engineers of democracy read. Read our history, YOUR history, and you will find the pieces of an answer. 
  2. Train yourself to think.
    1. Before the industrial revolution, if you were fortunate enough (financially speaking) you received what we call a “Classical Education.” They learned about philosophy, the arts, and studied the works of individuals who helped craft our civilization. People who accomplish great things know how to think. It takes time to train yourself to be able to think, but the pursuit is worth the reward. We learn to think by reading (yes more of that), traveling, and listening. When we’ve trained ourselves to be thinkers, we have taken the first step to tackling an issue. 
  3. Play the long game.
    1. Solving big problems, takes a heck of a long time. Our mountains will erode into nothing, one speck at a time. A civil leader realizes that the prize he or she seeks will take a long time to win. Patience is key. 

I’m passionate about civic leadership. I think it is the key to curing the societal diseases, which we have created. Everything else, is simply treating the symptoms. 


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