I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I hate people, or that I am socially awkward, this just means I need time on my own to recharge. To recover from times when I am social.
No big deal, right?
Except it ends up being a big deal, because we live in a fast-paced society where we spent at least 40 hours per week at work. Surrounded by other people. At least, that’s how it is for me. My work situation happens to be crowded, I’m in a pod situation. I can hear the conversations of people halfway across the room.
When I get home, I’m done. When the weekend comes, I’m really done.
It seems that every week I get an invitation to leaflet or go to a vegan social hour or something along those lines. I delete them all. It’s something of a relief to know that my bike commuting means I can’t get home in time for them anyway.
I’m often surprised that other people socialize during the week. And then I remember that not everyone needs to recharge the way I seem to. The way other introverts need to as well.
I could force myself to do some of these things, and I’d even enjoy them, at least up to a point. But I’d get more and more exhausted. My temper would fray, my tolerance for small annoyances would decrease, and I’d slip precariously closer to depression. Been there, done that.
As an activist, introversion feels like a liability. How do we reach people if our free time is spent recovering from our work week?
I tweeted a general question on activism to someone who writes a blog for and about introverts. A mutual friend, PeaceChicken, joined in the conversation. She tweeted that “some of the the best activists were/are introverts, in my opinion.”
I found this interesting. Could she be right?
I often describe my own activism as indirect. My sanctuary work, my photography, the blogging, the calendar, it’s indirect. I leaflet once in a while. But I hate it. I table sometimes, and I don’t hate it, in fact I often quite enjoy it, but after just a few hours I end up with what I call a social hangover. (Low-grade headache, and I feel a bit punchy and desperate to get out of there.)
PeaceChicken agreed with me that for introverts, the indirect forms of activism are the right way to go.
And supportive rolls are important, there is no denying that, but still, as an activist, we’re concerned with whether our activism is effective. How often are we encouraged to have that conversation about veganism with at least one person every day? How often when I hear that do I mentally flip off the person telling me to engage in yet another conversation? (Every time.)
I am reminded of a post over at Striking at the Roots featuring an interview with Carol Adams. It’s a great article/conversation/interview, and I highly recommend everyone go read it. I need to read her books…soon! But in the meantime, here’s some food for thought, on activism:
When I mentioned that some activists feel we owe it to the animals to watch such videos, she said, “Again, it’s a male model of change versus a feminist model of change. It’s not about owing. It’s about asking, ‘How can I nurture the best relationship possible for all animals?’ I’m an animal, too. I do not need to inflict suffering on myself if the consciousness of what’s going on is already there. I think women often are going to be more obedient to these exhortations because, again, of the sexism in our society. But if a lot of women already are socialized to care, then our experience of those videos may be drastically different, and I think that needs to be acknowledged. Extraordinary expectations do not need to be laid down on animal activists. We’re already there. We should ask, ‘What’s the best I can do as an individual linking up with others?’ Everyone answers that differently, but our answers become part of a chorus that’s the same.”
Besides videos, then, what tools for change does Carol recommend? “In Living Among Meat Eaters I ask, ‘How do we know how change happens? Why do we think there’s one model for change?’ I think we fail to recognize that the right brain can also bring about change. That you can incubate and you can be stimulated by art to change. I think because activists are often more likely to be left brained and rational, they fail to take account of the way the right brain can be enlisted to help people change. In the book I say that meat-eaters are perfectly happy eating vegan meals, as long as they don’t know that’s what they’re doing. What I mean by that is people hate being self-conscious about what they’re eating. Eating is supposed to be directly experiential — it’s not supposed to have a theory to it. People think vegans are going to examine everything. One of the most important things I think we do is just having vegan meals for people. They leave and think, ‘Gee, Carol’s a vegan. That was a really great risotto; it was so creamy. So…that was a vegan risotto.’ So I’ve given them a chance to incubate, and the next time they come back to me they’re not as threatened, because I’ve enlisted their right brain to work with me rather than just arguing with the left brain that might not want to change.”
Not that I’m likely to start hosting dinner parties, but overall, I like where she’s going with this. I too often feel that there’s a prescription for activism that is pretty much a nightmare for me to contemplate. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Introvert activists, speak up! What do you do in lieu of the traditional extrovert-based activism?