How I got my Activist Groove Back
|You might not believe this, but before I went to Russia, I was somewhat of a cultural deviant in staid & conservative Washington DC. For starters, I was a vegetarian for eight years, once even giving up Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to be a vegan for a few months. I also practiced yoga for two years, achieving a respectable Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) under Liz’s strict supervision. I rarely watched TV or movies, I railed against America’s fascination with automobiles, and I detested the suburbs so much that I refused to leave the District of Columbia for months at a time.
Three continents and four years later, I’d forgotten about my activism as I was usually too busy trying to find a decent bar or warm bed to care about hormone-injected beef, systematic oceanic over fishing, American homogenization, or rampant suburbanization, not to mention good posture or a healthy diet. Actually, I think just getting outside of the impressive, yet oppressive, American media juggernaut was the real change.
When you can only get CNN in random hotel bars, Newsweeks are two months old, and International Herald Tribunes are five dollars a pop, you tend to rely on local language news sources filtered through English-speaking locals, three hour Internet cafe marathons, and backpacker rumors. None of these sources can compare to the 24×7 media onslaught that in Americana.
So I slowly forgot about all the issues that I was so strong about before. I ate all kinds of meat, from pure smoked pigs fat in Ukraine, to raw horsemeat in Mongolia, to duck tongue in China. I drank way too much and gained & lost weight mainly through gorging and starving as I never really exercised, and even got addicted to Hong Kong movies at one point.
When I got back to the USA, I did have moments of memory, like when I unsuccessfully rallied against buying a car when Jingmei moved here, or defended our expensive yet convenient downtown apartment against spacious suburban competition, but I couldn’t logically explain to Jingmei why. I’d completely forgotten my activist past.
That is until I met up with Claudette in San Francisco. See, she is my coolest activist friend, and since the day we met in our first yoga class, she’s been keeping me true to form with her quick wit and serious street credibility. Where I went off and quit yoga after a while, she is now a certified instructor. Where I lapsed into an omnivore diet, she’s still a vegan. Where I now own a car, she is still using her feet or mass transit to get around. And where I’m now totally techno in my music tastes, she’s still so punk as to know Fugazi & Circus Lupus band members.
She quickly re-exposed me to all the issues & ideas that I’d forgotten, with great debates on the recent Enron-esque scandals, affordable housing campaigns, and animal-rights theories. As I started to re-engage my non-traditional thinking, she left me to spend a day tanning in Delores Park, reading such mind-opening magazines like BUST, Adbusters, Satya, and Utne Reader.
I am slowly discovering my activist side again, this time a little older, wiser, and jaded. While I may not go vegetarian again, I am starting to examine all my actions, ideas, and beliefs, which any true activist, no matter what the issue, would want me to do.