With your perspective, you have an especially valuable role to play. Organize or attend a meeting and make your voice heard, even if you don't have a position of leadership.
Champion divestments from unethical companies. Write
a letter to the board. Ask simple questions about conflicts of
interest that affect their clients and the world. (And accept thanks when less
ethical competitors get buried under lawsuits.) Finally, consider an exit
strategy, even it's ten to fifteen years down the road.
Use alternative models. Push companies and institutions with which you're associated to adopt economic models that promote employment opportunities and compensation levels that provide security and meet basic needs. Where possible, buy local and/or sustainable, engage in fair trade (on or off label), and grow or make products yourself.
5. Focus on what you can do. Sign and circulate petitions, if you can't protest as often as you'd like. Measure and reduce your carbon footprint. Divest (and push to have your university's endowment, your city, and your pension program divest also) from hedge-fund, private-equity, energy, Fortune 500, and banking companies that evade taxes or prey on clients. Compost. Pledge to make your next car purchase electric or hybrid. Most importantly, tell ten--or a hundred--friends about each step you take and what you plan to do. Credit yourself for pushing things to a tipping point.
6. Do it yourself, if you prefer. Don't like the message, location, or thrust of a campaign? Perfect! The cause could use your initiative. Organize your own rally. Arrange your own clothing swap. Develop and share your own list of responsible, like-minded brands. Start your own campaign. Organize a fundraiser or a documentary screening. Teach about an issue. Develop a creative protest sign.
7. Be worthy of your heroes. Be known for your creativity, integrity and moral courage. You'll find yourself in strong, if surprising, company.
Bring the full power of your personality and talents to your new ambition. Operate from the top of Maslow's hierarchy, bringing creativity, morality, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts, and problem-solving to the issues around you. You will astound those who may be watching (including that cute person in the mirror).
Think broadly. Don't count on just-in-time change. Make the let's-push-for-workplace-flexibility-and-maternity-benefits-now-I'm-pregnant behavior the exception, not the rule. While the speed and power of movements cannot be underestimated, neither can the inertia that arises from our narrow outlook.
8. Make it a habit. Target a specific amount of time to new actions that embody your values. Spend perhaps one percent of your own (or your children's) sports or TV time on protest--which is itself often an art exhibit, concert, and history lesson wrapped into one. Maybe devote five percent of that sports or TV time to spreading information advocating greater social justice. Commit to daily and monthly activities.
9. Stop looking for the parenting book. Where's "Your Socially Responsible Child at Age __ "? In the trash. You don't need a guidebook to discuss things with your kids, although bookstores with great material (like DC's "Busboys and Poets") exist. Show them "Climate Refugees," "Revolutionary Optimists," "Newsies," "Supersize Me," or a dozen other documentaries. Talk to them about how the Danes by themselves saved their Jews--or about the Underground Railroad, the fight for Indian independence, American muckrakers, or current inspirational leaders.
Have your teenager read "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks," and discuss Frankie's epiphany: "It is better to be alone...than to be with someone who can't see who you are. Frankie realizes, too, that "it is better to lead than to follow," as she dismisses her priorities of just a few months earlier. "It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people."
Most importantly, tell your children about what you're doing. Why do you buy, grow, or make what you do? Simplify, if necessary. A friend overseas tells her kids that a particularly popular brand of fast food is "not food." Answer your children's questions, even if they are some of the toughest you hear. Let the answers inform your actions. Honor their wishes: Join them in becoming vegetarians or in helping flood victims.
Involve your children in your own purpose-filled life. Baldwin wrote: "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."