Rise to the Occasion
No hot takes. Just take action.

By Douglas Rushkoff. Published in Medium on 4 May 2022

the main article image

Sometimes it’s hard to write into the news cycle. I don’t like to write hot takes on things, no matter how closely related they may be to my areas of expertise. I didn’t even write about Elon Musk’s proposed purchase of Twitter because, well, I don’t really care.

Not when people in Ukraine are getting massacred, democracy is in peril, America has passed one million Covid deaths, the climate is ignored, a special bird in Hawaii went extinct, a big chunk of glacier broke off the ice cap, teen suicide is skyrocketing, New Mexico burns, and — oh yes — Roe V Wade is about to be overturned, making abortion illegal in majority of US states.

So I’m shelving the typical heartfelt but heady piece I wrote this week, and instead offering up a short but concrete set of answers to the deluge of email messages I have gotten this past week asking “what can I do about…?”

First off, breathe. That’s a necessary first step for addressing any of these problems. You, yourself, have to breathe. Stop reading for a second, and literally breathe. In through your nose, and out any way you like. Pause a moment, and let the air come back. There. See? The air goes in by itself. No effort. You’re fine.

Then, put your feet on the ground. Uncross your legs, or take them off the arm of the sofa. Your body knows it’s safe when you have both feet on the ground. You are safe.

Okay, now, what to do about all these problems? One easy first step is to give money. It’s not everything, but it does help. The trick is fund things as close to the ground as possible, rather than engorging elitist institutions.

You care about reproductive rights? Give locally. Donate to your regional abortion fund right now. Or give to all of them, by donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

You’re concerned about Ukraine? Gosh, you’ve got the Ukraine Crisis Fund, Doctors Without Borders, or the charity I support myself, Afya Foundation, which is airlifting medical supplies under the direction of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health.

To mitigate climate change, don’t buy a Twitter, I mean a Tesla. Put the money to the Clean Air Task Fund, Carbon 180, or fund climate protest through the Climate Emergency Fund. Heck, donate to my friend Reverend Billy and the Church of No Shopping.

Moving capital is a great start, but it’s necessarily removed, and arguably a symptom of the elitist, top-down, data-driven style that has distanced the left from the people and conditions on the ground. So the impulse to get some skin the game is good. I don’t mean flying to Ukraine to fight or Texas to protest, but finding the people in your life or in your neighborhood who care about the issues you do.

These are not other people’s problems. Just because you don’t live in near Russia or in a “red state” doesn’t mean you will not be directly impacted by what is going on. You already are, which is why you can take direct action, yourself.

Climate change remediation begins at home, by driving, flying, spending, and extracting less. Reproductive rights activism begins on the ground, between people, organizing effectively. (That’s how the right-to-life people did it. They built a movement in churches and communities, over decades.)

The dismay and despair you are feeling has one surefire cure: solidarity. Find other people, particularly those in need or related to those in need, and support them as best you can. Let them know you are bearing witness to what they’re going through. Meet and strategize with your own friends and allies. There’s no one solution to any of these problems, but thousands of little ones directed toward common goals.

If, like me, you find it impossible to watch the news but can’t distract yourself with Netflix, it’s time to go outside or even into a Zoom room and be with people. Start by simply being with others and the rest will follow. Things may be awful, but they are only hopeless if you give up or give in.

Let’s rise to the occasion, together — which is the only way we can.