Why Activism? Inspiration from Ta-Nehisi Coates

April, 2018

I’ve just finished “Between the World And Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  An important book, highly recommended.

I found myself stopping and re-reading many times, just to drill down into something that took me by surprise, or really reached me.  Here is one quote that I like very much.

“History is not solely in our hands. And still you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory but because it assures you an honorable and sane life.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World And Me, page 97.

Coates’s insight is consistent with a thought from Wendell Berry, but from a slightly-different angle:

“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.” 

Wendell Berry, from “A Poem of Difficult Hope,” 1990 

We could think of these messages as pessimistic.  My sense is that Coates and Berry are encouraging us to reflect on a deeper sense of how we can sustain meaning for ourselves.  Being outwardly directed is important, we have to keep up our work to transform the world.  Seeing this work as a way of being true to who we are, and who we want to be, helps us keep at it when the climb so often seems too steep.

*

Check out my series about climbing each of the 48 mountains in New Hampshire that are at least 4000 feet tall (1219m) and, each time, reflecting a bit on the journey since I began to work in social justice, 30 years ago: on development, human rights, conflict, experiences along the way, etc.

  1. Mt Tom (1) – A New Journey;
  2. Mt Field (2) – Potable Water in Ecuador;
  3. Mt Moosilauke (3) – A Water System for San Rafael (part 1);
  4. Mt Flume (4) – A Windmill for San Rafael (part 2);
  5. Mt Liberty (5) – Onward to Colombia, Plan International in Tuluá;
  6. Mt Osceola (6) – Three Years in Tuluá;
  7. East Osceola (7) – Potable Water for Cienegueta;
  8. Mt Passaconaway (8) – The South America Regional Office;
  9. Mt Whiteface (9) – Empowerment!;
  10. North Tripyramid (10) – Total Quality Management for Plan International;
  11. Middle Tripyramid (11) – To International Headquarters!;
  12. North Kinsman (12) – Fighting Fragmentation and Building Unity: New Program Goals and Principles for Plan International;
  13. South Kinsman (13) – A Growth Plan for Plan International;
  14. Mt Carrigain (14) – Restructuring Plan International;
  15. Mt Eisenhower (15) – A Guest Blog: Max van der Schalk Reflects on 5 Years at Plan’s International Headquarters;
  16. Mt Pierce (16) – Four Years At Plan’s International Headquarters;
  17. Mt Hancock (17) – Hanoi, 1998;
  18. South Hancock (18) – Plan’s Team in Viet Nam (1998-2002);
  19. Wildcat “D” Peak (19) – Plan’s Work in Viet Nam;
  20. Wildcat Mountain (20) – The Large Grants Implementation Unit in Viet Nam;
  21. Middle Carter (21) – Things Had Changed;
  22. South Carter (22) – CCF’s Organizational Capacity Assessment and Child Poverty Study;
  23. Mt Tecumseh (23) – Researching CCF’s New Program Approach;
  24. Mt Jackson (24) – The Bright Futures Program Approach;
  25. Mt Isolation (25) – Pilot Testing Bright Futures;
  26. Mt Lincoln (26) – Change, Strategy and Culture: Bright Futures 101;
  27. Mt Lafayette (27) – Collective Action for Human Rights;
  28. Mt Willey (28) – Navigating Principle and Pragmatism, Working With UUSC’s Bargaining Unit;
  29. Cannon Mountain (29) – UUSC Just Democracy;
  30. Carter Dome (30) – A (Failed) Merger In the INGO Sector (1997);
  31. Galehead Mountain (31) – What We Think About When We Think About A Great INGO Program;
  32. Mt Garfield (32) – Building Strong INGO Teams: Clarity, Trust, Inspiration.

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