Musings on activism


When you set out to become an activist, you set out to change the world, because you believe that you have something to offer that can possibly make the world a better place. A very egotistical notion. Don’t you think?

Standing with banners in the cold, rainy weather as people pass you by. Standing on street corners giving leaflets that most people can’t be bothered to even take. Going to political meetings where people argue until everybody is blue in the face. You get criticized, called all sorts of bad names and labels and the war happens anyway despite all your hard work.

What insanity drives people like myself to tread this route?

These thoughts among others where occurring to me as I was reading “Goodness, by Martha Roth” Over the weekend. Goodness is novel that deals with a group of people who are involved in the the anti-war movements in the sixties as they struggle mostly with real life situations. The novel is based mostly in Minnesota, U.S. Once I got past the first chapter I couldn’t put it down. The only reason I didn’t finish it in one night is because I didn’t want to continue reading while half asleep, I wanted to be fully awake as book explored the dimensions of these different characters, I ended up reading it in two night, although I could have read it in just one night, had I pushed myself.

There are many things I enjoyed about this book. The explicit description of sexuality from a women’s perspective was refreshing. I enjoyed the depth of each one of the characters, how each is human and therefore flawed, struggling to patch holes in his own life. For example, at the end of the novel, one of the main characters concludes that her son’s are assholes, All this activism and attempting to change the world into a better place yet she ended up raising two sons that she thinks are assholes. Another character imagines that the cancer cells that are invading her body are like soldiers that need to be educated to change their ways, she keeps talking to the cells hoping that they will attempt to live more peacefully with the rest of the cells in her body, Yet in the end she uses chemo therapy to zap them, so much for the believe in non-violence.

The novel is writing from different perspective of the different characters, on the surface it seems that the narrative is unrelated, as each character is focusing of different events in their own life, but what emerges is a total tapestry of a life lived and experiences and helps to inform us to what it was like to live through interesting times.

I found many similarities in the book to activism today in Vancouver, the only thing I found missing from the book that is present in my experience of activism is the long meetings and bickering among members. In the novel the characters seem to be able to cooperate with far greater ease. Maybe it is all that drug use that was prevalent in the sixties that mellowed everybody and made them easier to work with. I sure wouldn’t mind if a couple of the people I get to work with started using drugs to mellow out because they are way strung out and hard to deal with ….. I am only kidding.

When I became an activist, I thought I would change the world. I didn’t change the world but only developed thicker skin to rejection. I hope I will never get to the point where I call one of my children an asshole.

The only minor criticism I have of the book are that the book cover design is a bit drab and the first chapter is a bit slow moving. But both these points are very minor and don’t take away from the enjoyment I got while spending two nights with this outstanding novel

A worth while read.

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