This post is a bit different from my usual writing on this blog. As a therapist, I am passionate about helping people – those I see in my office, the ones I can reach through my writing, and those who are suffering all over the world. For me, promoting kindness, compassion and good mental health and believing in social justice go hand in hand. And it currently seems that many of our leaders and corporations, rather than striving to make the world a better place, are doing a great deal of harm.
Reading the news on a daily basis, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the negative things that are happening around the world. In the UK, we have a government that has done terrible damage to beloved and life-saving institutions like the NHS; and years of austerity have done real and lasting harm to the mental and physical health of millions of – mostly poor – families in the UK. As mental health problems increase at worrying speed among our young people, it's not hard to see the impact of these policies on people's lives.
In the US, we have a President who attacks the very foundations of democracy on a daily basis, while promoting an agenda which encourages the worst elements of humanity at home and abroad. If you, like me, are a liberal, what should we do? It's tempting to give up and retreat, to focus on the small daily pleasures that life brings and try to ignore the news, hoping it all eventually goes away. But, as someone who believes passionately in social justice; whose life is dedicated to bringing more kindness and compassion into the world; who is deeply proud of living in the wonderful multiracial and multicultural melting pot that is London, I think we have to do all we can to stand up for the forces of light in the world.
What you can do
As the descendant of Russian Jews, who emigrated to Britain in 1905 to escape the Pogroms; whose grandparents worked for a Jewish charity helping immigrants fleeing Hitler in the 1930s, I know all too well where nasty, dehumanising ideologies can lead. And I think we all need to do everything we can to stop them.
So instead of feeling overwhelmed and helpless, here are three things you can do today:
Be a digital activist. Sign petitions (they do work, whatever people say), write to your politicians, post on Facebook walls and tweet to corporations and others who are causing harm.
Boycott companies which are behaving unethically (here is a list of the most and least ethical companies in the world). Write to them and tell them why you are no longer a customer – this is the most effective way to get big companies to change, because losing money and negative PR are the most important influences on them to behave more ethically.
Support campaigning organisations like Greenpeace, WWF, Amnesty International USA, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Earthjustice, Hope Not Hate – they are fighting to protect the environment, human and civil rights in the courts, which is a powerful strategy to effect positive change.
And don't succumb to hatred or bitterness – another Martin Luther King quote comes to mind: 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.'