A Portrait of the Advocate As A(n Apathetic) Young Man

Hi. I’m Anthony, and I’m an alcoholic..

Just kidding. What I mean to say is, I’m new. Clueless (very). Dumb (sort of). I don’t know activism, and I don’t know advocacy. A man named Soumitri has spoken of the uselessness, the crime, of apathy, and in the past I’ve generally been an apathetic person. But I plead – don’t prosecute me yet!

In coincidence with taking up the course, I’ve been in a long period of change. I still am, of course. I’ve been trying to get over the apathetic high school me and stop letting him bog me down. In coming into Change AAA, I’ve had more reason and motivation to do so. But it’s hard dropping seven, maybe eight, years of bad mentalities and habits that have become ingrained in me. And it’s hard being an advocate.

Advocacy, the given support to a cause, requires one to put themselves forth – to speak and to act. To say that something is wrong but must be made right, or to physically and actively oppose a notion, a standard. I and the rest of my group – Team Roger, as it were – decided collectively to give up excessive packaging to the best of our abilities in order to support recycling, reusing, and thus the health of the environment.

Again, it hasn’t been easy so far. Just accepting what we’re given as far as packaging is concerned when we go to order lunch, buy groceries, receive a long-awaited parcel in the mail, is something that has naturally been cultivated in our habits and doings. We assume the person handing it over has done it right. We don’t notice that the breakfast roll we order is wrapped in paper then put in another bag – why do we need the bag? To protect the paper wrapping the food from getting dirty? – or that we amass a few more plastic bags after every trip to the supermarket.

Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.

It’s tough to notice these things and try and do something about them. There are examples that come to mind of efforts that have already been made to reduce such packaging by humanity as a semi-engaged collective, such as the green bag initiative which has merely left people the option to use these reusable bags rather than removed the need for excessive plastic bags; the Keep Cup, which was intended to be a reusable coffee cup, essentially, but never really took off; and so on. Some people hopped on-board with these efforts, while most were happier to trudge on in the convenience of everything being handed to them, which, admittedly, when taken out of context does sound more appealing.

Personally, nowadays I do almost all of my shopping when I’m heading to and from uni as it’s most convenient to just duck into the Coles at Melbourne Central before heading to and from the platform. Conveniently, I have a rather spacious backpack and have made an effort to pack everything in my backpack and leave the plastic bag behind. If my backpack can carry why do I need to fill my hands with extra bags? When I do need the plastic bag though, and haven’t come prepared, I keep them to reuse as rubbish bags – I’m not sure but I imagine I’m not the only one – or just for general purposes at home. My plastic bags don’t hit the streets irresponsibly and make a mess like rowdy youths – they stay at home and do their chores.

On the whole though, I’ve come to a sort of plateau or conclusion, at least in relation to this sort of giving up: you can’t be an advocate in a bubble. Well you can, but you’d be ineffective really. Putting it one way, you consuming however much less will do nothing to also reduce the input, or the production of the thing you’re consuming less. It just means your portion will sit about until someone else uses it, but there won’t be any less entering the system. Less consumption at the output does not directly reduce the input. But it produces a message, and perhaps you may allow this message to be heard. When one cannot talk with words one must speak another way (perhaps by acting), but one mustn’t remain silent. And when many more are spreading the same message, more will hear it, and suddenly it becomes a big thing, big enough to make the world take notice.

I’m still making baby steps, but like Mulan and Captain Li Shang, I may yet be made a man (read: an advocate, proper). Maybe you can too. Maybe you are. Here’s an inspirational song for you: http://youtu.be/ZSS5dEeMX64

– – –

(Also, points for getting the title reference, any classics readers out there. The title is completely inaccurate in regards to this post, but I wanted it to sound interesting and couldn’t think of a wholly relevant but also interesting title. Sorry! (not really sorry))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s