Sharing Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Great Dictator because it’s beautiful and perfect. It’s what we all want, yes?
But here we are, some seventy years later, dealing with many of the same problems. I won’t get into why or what they are, because most reading this probably already know or have their own ideas about them, and I don’t think it’s my place to tell you what to think or how to perceive the various injustices of the world.
But the fact remains: the world is not how we want it to be. Regardless of political affiliation. From the most traditional and conservative to the most progressive and liberal, no one is satisfied. I see it every day on social media. I hear it every day on the bus, on the street, on the faces of those I see, in their voices whispering or shouting out.
No one likes what we have, so what do we do?
Before I continue, this is not going to be a solution for everyone. It’s just one way of doing things.
There are activists and there are whistleblowers and journalists. These people put their lives on the line to try to make the world better. Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, John Kiriakou, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond, and so many others. Many of us wish we could be like that. That we could devote our lives to the causes we believe in, even if it has serious consequences for us and our families.
Even if we wanted to be like these people, many of us simply can’t. The reasons are various and multitudinous. We don’t have the economic freedom to give up our jobs, or we fear giving up our jobs due to economic pressure. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the knowledge, insight, or ability to do the kinds of things these other people have done. We fear for our own life or the lives of our loved ones. The list goes on and on, but the point is that so many of us can’t be out there protesting and changing the world through our own actions.
And that’s okay.
Protesting is important. Campaigning and canvassing is important. Fundraising matters. Throwing events in the community and spreading knowledge matter.
We need these people who can disseminate and spread ideas. Who can march on Washington. Who can occupy public spaces. Who can get in the streets and shut it down. Who can teach children and adults. Who can rebuild, heal, and reach out.
But so many of us just can’t do that. It could be from political ambivalence or it could be from some of the reasons I outline above. Whatever the case, we just can’t.
There are other ways to influence the world in ways that you believe are important.
Funding organisations, peoples, and projects you believe in are a few big ways, and they’re the ways that I choose to make the world move in a way that I think is correct. You may disagree with my ideals, beliefs, ideological stances, and that’s fine! If you feel I’m doing something damaging to the world and people, start a dialogue. Or, if you don’t want to do such a thing, fund organisations, peoples, and projects that you believe in, which may work in opposition to the ones I choose to support.
Now, I don’t make a lot of money. I’m lucky enough today to be making about double what I made last year, but I still make well below the median income in the US. Last year I was well below the poverty line and I feel fortunate to have climbed out. And while I gave money to many organisations last year, I’m also lucky enough to give to more, now.
I’m going to list out the organisations and causes that I currently give to.
I do this mostly to show that you can do a lot with not that much money. While I’ll never be able to do things that the Koch brothers or Bill Gates can do with their money, I can at least help in my limited capacity. And if millions of people can give a few dollars to causes they believe, that can generate a huge amount of funding. Funding that allows activists, journalists, artists, and organisations to do what they need to do.
- International Wolf Center – A wolf sanctuary and educational resource based in northern MN
- The Current – A MN based publicly funded radio station
- Democracy Now! – A listener funded news organisation
- Chelsea Manning Support Network – An organisation trying to free Chelsea Manning while also covering her legal fees
- Wikileaks – A not for profit news organisation
- Planned Parenthood – A women’s health care provider, educator, and wellness organisation
- Syrian Refugee Fund – There are a lot of organisations working to provide aid. I actually gave to this through Kickstarter organised funding drive and a Google fund matching drive.
- Freedom of the Press Foundation – A non-profit organisation that defends public-interest journalism
- ACLU – The nation’s largest guardian of civil liberties
- Sierra Club Northstar Chapter – The local chapter of the Sierra Club, a conservation and environmental organisation
- Baltimore Community Fund – A community organisation working in response to the tragedy there earlier this year
There are, of course, thousands of organisations you could support. As you can see, most of the causes I support are related to the environment, civil liberties, human rights, and freedom of the press. If these are things you want to support, there are so many organisations you can fund. The ones above are the ones I choose to give to, but there are so many others that you could choose.
In addition to the above, which are largely political in nature, I also give to a variety of Kickstarter and Indiegogo and Patreon campaigns. I’m not positive how many I’ve funded or attempted to fund, but they generally have to do with videogames, boardgames, or publishing projects.
Why I include these in this is because art can make the world better. So can games. I believe very strongly that allowing talented people to create awesome things makes the world better. When you put prosocial or positive or just awesome things into the world, the world becomes better.
That’s how I feel anyrate.
Some of the other organisations I’ve given to or subscribed to:
- Broken River Books – Gave to both of their Kickstarter campaigns and currently subscribe
- The Cupboard – Subscribed for three years. No longer subscribe.
- The Paris Review – Subscribed for four years. No longer subscribe.
- Dzanc Books – Subscribed for about four years. No longer subscribe
- Black Ocean – I’ve subscribed for the previous three years, but haven’t this year. Still might.
- Mudluscious Press – Closed a few years ago, so I no longer subscribe
- Two Dollar Radio – Gave to their filmmaking campaign
- Lightspeed Magazine
- Clarkesworld Magazine
- The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy
- Strange Horizons
- Asimov’s – May or may not continue
- Analog – May or may not continue
- Greying Ghost
- Serial Box – Tremontaine
This is the small way I try to shape the world in a way that I think is beneficial.
It’s clearly not the only way and it may not even be the best way, but I simply don’t have the time or economic freedom to get out and protest or be an activist. What I can do is throw some money to people who I think are working to make the world a better place.
Other ways are to buy local. Support your local grocer, brewery, restaurants, stores. Improve the area around you and your life will just become better. Whether you give support through activity or money, do something to make life better.
And then there are all the small and nearly invisible ways to improve the world. Be kind. Be generous. Be thoughtful. Listen. Give help where you can, even if it’s just helping someone up. Every little positive actions will improve your life and the lives of those around you.
So be good. Be better.
But mostly, just be kind.
If you have alternative ways to improve the world, I’d love to hear them.