OpFlint Pt. 1 – Defining Activism, A Preface

       It’s been nearly a month since I’ve written an article, and to my readers I apologize for this. Something I’m finding is that I am not the only activist who can get a bit lost at times. Between taking some time to regroup and the excitement for going to flint tomorrow I felt really inspired to write something today. Tomorrow we leave for Flint, MI to do home deliveries of water to the most needy in this ravaged community. I want to write several pieces on the experience, and this first one I guess will be sort of a preface. I wanted to write a bit on why this is such an important trip, and it is for many reasons. In doing so I feel it important to touch on some important points like “what is an activists job?” Since Christmas I have seen and learned so much and this trip feels like a culmination of sorts to me.
        So what is an activists job? That’s a really good question that assuredly may be answered differently by most people and thats okay. To me it’s many things, on one hand there’s an element of awareness that most people seem to tune out. I’ve met so many great people recently who will brave the discomfort and peer into the darkness and corruption to “wake up” the masses. Truthfully I feel this is a vital element to most activist’s practice, but can easily be the downfall of many if we lose awareness of our selves. I’ve experienced this firsthand…becoming that aware so fast I found myself taking on so many projects I spread myself thin and my energy depleted. I learned quickly that one person can do so much and that too is okay, we’ll all live to fight another day.
        Something else I learned early on is that “naysayers” come with the job. It seems that no matter where you live the people with boots on the ground tend to get labelled and there will always be some who disagree with the cause. With this territory comes plenty of trolls, stress, and frustration. I found that the more I internalize these experiences it doesn’t just hurt me but it hurts my work too. I learned that my job isn’t to convince everyone that I’m right and they’re wrong, nor is it my job to beat the trolls at their game. Much more is accomplished by either tuning these people out or having patience to maintain peace. When activists fight each other, everyone loses and thats why I concluded that mindfulness is incredibly important to an activists. There are so many layers and elements to everything and they all need be considered, and most importantly is how what were doing affect us.
       This is where this Flint trip becomes relevant. I find that most activists regardless of religious belief are aware there is a large spiritual element to what we do. To some its about tapping into collective consciousness and others perhaps raising the vibrations. I could write endlessly on this aspect alone, but what is relevant to me here is manifestation. Some may be unfamiliar with this concept and to those I would advise reading the book The Secret. The general concept is like attracts like, and we can direct our subconscious through intent and being mindful of HOW we think. The more we take time to appreciate what we have and show gratitude, the more we attract. I noticed that if I spend 100% of my time focused on the problems and fighting them all my attention is on the darkness and what is missing. On a spiritual or metaphysical level I began contemplating that perhaps a different approach could manifest more solutions. I often remarked in the past year how using volunteer work as a form of protest could be wildly successful. To use this trip as an example, we have the cause #waterislife and dozens of people have now spent a month directing their energy and focus on an attainable goal that even if for one day solves something. During this trip, for a day we get to focus on how things are better for some people and on those deep levels that can potentially attract change more than simply punching keyboards focused on the problems. As we all write articles and make videos people around the world will hopefully become inspired and also focus more energy on solutions. If after this trip ends 50 people come to find that they can actually BE the solution then this trip can have ripple effects that span much further than Michigan.
       On the surface this trip is a great experience to show Flint residents that the American people still care about them. We have not and will not forget them because in truth this is all our fight. America’s water infrastructure is in desperate need of an overhaul and Nestle is in my opinion greedy and evil. Whats happening in Flint is absolutely happening in other places and will continue to without a united front protecting clean water. Literally everything on earth needs water and protecting it is very high up on my list of priorities. In a climate of division, misinformation, and fear how powerful is a message of several states banding together to help another? Unity isn’t something that really requires contemplation, in truth it is more of a commitment that sometimes requires jumping in the deep end. Strangers can meet up for one day and do something good that actually helps people…to me, THIS is America. On a deeper level doing things like this Flint op could perhaps rekindle a degree of togetherness that corporate media would never show people. Either way what is most precious is that this group isn’t just doing something, its ACCOMPLISHING something.
       What happened to Flint surely won’t be permanently fixed by us bringing them water one day this year, they require systematic change on a large level. After years of fighting I can’t imagine how tired the residents there must be if after only 6 months I found myself exhausted. A hope I have going in is that perhaps our presence lifts the spirits of many by their knowing they aren’t alone. It took a while to realize this but every time an individual or a small group does something like this there’s really no telling how many more want to do the same. Attending a protest and going live regularly inspires larger attendance at future rallies, and every op I’ve done has been far more epic than the last. Its almost like a snowball rolling downhill, as we gain momentum we get bigger and far more capable. This is why it’s so relevant to touch on awareness and self care because its a long bumpy ride and everyone’s important. The more people get involved results in a wide variety of skill set’s and a network of conscientious people lifting each other up when times get hard.
       That one element is something I always have gratitude for, the help from others. I can’t count how many times I didn’t know what to do and someone was there to show the way. Likewise those days where I just wanted to quit or explode there was someone there to set my head right. In the same way most of us set a priority to be there for the voiceless I’ve learned its integral to do this for each other. In my case, I will often find myself internalizing a lot and almost feeling selfish to ask for help when its hard. I’ll get lost in the notion that so many have it far worse than myself and the things I bottle up often get the best of me. When I was in France I watched Steve Grant’s Million Mask March speech and something he said was so relevant…we must always check on each other. A strange concept perhaps, but I’ve begun placing other activists and friends in the category of “The Voiceless”, and for good reason.
       As I wondered more often how many others may like myself ask for help, or to talk less than they may need I wondered why. With myself beyond the irrational guilt at times I think it was the contradictory nature of considering the most vocal people voiceless. In my case though I began to see that the more I became wrapped up in all these causes it was like my voice became those we help and mine took a back burner. I still have yet to master a good balance with this, and truthfully I may not ever. A lot of my experiences thus far have been following my heart and praying. Most times its a fellow activist making me aware of these concepts versus the alternative. Seeing this whole op come together in a month is just a true testament to what we can all do if we find balance, focus, and support each other. As we all find our footing there will surely be more people seeking the same guidance. As much as there is a huge piece of activism that requires protest and focusing on the problems we must also put good back into our communities.
       One of the biggest lessons I took away from my trip to France was just this too. Their yellow vests protest every Saturday but often spend the whole week helping each other. The kindness and compassion behind that movement is in my opinion why it lives on and stays strong. We can look at the Flint op like a small piece of doing something to directly improve something ourselves. This is why I say accomplish something, no we wont solve the water crisis in a day, but we will make many residents feel better and inspire our own family to keep going. Activists don’t need to be self proclaimed demolition experts, we can be builders too. Every day on small and large scales we can just do good. Its that simple but there’s also a complex element that none of us can really comprehend…the interconnection of life. We can never know what some small deed could inspire. For this reason alone we could all be better suited perhaps to create whenever possible. I feel so honored to be a part of this trip and it will be a joy to share the experience with anyone who follows my blogs. I wish all of you the best out there and hope that life is treating you well. Committing to something like activism is no easy task so please know you are appreciated. And to those also headed to Michigan, thank you, and I’m looking forward to meeting you all!

-Adam Rice