Some days it’s tough not to feel down about the state of the world.
Heck, many days.
Rising inequality. Immigrants being used as a scapegoat by xenophobic politicians. Nasty wedge politics often fuelled by hate and fear. Fake news. Angry social media bots and trolls.
Lagging women’s equality. A complete lack of leadership in some circles on climate change. The list is long.
Too often the political tone ends up determining the angst and anger felt throughout a large segment of society, leading to a general feeling that nothing can change, of hopelessness.
And then there are the many, many stories of courage, of goodwill, of humanity that remind us that the world can be better, that we have much more in common than that divides us.
As we head into the holiday and Christmas season, be inspired by the greatness around us, by the beauty of activism and the many daily acts of compassion and courage. Here are but a few examples of people who inspired me in 2018.
There is Dara, a single mom of three, who has known her share of struggles. She is brave and kind and so very, very smart and insightful. She helps others in real and meaningful ways, including single mothers struggling financially. I don’t know how she finds the time or the energy, but she is a constant source of inspiration. When I need a reminder to get on with it, I read Dara’s facebook posts. We should all read Dara’s facebook posts and learn from her wisdom.
There are the everyday activists who are compelled to make the world around them better. I have met so many of them in my life, been moved by them, their selflessness, their desire to make society fairer and more equal.
There are the brave and fearless women who provoke and ask tough questions (often at great personal cost), who shove us out of our comfort zones and challenge our thinking, Thank you, Nora.
There are those special teachers, like Trevor and John, who go above and beyond. Giving so much of their free time to teenagers, giving them a place and space and something to believe in. I hope they know it is so much more than a drama troupe.
There are the women leaders, who still deal with sexism and harassment and find a way to rise above it, to bravely fightback. My hope is the #MeToo movement fuelled by courageous women will truly be the turning point. We need it to be.
There are all those who work in organizations that fight for the dignity and equality of all women, including sex workers and transgendered people. You are changing the conversation and in turn you are forcing us to move beyond conventional wisdom. Don’t stop. After all, the progress of human rights means for some there will be uncomfortable moments, to imagine, to put ourselves in another’s shoes.
There are the journalists who continue to hold the powerful to account, who tell the stories that need telling despite some pretty tough odds. Anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom knows those odds. And the world for journalists continues to be a more dangerous one, with some 53 killed this year in an attempt to bring truth to the world. And yet they persist. Democracy depends on good journalism. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Not for a single second.
There are the workers, union activists, like Iggy, who defend good jobs, strong unions, and their right to fair and free collective bargaining every single day, and who are often maligned for their activism. Never forget your political action makes the world of work better for more than yourselves. This has always been the case and always will. The dynamics of power are such that a counterbalance is critical and necessary. When we forget that lesson, we forget how real progress for workers is achieved.
And then there are the kids. Impatient with how the adults have been royally messing things up. The kids of Parkland who are pushing back against insane gun violence. Their campaign against the NRA has been masterful. The kids of Ontario challenging the government’s backwards and dangerous views on sex education. The kids of Australia who staged a nationwide walkout over their government’s failure to address climate change. The kids of small towns demanding respect and equality for their LGBTQ friends.
The young people taking on and challenging the status quo and refusing to be marginalized.
The young people. Inspiring and brave and so beautifully irreverent.
We need them to win.
(Merry Christmas everyone. Peace and solidarity.)
Lana Payne is the Atlantic director for Unifor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lanampayne Her column returns in two weeks.