Activist, Passivist, Pacifist

The recent political climate in our country has me thinking about the intersection between activism, passivism, and pacifism.  To be an activist, in the simplest of terms, means to speak up and out; to take action. When faced with a threat of any sort - against our morals, values, or character - an activist makes her voice known and heard. Activists help to raise awareness, start important conversations, and bring about needed change. 

To be a passivist suggests one has a yielding or non-dominant attitude, behavior, or way of life.  Passivist are often seen as submissive, disinterested, or withdrawn. Passivism carries a negative connotation in our culture because we are constantly expected to be in motion, in action, surviving. Passivists, however, have quiet power, one that allows them to receive, endure, and remit new energy. Passivists can draw on their endurance in difficult situations to process, think clearly, and emote in a uncharged way. Passivists excel at moments of quiet observation. 

To be a pacifist is to be actively or strongly opposed to conflict or war (much like an activist). Pacifism is also an attitude or policy of nonresistance (much like passivism). Pacifists live at the intersection between activism and passivism. While a pacifist may actively oppose conflict, they often do so in a non-harming way.  Ahimsa - the act of non-harming, from Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga/The Yamas or our ethical standards and how we conduct ourselves in life - teaches us to eliminate any sense of harm or violence from our mind, body, and spirit. This means that not only our actions, but our thoughts, feelings, and purpose in life become absent of ill will. 

Activists can learn from passivists' ability to endure, reflect, then emit; and passivists can learn from activists ability to project and be heard. Oftentimes, we speak out in retaliation or to defend our territory, but as soon as we emulate those we criticize, we have already lost our battle - with ourselves and with everyone around us. When speaking up and out about a cause, pacifists do so without harming those involved. Pacifists avoid seeking an "us against them" or "those people" mindset. In essence, pacifists practice non-judgment.

The next time you hear about a policy or idea that makes you uncomfortable, spend time in quiet observation of the facts - what, who, why, how.  Notice what, specifically, runs counter to your own values or worldview, try to understand who the people are and why they are saying what they're saying (put yourself in their shoes). Finally, ask how the idea or policy effects you. Sometimes, we speak up simply to do so and fail to notice if the cause is worthy of our energy. Once we can understand and observe these aspects from our own and others' perspectives, we can more easily and effectively speak up without harm.