I was recently told, by a curious individual, that it seems I am giving away a lot of information for free. He was referring to this very site, and he was curious as to why, after all the study and reflection that I do, I would write without pay. It may seem strange to people who are unfamiliar with advocacy. After all, so few of us do anything if it’s not going to benefit us financially; or at least see a return of material goods. The truth is, though, that I have been told that the words I write here have made a difference to some people. That means more to me than any amount of money ever could.
Do I want to make money doing advocacy? Sure. A reasonable living doing this work would give me the opportunity to devote full-time hours to it. I can think of nothing better than waking up every morning knowing I’m going to spend my day working for equality, and I believe the opportunity to do that will eventually come my way; but my aspirations have nothing to do with financial gain. If I was concerned with getting rich, I wouldn’t have spent four years of university studying cultural anthropology and religious studies.
Social equality is a serious concern, and issues effecting it mobilize people to make change for those who are being kept down. There is a lot of money being put toward those efforts, and I like to think that the advocates behind it all are doing it for the right reasons.
For those of us working toward full-time advocacy, it’s a fine line to walk. We are reminded every day of the importance our society puts on money, while at the same time it’s quite immoral to help others just for the purpose of personal gain. It’s a fine line, and transitioning from a regular job to full-time advocacy might raise the concerns of those who take your intentions the wrong way. I chose to shed light on this because it’s a legitimate moral conflict. We give our time to corporations in exchange for an income. Hopefully we like what we do, but ultimately most of us only care about the paycheck. Why, then, do we approach this kind of work differently?
We all need to make a living, but we don’t do this for the money; and those who do are in it for the wrong reasons. Empathy, compassion, concern for others, love for humanity, understanding that equality makes us all better … those are just a few reasons we do this. We work for social equality because it matters. The lives affected by oppression and exclusion aren’t just faces in the newspaper obituaries or on the nightly news. They are real people whose lives matter just as much as yours and mine. They are people in need, in pain, born into a culture that says they aren’t worthy. For me at least, this is so much more important than wasting my time chasing the big house, the Rolls-Royce, or the private island in the Bahamas. When my time is up, I want to be able to look back on the people who mattered to me as much as I mattered to them, not on the value of my possessions.
I think I’ve said enough about this, so I’ll close with a short word on an objection to my position. I have been told “Advocacy has no impact on important economic issues.” Doesn’t it? While the majority of people scramble to make as much as they can, advocates work to preserve and improve the social cohesion that keeps the system together. Financial structures and institutions are at least partially dependent on society and culture, and the work done by advocates keeps the ground beneath them solid. Furthermore, some of the strongest economies (ie: Norway and Japan) are found in countries where social equality is in a much better state than we have in North America. This isn’t to say that equality is the sole, or even the most powerful economic driver, far from it. China, after all, is an exception. This is only to say that it has an economic impact. We don’t do this for the money, but perhaps those who object should consider how much their quality of life depends on it. Equality benefits us all … and that, by the way, is why it’s everyone’s business.