This blog post is dedicated my dear friend and fellow activist, Amelia Campbell.
One night, over three years ago, my father spoke very nastily and downright meanly to me about my activism. I won’t rehash the whole argument here, but I remember it very well. You can ask me about it in person, and I’ll gladly give you all the gruesome details. Though his pathetic attempt to belittle me did not ultimately discourage me, I’m still upset with him for his BS, so I’d like to share some thoughts with you that I would share with my father were he a better man (technically, he could at any moment become that better man, but I’m not holding my breath at present). Okay, here goes…
Life is a responsibility; life is your responsibility to those (human, animal, plant, alien, etc.) who share time and space with you during your existence, and life is your responsibility to those whose existence will come as and long after your existence ends. Given this, I shall now defer to a man I don’t like, President Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke wisely when, in his speech, “Citizen in a Republic,” delivered in the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910, he made the following remarks:
“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who ‘but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.'”
I hope my brief words and Teddy’s much longer words will be of use to you, and feel free to share them if you want (Teddy’s words are in the public domain, and the description I gave of life I give everyone permission to share non-commercially, but I sure would appreciate attribution). With that, I would like to recommend the new film Tomorrowland to all my activist friends and to all activists and people who are considering activism. It’s still in theaters, so I suggest going with a group of fellow activists. It’s deeply vindicating.
P. S: This is only my second blog post, and my first one was back in November of 2013. I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting. A lot more are coming, and soon. Now go see Tomorrowland.