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I was struck by a quote on the importance of political purpose while reading George Orwell's Why I Write:
Looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives, and humbug generally.
Orwell's comment spurred me to reflect on how a political purpose might give my actions more significant meaning.
I generally consider myself politically aware and engaged. I keep up on current events; I put substantial time into educating myself before voting; I strive to maintain an open mind when confronting new ideas; I eagerly and tactfully debate folks with different beliefs in the pursuit of fostering open dialogue; I've canvassed for political candidates, etc.
These traits are well and good, though I’m confronting an increased feeling of emptiness as I reflect on the impact of my efforts given our current political, social, and economic landscape.
I feel like I'm not doing enough to advocate for the change I want to see in the world.
During these moments of internal strife, I effortlessly belittle myself and my life situation.
Of course I'm not doing enough to help push for a better world. I spend my time writing code, so companies can generate obscene amounts of wealth that invariably gets funneled into the hands of the few rather than the many. What do I get in return? A chunk of the wealth, putting me in company with the few.
Tearing myself down does no good, especially while reflecting on how I can put myself in service of advocating for a better world.
I'm using the skills I've gained during the past 15 years to secure a financial future for myself and my family. But with that financial security comes the ability to use my time and resources to help others.
What inspired George Orwell to make the change in his life and writing, away from "sentences without meaning," toward his political purpose?
The Spanish war and other events in 1936–7 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against Totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.
I feel the urge to make a similar change in my life. I want to put my skills, passion, and effort toward advancing a social, political, and economic agenda that will help make the world a better place for everyone.
I want to align my actions more closely with my values.
I'm not entirely sure how this will manifest. Without a planning for change, I run the risk of maintaining the status quo and keeping to business as usual. But planning without action can simply be a form of procrastination.
By sharing these thoughts publically, I hope I can create some accountability with myself and maintain momentum toward making a change.
Here are a few ideas I've had that involve using my skills as a web developer in ways that align with my political beliefs:
- Improve the online presence of political candidates with a similar political ideology/agenda.
- Collaborate with leftist publishers like Jacobin to introduce more folks to Social Democratic, Socialist, and Marxist ideologies through compelling and thoughtful journalism.
- Go rogue and create some platform/community/software for advancing my political purpose.
Stepping outside of my vocation as a web developer, I've considered:
- Running for some civic/legislative/governmental position in my community.
- Helping advance political campaigns through volunteer efforts.
- Finding more ways to foster engagement between people with seemingly disparate beliefs.
Who knows? There are countless ways I can more closely align my actions with my values and put myself in service of a political purpose.
Making this change isn't something I want to rush, but it is something I want to continue thinking about and act on sooner rather than later.