2020 was one hell of a year, but of the many things its revealed, was that when people were put under stress and fear that which made them no longer feel comfortable and contained – they woke up.
The world went through serious trauma. Many lost their jobs, were put in social isolation for far longer than humans can psychologically handle, and some lost loved ones to corona virus. We were already on edge, with little to no relief from our government. The lack of financial support felt highly ignored from the administration – an abandonment that proved to its people that our elected officials (in either major bipartisan parties) do not care about you.
Then, the final blow came, when our nation watched the murder of George Floyd in the hands of a police officer, all in 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Witnessing a murder is a type of trauma that can have serious psychological consequences and PTSD. Imagine a whole nation witnessing this together.
So it comes to no surprise that the following days into weeks of protests were serious. People had had enough. For once in a lifetime, there was mass hurting, rage, and sadness that was strong enough for people to come together to demand a change to the system that is full of racism and corruption. And as time went by and more and more murders of black people by police began to surface, people got angrier.
Now, what does all this have to do with yoga? The answer is actually, everything.
Yoga is about practicing accountability. You show up to a yoga class to meet your edge without exceeding it to injury. Instead of making goals, you set intentions that answer the “why” rather than the “what”. You practice radical self-love so that you don’t burn yourself out when you want to give it to the world in a genuine way. And loving yourself first is especially important to activism because it can separate sincere activism with performance.
The difference between genuine activism and performance is that you are personally drawn to addressing a change you want to see in the world (be the change you want to see in the world, sounds familiar, right?). There may not be much personal gain for you personally, but by collectively as a community.
In performative activism, one might gain social acceptance and attention, more likes on Facebook and Instagram, or even intentionally profit off of the struggles of others. Though it might be helpful in the short run to show up to a protest or make a social media post addressing racism, performative activism often leads to dropping off their efforts the moment it no longer becomes the flavor of the week on social media. Corporations are infamous for applying a rainbow to their logo for LGBTQ+ month while doing absolutely nothing to support the LGBTQ+ community. And not just big corporations do this, but people do this. As consumers, they buy the products and goods from corporations that massively harm the environment and take little to know accountability for, or steal from indigenous cultures, or use slave/child labor via third world countries as well as the prison labor system in the U.S.
Now, there are many secrets that large corporations keep that many consumers are not aware of. I only found out recently that, even though that for many years I’ve made an effort to avoid purchasing beauty products made from companies that test on animals – that these efforts were in vain because most “ethical, small-label” brands are owned by either one of two beauty brand conglomerates – Estee Lauder and L’oreal. In a market full of secrets, its easy as a consumer to be fooled, or just flat out not given any other options to buy from.
But in all, it goes back to accountability. We will make mistakes when practicing activism, its inevitable. But as long as we care, and that we are willing to accept our mistakes and are willing to learn, then it is not performance. But if we are in it to look more “woke”, or to support our ego, or for the likes, its probably not for the most genuine reasons. If we are so desperate to seek approval from others as to fake activism, there may be deeper issues with self-esteem that may need to be addressed. This is again why it is so important to practice self-love and self-care in activism. Its to balance the amount of love we put out there for a cause with the amount of love we have for ourselves. It’s also easy to give too much of ourselves away that we may face burn out, fatigue, or indifference – all of which is not helpful for anyone.