What I’ve been Reading – Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb

Book cover for Soul of a Citizen

This book has become my antidote to activist pessimism. That point I’m sure we’ve all experienced where movements seem to be crawling along at a snail’s pace, and we begin to doubt whether anyone is really listening.

The book is written from a very American perspective, but it holds important lessons for all activists. Loeb reminds us that all activists begin their journey in small steps, and that learning the journeys of others can help us remember where we started from. He also stresses the importance of knowing the real history of movements, rather than glorifying them. The people we consider to be icons of social movements took their place in history because of the support of many other activists that get left out of the history books.

Loeb also had some great points for engaging new activists and staying engaged yourself. Community engagement needs to happen in a way that allows us to come to others in safe spaces. We can learn a lot by making allies of our opposites. Sometimes we become so passionate about the causes we serve that it is easy to forget what it must be like to not yet have this understanding. People are more likely to get involved if the cause meets an immediate need, offers hope, and sense of connection with those around us.

We also need to take care of ourselves, this may mean focusing less on perfection and more on our small successes. It is better to be a good enough activist than not at all. It is also important to recognize when you’re pushing yourself too hard, and seek help from your allies.

He also had an important quote for those in power; “We know the state of a nation’s soul by looking at its budgets.”

For those of you in Toronto, this book is available at your local library.

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