I recommend the writing of my friend, Marienna Pope-Weidemann. I have read many activist blogs over the years. Some are brilliant citizen-journalism and calls to arms; some are more of an understandable need to off-load. A few are show-boating narcissism, or risk sounding that way; but if someone is doing a good thing, unpicking their motives is not always useful.
Marienna’s writings are unusually powerful. She has been fully engaged with helping refugees as they try to cross Europe, and writes about the way in which a journalist and photographer sometimes has to put down the camera to save someone from the sea; not to stand aloof or bear witness, but to be human.
We on the left are at our best when we engage on a human level, when solidarity is real. The story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, dramatised in the film Pride and told no less wonderfully in the documentary Still the Enemy Within, shows that it’s possible to have a clear and serious political analysis and a big heart.
Contrary to the stereotype of leftists as cold-blooded theoreticians, our activists are apt to join church people in filling vans full of stuff to drive to mining communities, or to Egypt’s border with Gaza, or to Calais. And some have gone to Greek islands to join locals in offering their bare hands and their humanity.
And when we hold onto our humanity in arguing our case, we win people over. Not many people would stand by and watch someone drown if they had the chance to rescue them, but that is what Europe’s governments are doing. It takes a loss or a suppression of one’s humanity to do that, or to make poor people poorer or to be prepared to fire a nuclear missile.
When our arguments speak to what’s best in people, we convince them.