What gets you riled up? Judging by the way most libertarians advocate, you’d think it’s reading political theory, listening to lectures, and participating in roundtable discussions.
While I certainly find these activities to be exciting, and there is no question that these are valuable methods of social change, sometimes we all just want to sing and shout.
Promoting a libertarian culture
Changing society is hard, mostly because people have to want to change, which is why many activists recognize that on some level you have to “change the culture” first. But what, exactly does this mean?
First, it means changing perspectives and understanding; getting people to realize how an idea fits with different values and understand the true implications of policy and societal trends.
On this front, I think most of us would agree that Students For Liberty is doing a decent job. Making liberty and individual responsibility goals to be valued by society is no small task, and books and discussions are clearly the best tools for it.
How to make people excited about liberty
There is, however, another side of cultural change. People have to not only understand the culture of liberty; they have to be excited about it! Expressive about it!
This achieves two things. When people get excited about a cause, they are more likely to convince others that it is worthwhile.
Secondly, they are more likely to live it out and pursue it more fully. Why does this matter? Because if we’re going to be building a new society that values and respects liberty, we have to live it. If anyone has caught a theme in my posts, it’s no accident.
Saying these things work is great. Proving that they do is game-changing. So, while I personally get shivers at the passing mention of personal freedom, I think there’s a lot more we could be doing to get people fired up about freedom.
I am not at all advocating noise and excitement for its own sake, nor am I suggesting that we run around shouting about liberty all the time. But, a little expressiveness could do some serious damage to the stereotype of the cold and heartless libertarian that we still struggle to shake. Our professionalism is one of our great strengths, but it does make us appear somewhat distant and uninspiring.
Libertarianism doesn’t have to be political
The question then becomes, how can we be more expressive while maintaining the civility and devotion to intellectual honesty that make the liberty movement so wonderful?
Well, there’s something to be said for getting people excited through cultural avenues. Music, art, and performance can be used to our advantage and as expressions of the vibrant world of liberty that we pursue.
After all, we don’t have individual freedom so that people can sit around quietly and twiddle their thumbs. We frequently are calling for the freedom to express yourself in any way which you choose, and it might be useful for us to enjoy our rights while we fight to maintain them.
If you can get someone to sing, you’ve got one more activist
Personally, I was inspired at a young age by the folk music of Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Although somewhat of a bit more pro-government in message than I would like, their passionate music and advocacy against things like war and racism partially shaped who I am today and how I think about advocacy.
Peter Yarrow once gave a small performance at my school, stopping to say a few words about social change.
One of the things that he got me thinking about was the idea that if you can get people singing about something, you’ve made yourself one more activist.
If you can get people to express their feelings and beliefs in these sorts of ways, you start to change the culture by virtue of inspiring other people to act. It certainly seems to have worked very well in Peter’s own work in the 60’s!
So, my artistically inclined friends of liberty, in order to change culture, let’s get creative!
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This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.