When Health Becomes Political, We All Become Activists

“We should not give up the game before all the cards have been played.” — Howard Zinn, social activist

Over its 24-year history, Spirit of Change has been both applauded and attacked for being too political. Most recently, the new manager of Whole Foods Market in Bedford, MA banned Spirit of Change from its lobby after a popular six-year run because she deemed the magazine "too political and liberally biased."

In the wake of the January Supreme Court ruling granting corporations and foreign entities the same rights, liberties and protections US citizens enjoy, Americans no longer have the luxury to assume that politics and issues of governance are best left to politicians, activists and lawmakers to hash out. The very culture of freedom, privacy and democratic justice that we have enjoyed for 250 years is gravely compromised when corporations have unlimited capacity to fund campaigns (the right of free speech) for political candidates who will do their bidding in Washington. Corporate-funded candidates are beholden to corporate profits, not necessarily what is in the best interest of the safety, health and prosperity of the people of the United States and the world at large. The more pocketed lawmakers who are seated, the less power “we the people” have.

Health has become a matter of politics: our seed and food supplies have been irreversibly contaminated by FDA-approved GMOs and other substances, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries ruthlessly manipulate our healthcare delivery system for their profit while bankrupting the American economy, and we saw in the swine flu “epidemic” of 2009 just how quickly hysteria and the prospect of global profits could create a worldwide pandemic-that-never-was, only steps away from the declaration of a state of national emergency and the veritable suspension of all citizens’ rights.

Americans must be informed so we can speak out and take a stand to retain our rights of self-determination to choose healthy food, alternative medicine, a holistic lifestyle and green energy, products and services. Otherwise, these choices will be made for us. Yes — we must wade into the murky waters of politics and social activism to find the clear streams of information that will lead us to currents of effective action for creating a society in the best interests of the people, not corporate profits. If we want government for the people and by the people, we the people need to be engaged, not just activists, lobbyists and politicians.

American historian, Boston University professor and beloved peace movement icon Howard Zinn died January 27, 2010. In his last book of essays, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress (2007, City Lights Books), he writes: “In this world of war and injustice, how does a person manage to stay socially engaged, committed to the struggle, and remain healthy without burning out or becoming resigned or cynical?

“I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world….

“Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world.”

First we must be informed. Then it's up to you to speak out and act. Following are some ideas on where you can start.

Carol Bedrosian is the publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine.