Why You Shouldn’t Make New Year’s Resolutions


Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? 2013 is the year you’ll lose that 10 pounds, quit smoking, finish the novel?

We’ve all been there (we’re there now). And there’s one main reason why you shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions.

Resolutions won’t make us thinner, famous, or rich. And here’s why.

Resolutions are a burden. Not only do I want to achieve a goal, but now I’ve got this self-imposed pressure to follow through on it. Suddenly there’s this extra weight on my mind.

If the goal is to lose 10 pounds then that means no ice cream or chocolate cookies. At first we jump on the treadmill. We load up on carrots and mesclun.

Then all that working out makes us tired. Or we get stuck working late and don’t have the energy when we get home. We crave the cookies and eat twice as many as before. We feel guilt. More struggle.

So what do we do?

There is a better, easier way to achieve our goals and improve the lives of those around us.

Think Outside the Box (And Yourself)

Resolutions are often centered around personal goals. My challenge to you is to think beyond yourself: try this, and the “resolutions” take care of themselves.

Instead of resolutions, we can choose to be generous with ourselves.

We can start by noting that those of us in the Global North are incredibly privileged. We have running water, food, shelter, clothing.

We have freedom of expression.

We have freedom, period.

Thich Nhat Hahn writes, “We already have everything we are looking for, everything we want to become.” His advice is perfect anytime, but especially this time of year:

Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be.

We don’t have to wait for resolutions to be “achieved” to feel fulfilled. That moment of fulfillment is now.

What this doesn’t mean is sitting by. Action is needed: in small and large ways. There is tremendous suffering in the world. As Thich Naht Hanh counsels, it is “our responsibility to bring peace and joy into our own lives, even though not everything in our body, mind, or environment is exactly as we would like.”

Is there someone you know who has experienced personal loss, or is looking for a job? Could they use a helping hand, a piece of advice, or simply someone to listen and talk with?

Is there a cause that’s important to you? What can you do today, right now, to help?

We can improve our society, and ourselves. This is something we can do for ourselves every day. And not just on January 1. When we don’t focus on our own “resolutions,” things get done and change happens. Why? Because only in that moment are we free.

Sounds counterintuitive? Yes, and that’s why it works.

How to Get Things Done in 2013

Let’s say you choose to volunteer one night a week. Suddenly you’re not sitting in the front of the TV eating chips. You’re helping people or contributing to a cause that’s important to you.

Meanwhile you’ve created a little peace and liberation.

Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, try asking yourself, “how can I become a refuge for others?” (And watch those pounds fly off. Well, you know what I mean.)

Which resolutions will you not be making next year? Please leave a comment below!

And if you liked this post, please share.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

How to Support Human Rights In China


Image: © Digital Journal

NOW THAT LIU XIAOBO IS THE RECIPIENT OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, and continues to be at the forefront of the news cycle, it’s time to think about what we can do to support press freedom, civil liberties, and political reform in China. Here are English-language resources to learn how to advance these and other human rights issues in China:

Independent Rights Groups

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is a network of Chinese and international activists working at the grassroots level. They publish a bi-weekly human rights briefing including news on citizens’ actions inside China.

human-rights-in-chinaHuman Rights in China (HRIC) is an international NGO founded by Chinese students and scholars in March 1989. The group practices advocacy and outreach within China and internationally, publishing reports and case studies on issues like China’s legal system. Also available online is HRIC’s in-depth quarterly journal, China Rights Forum.

The Dui Hua Foundation‘s mission is based on dialogue (dui-hua in Mandarin) between the U.S. and Chinese governments in order to gain the release of political prisoners. The foundation maintains a detailed prisoner database and has had significant success in securing prisoner releases.

Legal Reform Activists

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group , based in Hong Kong, works to promote the rule of law in China. The group monitors the activities of China’s civil and human rights lawyers and works to ensure their freedom and safety, especially in the face of the government’s increased crackdown on lawyers. You can also learn about lawyers who licenses are revoked or who have been disbarred and detained for taking sensitive cases.

Media, Press Freedom and the Internet

china-media-projectThe China Media Project documents media reform and the state of press freedom in China. The group is based out of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. The site includes a newswire, a section on political cartoons, and current stories on the state of media in China by journalists working in China.

Chile’s Bicentennial: Mapuche Resistance Amid the Celebrations


Credit: Demotix.com

AS CHILE CELEBRATED ITS BICENTENNIAL last weekend, more than 30 political prisoners of the indigenous Mapuche entered the 73rd day of a hunger strike. The Mapuche prisoners want to call attention to their struggle for land rights and bring an end to anti-terrorism laws used to criminalize them.

The Chilean government seems to be taking notice: President Sebastián Piñera offered a dialogue and pledged to invest $4 billion in the Araucania region. Meanwhile, four Congressional members of Chile’s opposition parties joined in solidarity with the prisoners.

Piñera is on a media blitz lately, chatting up Chile’s rising currency and plans for recovery after the February earthquake.

You can always count on Chile to project a strong democracy and stable economy, no matter what the circumstances below the surface. This is an opportunity for Piñera’s young administration to right some wrongs of the past. But the biggest story on people’s minds still seems to be the rescue of the trapped miners.

At least one Chilean artist, Guillo, cuts through it all and gets to heart of the matter, with his take on the word “unity” (“Unidad”):


© guillo.cl

For more response on what citizens and activists are doing to call attention to the Mapuche struggle, see this photo essay about a demonstration in Santiago, Chile, published by user-generated news site Demotix.

Where Do We Stand At The End Of The Millennium Summit?


Credit: © Reuters/Eric Thayer

NOW THAT THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS SUMMIT IS OVER, where do we stand? There was lots of talk, lots of world leaders, lots of renewed promises, and familiar debate about an aid-led approach to development.

What have the MDGs achieved? If you’re looking for success stories, there’s good news about Indonesia, Ghana, and Ethiopia. If you’re looking for facts and figures, there’s no shortage of numbers, such as 45 developing nations (out of 84) have already achieved or will achieve the poverty reduction target.

But what does it all mean? And would these “achievements” have happened without the MDGs?

Most people in rich nations haven’t even heard of the MDGs: AidWatch published the results of a survey that in the U.S., the world’s largest donor, 89 percent of Americans “had heard ‘not much’ or ‘nothing at all'” about the MDGs.

Not surprising. On Wednesday, the summit’s last day, at the traditional close of business (5pm EST), the top story on Google News was the announcement of the new judges on American Idol.

Let’s step away from statistics and pie charts for a moment and ask: are we any closer to ending poverty? We know the answer; the question then is, how much do we want to end poverty? How far are we willing to go to improve the lives of people who lack the most basic needs for survival, including food, shelter, and clean water?

“Yes, of course we want to help,” we say, but how many of us actually take actions to do something about it? Are we willing to share our wealth, so we can achieve a true and lasting “global partnership“?

How many of us will give up our coffee allowance, or buy one less pair of shoes, or look at our grocery bill and think, “Is all this food necessary? Do I need the pasta, hamburgers, frozen pizza, Pop-Tarts, and ice cream?”

How many of us volunteer time with a cause we are engaged with, and instead spend it playing Halo: Reach or watching YouTube?

We’re talking about a world now that has rising inequality within industrialized nations, and that goes largely ignored.

Individuals and NGOs continue to work towards poverty reduction, improved maternal health, and clean water—all the “millennium development goals.” The fact is they don’t need to be labeled as such, or even administered or assessed by a large body like the U.N. As always, you and I need to make the education, health, and safety of our neighbors a priority. Only then will there be no need for MDGs.

This is the eighth in a series of posts examining each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending Aug. 20)

Welcome to Top Tweets for Activists: a selection of the week’s best tweets, blog posts, media, and news stories.

If you’d like to suggest a topic or news story, please leave a link in the Comments.


From June 7 to 9th 2010 young people gathered in Washington D.C. for the Women Deliver Conference. Amnesty International Mexico asked young men and women about their main concerns on Sexual and Reproductive Rights in the framework of the National Network to Stop VIolence Against Women and its Demand Dignity Campaign. From @WomenDeliver:


Indigenous Rights/Borneo: Fight against Kaiduan Dam, Sabah @j_rubis

Indigenous Rights/Rapa Nui/Chile: Indigenous activists occupy govt property in Easter Island @Amnesty


What are the root causes of poverty? @FuturityNews via @PamFR

Why do some people think that poverty is easy to fix? @damselfish

Poverty Group Honest About Its Work; How Rare Is That? @freefromhunger


France Racism and Politics: Immigration & Citizenship @globalvoices

Pakistan If all you know about #Pakistan is what you see in the media, please give this a read @jterziett

Food Insecurity Food supplies most at risk in Afghanistan, Africa @alertnet

Sudan Avoiding the Train Wreck in Sudan: U.S. Leverage for Peace. New @EnoughProject report via @jonhutson

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending August 13)

Welcome to Top Tweets for Activists: a selection of the week’s best tweets, blog posts, media, and news stories.

If you’d like to suggest a topic or news story, please leave a link in the Comments.


HAITI: Haitian Women Testify about Gender Based Violence via @yvettethijm


Sri Lanka: Will US state depart commit to human rights in Sri Lanka after Congress calls for investigation? @amnesty


India/Pakistan: “It’s heartening to see a lot of tourists helping out in camps” – SEEDS India on Indian floods @AlertNet

Press Freedom/Equatorial Guinea: CPJ, partner groups urge UNESCO to pull Obiang prize @pressfreedom

Sudan: Here’s a FACTBOX on what may hamper south Sudan’s vote on independence @AlertNet

SriLanka: Sri Lanka panel warns that ‘conflict threat’ remains @AllysonNeville


Gaming the System“: Study Details How Big Banks are Avoiding Lending Obligations Under Community Reinvestment Act @democracynow


Why the 14th Amendment Is a Feminist Issue @change


Ethiopia wants end of food aid in five years @AfricaHand

If you had the opportunity to speak to world leaders, what would you say? via @WeCanEndPoverty


Is “clictivism” ruining activism? @guardian

Graffiti Artists Tag for Freedom of Expression

Six graffiti artists teamed up with Amnesty International this past weekend during the Edinburgh Festival to raise awareness for freedom of expression. The artists each painted a case of freedom of expression from Amnesty’s history, 1961 to the present, to be included in a special exhibition. Also part of the day was a live graffiti performance to raise awareness for political prisoners in Burma.

The live graffiti event marked the anniversary of the beginning of a peaceful protest movement in 1988, which became known as the Generation 88.

In attendance for the painting of the mural was Waihnin Pwint Thon, whose father was one of the leaders of the movement. He remains a political prisoner today, sentenced to 65 years in jail.

Read more about the event and learn about all the participating artists, including:

Amy Whiten, aka Syrkus, painting her mural about Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo:

Elph working on a painting about Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated in 2006 following her reporting of the war in Chechnya:

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending August 5)

Welcome to Top Tweets for Activists: a selection of tweets, blog posts, media, and news stories.

If you’d like to suggest a topic or news story, please leave a link in the Comments.


This advocacy video by @icsdp makes good use of info graphics + data visualization to tell a story about the “war on drugs”:


The link between human rights and the rule of law. @SusanneUre

Prop 8 Out, Equality In @amnesty

COLOMBIA Former Prisoners Of Conscience Take Protest To Military Base In Colombia @RayBeckerman via @SOAWatch

CHILE Mapuche on Hunger Strike over Chile’s Militancy @RayBeckerman


UN official stresses the importance of human rights in overcoming poverty @jnascim

Heavy rains expected in Pakistan for the rest of week @povertynewsblog


IMMIGRATION The 1868 debate over the 14th Amendment actually DID mention immigrants, thank you very much @MotherJones

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Vietnam: Writers Honored for Commitment to Free Speech: (New York) – Six Vietnamese writers are among a diverse gr… @HRW

CPJ welcomes arrests in Mexican journalists’ abductions @pressfreedom

PEACE Noam Chomsky’s Recorded Address to the United National Peace Conference @commondreams via @MADREspeaks

CONGO/CONFLICT MINERALS Listen to @NPR’s @OnPointRadio interview w/ @LisaJShannon & @EnoughProject on #Congo conflict minerals @jonhutson

KENYA Kenyan constitution: History in the making @pambazuka via @firozem

Western Sahara: One of the World’s Longest-Running Conflicts

Saharwi human rights activist Djimi Elghalia in the Western Sahara

© Andrew McConnell/Panos

THE SAHARAWI PEOPLE of the Western Sahara are Africa’s last colony, and remain caught in one of the world’s longest-running conflicts. The territory was colonized by the Spanish in 1884. Nearly a century later, amid movements for decolonisation, Spain was expected to cede control—instead it allowed the country to be split up between Mauritania and Morocco in exchange for ownership in mining interests.

An independence movement called the Polisario Front subsequently fought a 15-year war with the Mauritanians, which ended in 1979. The war displaced thousands of the Saharawi people into Algerian refugee camps.

A cease-fire in 1991 did nothing to speed up a self-determined referendum, which the Polisario favors, and Morocco opposes. Today, there is growing unrest and some fear a return to armed struggle if diplomatic progress is not made.

This week Human Rights Watch called for the release of three pro-independence activists who have been held for ten months without trial.

The plight of the Saharwi is largely forgotten, and daily life for refugees remains a struggle. UNICEF’s recent report describes the harsh conditions facing refugee children today. While the Saharawi have received some humanitarian aid from the EU, Western policymakers and their corporate interests tell a different story.

For the latest news on the region, visit the Free Western Sahara Network.

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending July 23)

Welcome to a weekly feature here at The Activist Writer: a round-up of the week’s best blog posts and articles for activism and social change.

If there’s a great post or tweet you’d like mentioned, please leave it in the Comments section.

Human Rights Cases/Law

Human rights news and case-law roundup (23 July 2010)


Change Mudança, a smart new magazine about sustainable agriculture in Africa.

Environment/Sustainable Living

Top 20 Organic, Sustainable, and Just Plain Tasty Food and Recipe Blogs

Challenging Obama’s commitment to sustainable agriculture

Ask a lawyer: do farmers have the same protection as big beef?

Freedom of the Press/Expression

India – Violence, arrests and censorship in all four corners of India: Reporters Without Borders @RSF_RWB

Journalists under attack in Somalia as government steps up media crackdown

Aid & Activism
Art and activism (Responses to Copenhagen) @kueprints

How to make an ever-expanding humanitarian sector more professional? Is a certification system the answer?

Indigenous People’s Issues

Five Key Indigenous People’s Issues – Peru, Australia, Malaysia, Botswana, … @indigenousissue via @RayBeckerman