While we have yet to find a book – or anything for that matter – that truly paves the way for social and cultural entrepreneurs (and what’s ‘paved’ entrepreneurship, anyway?!), Courtney E. Martin’s ‘Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists’ (Beacon Press, 2010) celebrates and illuminates this road less traveled. She highlights eight young activists who have dedicated their days and lives fighting for greater social, environmental and economic justice for all. She speaks to the particularities faced by this new generation of thinkers, doers and dreamers and urges us to abandon the ‘save the world’ and ‘American Dream’ rhetoric for a language that is both inspiring and pragmatic. ‘[This book] is a call’, she writes, ‘to transcend school-required community service and resume-padding activities in favor of the kind of work that keeps you up at night because you believe in it so deeply. It is a warning against paralysis and the sort of numbing our generation has made ourselves infamous for (drinking, drugging, shopping).’
She readily admits that there are no real answers in this book, ‘only insights and catharsis’. And cathartic are the insights. In her conclusion she celebrates failure and sees it as an inescapable part of our heritage. ‘As children of the eighties and nineties, we are uniquely positioned to fail. The bureaucracy we face, the scale of our challenges, the intractable nature of so many of our most unjust international institutions and systems – all these add up to colossal potential for disappointment.’
So what now?
We show up – each day, every hour – to the task of bringing greater peace, opportunity and equality to the world, even in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. Martin inspires us, ‘to struggle to make our friendships, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation more dignified, knowing that it might not work and doing it anyway’.
‘We must dedicate ourselves each and every morning to being the most kind, thoughtful, courageous human beings who ever walked the earth, and know that it still won’t be enough. We must do it anyway.’