I don't have many friends that are complainers in life - those people that see themselves as not in control, as victims that blame fate or the gods or government or Bay street for everything that happens to them - whether bad or good. I find them depressing and usually unwilling to change their ways.
I do have some friends that are consumers - they enjoy life as it passes by in a hedonistic way, are fun to hang out with, but don't really initiate much in life. They don't interact, they have no passions, so sometimes lack depth of either personality or conversation.
I do have a few that symbolize change - they not only accept change, they effect change. They have found a passion in life, they believe they can change things, no matter how small the measure, they act as a catalyst to nudge others into changes. Those friends I treasure.
But why worry about changing things? Well, I've talked a bit about my beliefs before, I'll repeat some of it here. I've wondered about the meaning of life - other than #42 - and I think we are here to a) enjoy life, b) develop ourselves in a positive way, and c) make some positive contributions, leave things in life a little better than when we found them. Sort of like camping.
So - if you want to effect change, to affect the world, how do you do that?
Do you join on-line protest groups and sign petitions? Do petitions really work? Try Googling that question, you'll find consensus is NO, including an interesting Snopes article. They even refer to the term slacktivism - "the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without actually getting one's hands dirty, volunteering any of one's time, or opening one's wallet."
Online petitions are too easy to fill up, even to write a script to crank out pages of fake names and addresses. And politicians know that, so treat them accordingly. How about door to door with a real clipboard and real signatures? That shows the names are real, but just that you were persuasive enough to get them to sign, so maybe you yourself should be listened to. Or maybe you're just annoying persistent enough for them to sign.
Councilor Adam Vaughan was at a community event earlier this year here in Toronto, and had some advice on how to get noticed with your cause - I'll summarize some of it below.
Don't be a one-trick pony. If the only time your councilor/BIA/police hear from you is on one issue - even if it's for three days in a row - you stay down in the noise level of all the other complaints. So, make a point of calling about other issues - garbage pickup is always late on your street, too many dogs in the park, new bike path is great. Adam says his office tracks those people closer, so your call about your latest cause is more likely to be listened to.
If you send in an email, cc a few others that need to be involved. Don't copy to the world. Be brief about the issue, what some solutions could be, and especially how you can maybe be part of the solution.
For more weight, also write a letter, as in with a pen, not computer.
Try a similar approach with your local newspaper - be it local, city, or national. If you establish a bit of a relationship with them, send in a note once in a while on something great, or annoying, you're more likely to have their ear when you need it.