Brony Philanthropy: A Praxis in Tension.

Fine day for lemonade
by ~AliasForRent

So I’m sure that many of you are aware by now that one of the elements that makes this fandom so unique is our wholehearted commitment to various causes of altruism, charity, and social justice . You need not look further than organizations such as Bronies for Good, the Humble Brony Bundle, or the Traveling Pony Museum that have fundraised for everything from Cancer research, children’s hospitals, and even sustainable projects in the developing world. Major brony conventions, such as Bronycon and Galacon, also have charity auctions or events that help generate funds for donation to fundraiser projects or groups that are inside and outside the fandom. Even voice actors from FiM like Tara Strong and Andrea Libman have successfully reached out to the fandom for support on their individual charitable endeavors.

Now don’t get me wrong, there has been a lot of good that has emerged from fundraising. But I think it’s high time we started thinking about how we as a community can increase our local involvement through volunteerism. I believe this direction not only generates fruitful, long term partnerships with organizations and people the world over, but also grants us the potential to create a successful and sustained social movement.

[Editor’s Note from DerpySquad] – Just because I know someone is going to shake their fists in anger and scream “big words”, the short version of this article is that this community has a ton of energy when it comes to charity, and instead of always just giving towards the big name ones, you could also do something locally in your own town or city.

Before any of you say anything, let me make this clear: I’m thinking of a movement as a massive coalition of groups and people working towards some sort of greater societal transformation. However, Bronies currently just a vibrant sub-culture that occasionally interacts with the massive milieu of American culture.

This is slowly starting to change. As the fandom continues to grow and interact in ever greater degrees with the world around us, through meet-ups, cons, and online social networking with the world around us, then our influence and presence in society will further permeate. This greater legitimacy and attention also presents us with the unique opportunity of helping people realize that the world is unresponsive to transformation. But how do we go about this process without making giving the appearance that Bronies are morally superior? Well, that’s what I will try to answer in this article, or at least give my best 2 bits.

To build any sort of long term-movement, you need an organization that facilitates leadership and the exercise of agency. A model that I personally find useful and engaging is the horizontal consensus structure. This format recognizes no formal leadership or hierarchy. Anyone involved with the organization can exercise leadership or initiative in the organization and can also bring forth proposals within the group for an action or activity. Once a consensus within the group is reached, activity is carried out with the full strength and unity of the group.

Although this structure may be more difficult to execute well on an extremely large scale, it does work well for small groups in ensuring that decisions are made democratically, that minority perspectives are included, and that people who participate have a stake and interest in whatever action they take. Now before you go off with your critiques of the model, let me remind you that this is just one way of organizing a movement, and that no one model is perfect for everyone. I merely want to convey that to successfully launch any movement, the development of organization and leadership are critical. Once this is out of way, we can move into the next phase of movement building, integrating ourselves into the fabric of local communities. This is how we can do it:

First off, we need to find ways to plug into progressive local groups and efforts currently taking place in our society. One of the simplest and most direct ways that a group or individual can undertake to do this is through community service. Community service in a broad sense is any service or effort performed by members of a given group or people to improve a particular aspect of the community they inhabit. Not only is this a great way to make a positive difference in your hometown, but it also serves as a gateway to connections that would have otherwise remained obscured to you and your group.

The most common form of community service that you’ve all probably heard of (or been actively attempted to be recruited for) is what is known as volunteerism, or the individual or collective imparting of one’s potential labor power to a particular institution that provides a life enhancing service to the community. Examples of this include the clean-up of a state beach, assisting in an animal shelter, or working in an after-school care program (MLP arts & crafts program anyone?).

The second thing we need to do is embrace other forms of involvement that are sometimes out of our comfort zone. One form of volunteerism that is not as present or evident in the field is when individuals put forth their time and effort in the engagement of a political campaign that addresses an inherent social injustice issue or struggle.

For reference, a social injustice is essentially any infringement by the state or private sector on a group’s perceived universal or institutionalized social rights. An example of this would be the act of racial profiling, which is the selective targeting of minorities by the law for the enforcement of certain legal statutes. Essentially speaking it’s a way to spread fear in given population and ensure that they are compliant to said statutes. So a volunteer in this sense, would be someone involved in either a voter registration drive, lobbying, organizing protest actions.

Lastly, and most importantly, we need to go about this in the most humble and mutually reciprocal manner possible. No one group, individual, or idea is going to help us make a better world. It takes a mixing of different perspectives, approaches, and, well, people (or ponies) to come together and create a common vision of a better world. We have to be comprehensive and systematic in our efforts. But most importantly, it must come from the inert desire to help others, to come together, and to be the change that you wish to see.

We already have the positive human nature to begin with. Now need to show others that there is more than one path to embracing it.

  • A good way to volunteer is to plant trees and help clean public parks.

  • I also suggest volunteering at your local Salvation’s Army.

    • Those are both good way’s to volunteer in your local community, and build relationships with progressive organizations in the community. But I’m trying to make several key point’s here about how we can shape our involvement going into the future.

      First, our involvement need’s to branch more into the realm of community service and participation. Secondly, volunteerism isn’t strictly defined to “soup kitchen” work if you will. There are different and equally important social and political issues that we should be attentive to. Lastly, we need to do this in an organized and direct manner so that we maximize our potential to impact positive and lasting change in the world.

      I hope that help’s clarify any misconceptions you all made have had about what I said. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      ~Rommel

  • MultiBaller

    it sounds like you’re suggesting light support of social-political issues. I thought I’d add that it sounds more overwhelming than it actually is. Volunteering is a great way to tap into new skills, and you get a ton of freedom to try new things.

    I’ve been involved with a few progressive causes in my area. During our last federal election, I volunteered with a party that historically advocates for good causes but has been seen as a third rate loser (we won the area for the first time in decades!) My primary involvement was as a dude with a clipboard and on the telephone. I didn’t sell memberships, either; I simply spoke to people who were already committed to ensure that they knew where to go, so each call was enriching and positive with no need to sell to the recipient. It wasn’t hard work, but it was necessary and an incredibly positive experience.

    More recently I’ve been doing puppet shows. We visit schools and talk about social issues, such as bulling and peer pressure. When I started, I was *terrified* – those 60 kids were judging the hell outta me! Since then, I’ve grown, performing to audiences that numbered 100, and even one that was at least 200 students. I know now that the teachers, the students, and the other performers in my group are there to see me succeed, and in turn I strive to help them succeed.

    FIM has become one of my inspirations. I knew a bunch of the stuff that the show talks about, but the show creates a wonderful platform that’s given me insight into the kinds of examples I can offer.

    Once you find a cause you believe in, you can find ways to show people why you believe in it. Take ideas from something you enjoy, and make it a part of the work that you do. And, if nothing else, it’s a rad way to meet like-minded people and to get out to do something different.

    Just… Just go volunteer. However small, you’ll make a difference, and you’ll certainly have a reason to smile!

    • RommelsBadAss

      Well, getting involved in those types of issues is a gradual process, so I don’t expect everyone from the get go to go out and get intimately involved in any sort of campaign like that. It’s more of a progression that we can attempt to work towards as we look towards ways to get more embedded in our local communities. That is why we should work to support organization’s and paradigms that emphasize volunteerism and involvement, and find ways on our end to help ease and facilitate the process for those who may otherwise be unfamiliar or adversely orientated towards community service.

      But either way, it’s good to see people like yourselves already doing so much and bring such wisdom and direction to the discussion. It’s inspirational to hear your story, and it gives me joy to see that you’ve taken the show’s meanings to heart and made practical use of them. You, my good fellow, is exactly what this fandom should move towards in term’s of philanthropy and altruism. Good on you!

  • Anonymous

    You should be helping your community out anyway.
    I certainly won’t do it because I watch a show for little girls amd especially not under the guise of “brony”.

    • RommelsBadAss

      Well, good on you mate. But I’m just suggesting a more gradual and tailored approach to getting bronies involved. Giving them the opportunity and the push they need to bring them into the fold is the first step for showing just how meaningful and important community service can be, while at the same time generating connections and positive experiences that can predispose them to such endeavors in the future.