“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” -Bishop Desmond Tutu
(1) The doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.
Such a simple definition for such a complex term. Over the holiday season, I think it’s important for all activists involved in any kind of activism to truly reflect and think “why is activism important?“
I have thought about this question long and hard, and many of us will have different and personal reasons as to why activism is so important, and what we hope to accomplish through it. What I hope to do is to offer you a little food for thought, something to reflect over and talk about. Something that can, hopefully, help you answer the question “why is activism important?”
There’s a new book out about government corruption in Kenya called It’s Our Turn to Eat
, by Michela Wrong. The title refers to the appeal of each elected government to its own clannish supporters that they have to seize power and be gluttonous quickly because after the next election some other clan will seize power and they, as well, will look after ‘their own’. The twist is that the ‘elite’ within Kenya, across all clans or groups, exploits this tribal animosity and fear to distract the electorate from actual fact that whomever is in power leaves only the elite to pull the strings, pay off the politicians, and hoard the resulting wealth. The objective is to overpower and dishearten the people of Kenya, because that allows the elite to continue to rule unobstructed. Then it all becomes a game of enabling power and wealth – stealing elections, ever-increasing inequality, police state laws, bribes, pork, subsidies and payoffs, propaganda, intimidation, media control, divide and conquer, and massive corruption. US 2000, Kenya or Iran 2009, it does not matter. To think that this is a struggling-nation problem only is pure vanity. Thanks to distance, size, and scale, the benign inclinations of human nature are perverted and corrupted. Everything that works at a community level fails at the level of corporation and nation. We have shown, all over the world, again and again, that once we reach a certain size we become dissolute, decadent and ungovernable.
The role of the activist is to act as an offset, like a counterbalance per se, to this caricature of “government”. The activist needs to speak truth to the established order, to bridge the distance between the haves and have nots, to hold those who are irresponsible and unaccountable, responsible and accountable. Activism is the intervention our government so severely needs. To break down what is already broken. To enable what the people really want to be realized, despite everything. Activists step forward for every step the government takes back.
Activism, simply, is the rent we pay for living on this planet.
All of us must be activists, if we are to give this world a fighting chance.