Activism…the point being?

It seems to me that established activism groups have been slow on the up-take of potential benefits with social media and the internet. The recent Kony 2012 campaign proved this – a video designed with a specific SM strategy that went viral, while many other equally (if not more) important issues plodded along with candle-lit vigils or email petitions.

The question I’ve been pondering is – does any of it matter? 80 million views of a video is not going to get a man experienced in hiding in African jungles captured, neither are some candles in a city park far from Syria going to get Assad to resign.

When I protested in 2003 with 500,000 others against the Iraq invasion, even then it felt like the entire population of Australia couldn’t change Howard’s mind. It felt unlikely that any of the Occupy sit-ins were going to achieve anything, yet still those folk sat-in, and just like the war protests they changed nothing. The people that think the system is broken agreed with them from their lounge-rooms; while people who thought they were whingeing hippies continued yelling at them from their loungerooms to ‘get a job’.

GetUp and Avaaz – the online petition sites – appeal to me because I’m not so keen on writing personal letters, even though I know it might be more effective. I just feel like I have limited knowledge on whatever the topic is, and will be shot down by anyone who has access to advisors or funds for research. Slacktivism in action. It’s why the Kony campaign was at least effective in getting it’s message out – people felt like their click changed something. Which of course it didn’t. I have read some success stories from the online petition sites, but still feel a little hopeless with each click.

So, I’m a big sceptic (not the only one) but still participate in hope. Hope that someone will change their mind, but how often does that happen? Not just the powerful, but us commoners? About major things, not where to go for dinner. Major change sometimes meaning admitting we were wro…wr….wrong. Are our minds open enough to this?

I prefer changing my actions and sharing my slacktivism to writing letters and organizing protests; hopefully this encourages my framily to think a little about their own actions in whatever the cause. I hope this happens in any case. It certainly happens in reverse – when I witness the actions of my framily, it reveals a little about their beliefs, but also triggers me to consider my own thoughts on said cause. If I see a way I can improve I take it, even if it is just filling up on previously absent knowledge. Recent cases are – how little I knew about the plight of West Papuans; and re-enforcing the horrors that a colonialist approach has inflicted on Australia’s Indigenous peoples from 1778 until today. Is this how social evolution (rather than revolution) works – people sharing and being inspired by other’s actions? If so, social media is at the heart of battles to come, even if it is slacktivism.

Perhaps this is why I do this blog – because I have doubt that group activism makes lasting change and find it more likely to succeed through personal discussion with those closer to me. It’s also why people shouldn’t feel hesitant to share the good things they do. Just do it on Facebook please.

PS  I think this post rambled a bit, but it’s been hanging about for days because it’s all been disjointed in my head….but I need to move on, and get it out there. An aim with the blog was for things to be clearer in my head if I wrote them down…hasn’t worked so well with this one.


10 thoughts on “Activism…the point being?

  1. There was the Arab Spring Schurn…if there was anything that last year taught the world, it’s the importance of social action, that the collective does have a voice, and that that voice can implement change on a massive and lasting scale.

    • True Dok. Although those places appeared (from the outside) to have years of oppressive regimes….revolution was only a matter of time. I guess maybe I’m more sceptical of things getting done in the minority (western) world…really I was hopeful the Occupy protests would go somewhere…maybe it’s time for a repeat soon…what you doing next weekend?

  2. Good thinking & scribbling Schurn. I don’t have any facts about it all, but my feeling is that each of these pathways to voicing our concerns and opinions as citizens and owners of the government have value and play valuable parts in making change. I share your skepticism about group activism on the street, but I think what it does do is at least show others, through media coverage of the protests, that there are X amount of people who are prepared to show their support for Y cause. I think this in turn prompts discussion & possibly motivates others to sign petitions & even eventually write letters or change consumer habits. I agree, “circles of influence” ie. simply doing what you believe to be right & being exposed to the habits of other people & maybe having non-forceful discussions about it with ‘framily’ (like it) are super effective in provoking thought in yourself & others at the very least.

    good posting.

    • Yeah Coxy I thought after I posted this that my favourite quote (possibly not completely accurate) is….many small people doing many small things can change the shape of the world. Circles of influence.

  3. All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing…. not my quote and perhaps a little grand for the point being made, but it makes sense across this and a whole range of subjects.


  4. Ok, for example – Earth Hour is this Saturday. Interesting concept. We got a little package in the mail from the property owners (big company) with a candle in it and a brief description of the concept. ‘Millions of people around the world will turn their lights off for 1 hour to show the power makers that climate change is serious’. No, thinks Schurn, no. It shows the power makers that people want to feel like they’ve done s.o.m.e.t.h.i.n.g, so they can feel OK about continuing business as usual using normal electricity for the other 8759 hours of the year.

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