Activism, Slacktivism and Cracktivism.
People oft bemoan the death of activism. They either say people have gotten apathetic and nobody gets active about issues anymore, or they say that when they do, nothing comes of it.
But then something like Egypt happens and people hail it as the rebirth of that 60s spirit. Of course, in Egypt and the Arab world, people are fighting for concrete liberties most people in North America enjoy on a daily basis. When we fight, it’s often for a vague ideal.
What were any of the protesters who got police brutality’d at the G20 in Toronto actually hoping to achieve? What were they even protesting against? At the very least, their cuts and bruises should have bought them heightened public awareness of the issues. But in the aftermath the only issue I took away from the debacle was that of the police at the summit overstepping their powers.
In real, concrete terms, what were the issues the activists were protesting for or against? World leaders conspiring to exploit the third world and rape the environment? If they really believe that’s what was happening behind closed doors at the G20, then why would they think those kinds of leaders would care about a few thousand people yelling outside?
As far as I’m concerned, that’s not activism. That’s cracktivism, a mere ineffectual step above slacktivism.
Slacktivism is all those campaigns where you’re asked to change your Facebook profile picture in “support” of a cause. Of course, this does very little to support a cause. It might raise awareness of an issue for a few days, but people are already aware of breast cancer and child abuse. By changing their profile picture, the slacktivist feels like they’ve done something when, really, they haven’t done anything but make themselves feel good; off the hook from actually doing something that takes effort like writing their MP or joining — or starting — a community support group.
Cracktivism is much the same. People get addicted to protesting, the least persuasive form of activism. But it feels so much like they’re doing something real that it’s a balm for the spirit. Maybe yelling on the steps of a building doesn’t achieve much, but the burn in your lungs tells you that you at least tried. You did something which is more than the people sitting at home, watching it on the news and shaking their heads cynically have done.
Though, as we saw in Egypt, protest can have real effects. It’s inside a dictatorship. In western, democratic society, the ability for protests to engender social change has passed like a joint in the night. It’s seen as the dominion of crackpots and people on the lunatic fringes of society. And protests, frankly, disrupt traffic which, at least in Toronto, is no way to gain support for your cause with the general, commuting population.
Mandi is active in a lot of social justice activist activities. None of them involve standing in the rain, holding a placard with a witty slogan written on it and chanting corny rhymes. They involve taking action. That means taking real steps to inform the opinions of the public and those in power and doing actual work at the grass-roots level.
Sure, from a cool, cynical, worldly person’s standpoint, that kind of passion might seem pretty damn nerdy. But it makes life a more tolerable thing for more people than bitching about Arcade Fire’s win at the Grammy’s. Or making your Twitter icon green, even if it’s a lot more work.
Five things you can do to activate change:
1. Write letters to your MPs, congresspersons, city councillors and other influential people explaining why they should support the innitiatives that are important to you.
2. Do more than tip a quarter into a panhandler’s cap — volunteer at a foodbank or soup kitchen, start a foodbank if one doesn’t exist in your community, start a clothing exchange.
3. Join committees that have the power to makes a possitive impact. Encourage committees you already sit on or groups you are a part of to do more than they are.
4. Occasionally talk about issues that matter to you — help raise awareness at a grassroots level.
5. Go on a hunder strike to get an invitation to the royal wedding.