Finding our places in movements for change
We need all of us to create the world we want
Something that’s come up quite a lot recently in conversations I’ve been part of is the importance of diversity of strategy and tactics in our work for social and environmental justice.
This is important firstly because a lot of time and energy is wasted in criticising one another’s tactics and strategies that could be put to better use in working towards our common goals.
It is also important because too often hierarchies develop in movements, in which only particular ways of working towards our common goals are regarded as ‘activist’ or ‘activist enough’. This tends to exclude people who are disabled or chronically ill, who have to work several jobs to make ends meet, who don’t have family or inherited wealth to rely on to free up their time, or who have too many other lives depending on them to risk arrest. (I’m sure you can think of other groups this way of thinking excludes, too.)
For me, an activist is anyone who makes a positive contribution to one or more movements for social or environmental justice through their actions.
It can be short-term or long-term, protective or transformative, front-lines or support, or any number of differences.
You may be a campaigner, garnering public attention and advocating for better ways of doing things, or against harmful policies and actions of governments and corporations — yes, even if the only public space you have access to is online.
You may take direct action to prevent harm, bring media attention to harm that has already been done, or to push for change in policy and for accountability — risking arrest and violence in doing so.
You may be a community educator, facilitator, or youth worker, empowering yourself and others with tools for thinking, speaking about, and taking action to improve the community’s own everyday conditions of life.
You may be involved in culture change, either directly, or as a parent, teacher, artist, doctor, farmer, business owner, or worker, embedding the world you want in the way you live, work and relate here and now, and the ideas, processes, and products you choose to engage with in planning for the future.
You may be a counsellor, therapist or coach, making your work accessible to people who are worn down by oppressive systems, or by the work of creating a better world, or stuck in how to proceed in line with their vision.
You may be living your life and engaging in acts of support and solidarity with marginalised and excluded people every chance you get — including both the groups to which you yourself belong, and those to which you don’t.
You may be involved in an extremely local issue, aware of how it connects to broader movements, and raising awareness of that connection with your fellow local campaigners.
These are just a few examples. There are many more.
There is no one way to be an activist; there is no one way to contribute positively to movements for social and environmental justice.
We come from many different perspectives, experiences, and approaches. We all of different skills, aptitudes, and capacities. We all have an enormous amount to contribute; even the ‘smallest’ contribution counts.
We need all of us to create the world we want.
Enjoyed this? Want more? Get writing like this to your email inbox, a week or more before it appears here! 👇