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04 September 2008

What is an Activist?

I've been involved in a discussion about the effectiveness of activists and activist artists until I am exhausted. Members of my activist groups have been called "pigs and thugs." We have been called "vile and hateful." I can endure such insults. But what I can not abide is being told that my work is of no value. That it serves no valid purpose. Some people believe that today's activist is living the glory days of the past and should take a lesson from the successful advertising campaigns of big corporations. Some believe that activism is ineffective. In support of this bit of advice, the author of this idea makes this assertion:

Many programs have been instigated [sic]all across the globe to try and eliviate [sic] the problem, very few of them work. The question is why?

Here is my answer:

You are asking the wrong question.

You assume that the wrongs of the world continue because activism and activist art is ineffective or is a failure. Activism and activist art continues because many of the societies of this world are the failures. The reason these issues continue to plague every human society are the close minded, self serving, self important attitudes of the people who are not hungry, not homeless, not jobless, and not without the means to help themselves.

The naysayers are a large part of the problem.

The naysayer questions the conduct and the effectiveness of anyone who would see change, and yet they do nothing themselves.

This is what the activist does for change:

We act by crying out for change and serving as the voice of those who are not heard;

We live our lives with the needs of others and the larger global community at the heart of everything we do;

We act with our voices and with our hands;

The activist volunteers at food pantries and homeless shelters, and donates talent, time, money and labor;

We make calls to beg for donations when a neighbor’s house burns down destroying everything they owned;

The activist does not sit around and pray or hope for change - the activist gets off his/her ass and works for change by motivating, agitating, and demanding until those with the power and the money finally begin to listen.

We do this through art, writing, protesting, volunteering, raising money and raising awareness. Each of us contributes in our own way according to our talents and our passions. No amount of naysaying will sway the activist who truly believes in the importance of the human voice to not be silenced.

We are not going anywhere. We will continue to fight our causes and raise our voices. We will bear the criticism and return to the trenches as better fighters for our causes. I have the freedom to be, to do, and to dream. Those freedoms were not given to me, they were earned by those who came before me. The activists of 50, 100, 200 years ago, in whose steps I am trying to follow. The activist marches steadily forward carrying the banner of hope often at risk of life and of limb to address the wrongs of this world despite the raucous clatter of the naysayer.

To those who would say that we waste our time by creating our work, raising our voices, and demanding change because they don’t like the way we do it or the words we speak, or the art we create; I will borrow from the friend of a friend and say “get over it.”

The activist is neither the cause nor the cure.

The activist is the catalyst for change.

Freedom is more than a word. It is a way of life. Think free. Live free.



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