Saturday, 19 March 2016

On the nature of activism

    A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to a course run by my trade union. It was a diversity course, and I was there to tell them something about transgender people.

   Groan. The dreaded diversity lecture, we must all be nice to trans people, box ticked, move on.

   I was particularly anxious not to do the tick-box diversity lecture, I believe it does little to help the cause of minorities. So instead I spent an hour talking about intersectionality and a wholistic approach to diversity, with some reference to the experience of transgender people because as I said it was the only reference on which I could talk with authority. Heaven knows there are enough people who will presume to talk for other groups.
    The lady running the course introduced me as an activist. It jarred with me somewhat, for as I explained I seem myself in that context as a rank-and-file member who has been radicalised by her experiences. There are plenty of real activists to be found in that environment, but theirs is a much more political zeal than mine.
    But what is activism? In the context of working for fairer workplace rights or complaining about a bank it's not a case of choosing to be an activist but one of doing what is right. Activists in my book go looking for causes, in my case the cause came to me.
    The world has a dramatic oversupply of self-declared activists - particularly of the armchair variety - and I have no desire to be one of them.


  1. I have a much broader definition of an “activist,” for some it is activism in just going out in public and being seen. For others it is speaking up when you see wrong. Activism can just be a smile or it can be chaining yourself to the White House fence. Think of activism as changing someone’s mind, there are many ways to go about it.
    To me it sounds like your diversity lecture was right on target.

  2. I suppose you could say grass roots activist. You do way more than my personality lets me do - something for which I remain quite ashamed of...

    What I have not seen you do is preach, talk down to people or belittle others to further your case.

    I would say that yes you are an activist - but the best kind, and for that lots of people should be very thankful!