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Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Temptations of Activism

From what I have seen from history, there are two methods of activism: aggressive and passive.

Aggressive is the destructive kind, the marching and violent protests filled with hateful speech. It's the riots with fires and smashed windows, with fights and police firing on the crowds. It is an out-pour of rage in the most destructive manner.

The problem with aggressive and violent protesting is that it often becomes a matter of revenge, of getting even. Strong emotions like anger and rage are very hard to stop, especially when echoed back by people nearby, and often leave a person tired and drained.

However, I don't believe in not saying anything if an injustice has been done. Both as a human being and as a Christian, it is my duty to actively counter injustice.

Now, I come from pacifist family, so I am more inclined to passive activism. Passive is, well, more passive, but no less vocal. It's the non-violent protests, where protesters refuse to give in to their hatred and strike back, but are no less willing to back down. It's standing up for what you believe in and not lowering yourself to crude violence.

Given that I've quoted him before in previous posts, one of my favorite non-violent protesters is Mahatma Gandhi. Some of my favorite quotes from him are:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

I work hard to maintain grace and forgiveness in order to be a non-violent activist. So it takes a lot for me to even consider aggressive activism. Thankfully, in real life, it is easy to draw the line between violent and non-violent protesting. Not that I'm not tempted in the midst of my frustrations, but the actually doing is different from thinking. After all, who hasn't thought of devious or even cruel things to strike back at people who have slighted us? The difference is that while thinking these things isn't nice, you aren't the kind of person to actually DO them.

However, with the Internet, a new breed of protesting medium has been made, making it easier to protest. It is easier to spread around information, easier to bring attention to issues, plan protests, etc. However, it is also easier to give into the temptations of aggressive internet activism, the kind that weakness our position and makes it easy for the courts and the public to dismiss us as a violent rabble just looking for trouble. This includes personal attacks, "trolling" and generally making oneself out to be abusive.

I'm not saying this to criticize anyone's actions. This is merely a reminder to myself as well as others to act in a manner that does not jeopardize our position. We can shout out our slogans, stand in protest and spread information, but we should refrain from taking revenge, violent actions or actions that could be considered abusive or harassing.

It's not something that's easy. Heavens knows it's not always easy, especially on the internet with the presence of trolls roaming our midst. But we should remember that the public is also watching us, and to conduct ourselves in a manner that proves that we are respectable people calling out on an injustice. By our setting the example, the public will be more favorable towards us than if we were to just strike out in our fury.

That means, of course, not feeding the trolls.

For more information about trolls, I would highly recommend this post by Genderbitch: Trolling: The Ultimate Activist Trap as well as this post by Bev What Kind of Troll Am I?


  1. this is a good post and echoes a point Sharon Da Vanport from the U.S branch of the AWA made some time ago, on facebook. Sometimes it is hard to contain the rage that is concomitant with an entry into discussion about "the politics of difference." Those who are not autistic can often fail to grasp our sentiment, way of living, our input and our insights. I am a fighter, but too much aggression just dilutes our cause and our calls for justice and equality. thanks for the little snippet of wisdom on an early sunday morning!

  2. Corina

    You are so correct. The way you're describing as bad is the Malcom X way. You can't fight hate with more hate. We have to do it the MLKJr way.

    It cannot be about bashing the NTs.

  3. Corina, you handled John Best Jr the best with dignity and honor.

  4. I so agree with you Corina. It is hard though sometimes. It seems that the louder one is, or the more antagonistic-the more attention they get. I find it frustrating. Yet, I remember that what I am doing, the points I am trying to make-are all about my kids, my family and my life. I need to make sure my words have impact and relevence-that my arguments are substantially based. I need to live my words-if that makes sense. If I am trying to work towards making the world a better more accepting place-then my words have to reflect that.


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