The Problem

 

Activism lacks cohesion and a coherent message. Despite plenty of engaged citizens, thousands of organisations and calls for unity, Activism remains conflicted and feels erratic, without a vision. 

 

The prevailing trends in activism remain the same ones: build more organisations and blame the 1% for everything. In 2014, a renowned and awarded U.S. journalist said this about U.S. activism:

After worked hard in the anti-war movement in the US between 2002-2010, and having had direct involvement with several of the leading entities (names omitted), I’ve come to believe that the U.S. has become so fractured physically, psychologically, spiritually, intellectually, psychically, that there’s no way to have a coherent movement of any kind at this point."

It takes courage to say that the problem lies in the institution of activism, not in the establishment.

Indeed, it takes courage to shake up the complacency of traditional activism and tell organizations that their methods to organize are redundant, outdated, ultimately inefficient. It takes courage to say that there's no peace, because the most devastating of conflicts lies in our conflicted nature, and that Martin Luther King's call to "organize as efficiently as those who love war," remains unanswered. If you don't believe us, just look at the pattern of birth and death of Facebook pages, communities, organizations, petitions' sites, or independent media. What transpires is fierce competition, division, not unity. The winner is the affirmation of the self, not the bridging of differences. Truthful is the one who is popular, trustworthy are the ones who have likes, not arguments.  

It takes no pleasure to challenge or criticize your own team, but if using the same methods of resistance to try to score some points doesn't work, someone has to say "It's all getting us nowhere!" Likes are not going to end poverty or improve social mobility. Chris Hedges writes: "We must develop a revolutionary theory that is not reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers." Ralph Nader called it "maybe the last chance we have at overthrowing Tyranny" when he tried to mobilize the Civic Society in what he is calls: “Breaking Through Power”. It's all not happening. Meanwhile time is ticking and you're getting burnt out on activism, your email is flooded with petitions and organizations telling you to resist (and donate money), your circle of friends thinks that you're too radical, political, borderline conspiratorial. Neither Hedges, Chomsky nor Nader have a magic wand, they can wave and give to activism that sense of cohesion that it sorely misses.

Revolutionary change happens when you begin to question the whole institution of social change, the old methods of organizing, protesting, raising awareness, picketing. We keep acting vicariously via organized groups, communities, new political movements, and not feeling a bit more empowered. We keep the remote possibilities for change in mind, because we believe that traditional organizing is the only way to achieve change. We may cling to the history of the great movements and believe it's possibile. The "possibility," that according to Howard Zinn ( here) is sufficient to maintain hope, is not anymore, and you all need a cold shower.

The awarded author/activist, quoted above, doesn't come clean with activists when she writes on the popular independent media, promoting her work (and her books) in the mission of raising awareness about her cause? Because nobody wants to be a "party pooper" in Activism. Chris Hedges, at least, is candid about the reality American citizens face to see radical change, based on the achievements of past popular movements. In a presentation (here, at 27:00) Hedges reminds us, that no matter how well organized American popular movements in U.S. history were (The Liberty Party; The Suffragettes; The old Progressives party (Roosevelt); The Civil Rights Movement), none of them achieved formal and lasting change. All they managed to create were “openings” in American Democracy. Hedges points out that "the Liberal class is functioning inside a system of Capitalism, which grants just enough reforms to keep the underclass acquiescent." A recent NYT Poll, referring to the achievements of Equality reforms of the Civil Rights Movement, proves Hedges' point: 50 Years After MLK's Assassination, Most Americans Think Inequality Reigns (here).

From near zero influence in the democratic process, to rampant corruption, to growing social and economic inequalities, or unaddressed human rights violations, citizens of the world have long lost faith in our institutions. They look at the institution of Activism for answers, for representation, for leadership, but all they can find is a huge, competitive and chaotic crowd, that is incapable of materializing the revolution of responsibility that humanity needs.

Activism has: A) plenty of experts telling what "WE" need to do.

Take any of the unsolved, major issues facing American citizens: "We must stop voter suppression" (Robert Reich); "What "America" needs to prevent wars ( Tom Hayden); or "We must all stop this perpetual war machine" (Sam Husseini); "We must get money out of politics" (Bill Moyers);
On the whole debate of "Institutional Corruption" and on "how to fix Democracy," Professor Lawrence Lessig must have mentioned every problem, and also tried to lead the fight (or consult) in any number of organizations ([1],[2],[3],[4]).

B) too many redundant campaigns and petitions.

Check out how many organizations keep raising awareness about relevant, recent issues, or about ongoing, never ending social battles. All these require repeated, constant engagement and campaigning. Short lived, small victories are the best you will get.

Money out of politics: List of supporting entities, (image, here); Net Neutrality: List of supporting entities, (image, here; Stop Watching Us / "NSA" List of supporting entities, (image, here); Climate Change Action: List of the 1100+ entities supporting the 2015 climate march (here); Stop TTIP. List of the EU entities against Trade Agreement (here).

C) too many organizations. It's overwhelming.

In the U.S. Activism is like second nature for people. Responsible, compassionate citizens wish to solve problems. They fight for justice, freedom and equality, everywhere. So many, relevant organizations and communities should efficiently organize the public grievances. They aren't. Winessing that every other awakened activist starts his/her own initiative to make a difference might be inspiring, but when our own individuality splits us instead of uniting us, nobody wins. When it comes to cohesion, to merge voices into coherent action, to see past our own differences, to be one team against those who control everything, Activism is impotent. The Elites know what cohesion means, the 99% don't.

Too bad that there's no WE to work with.

The biggest enemy of the 99% is our inability to cooperate, to build a unity of purpose.

For the sake of the collective, a community of ants or bees is united, cohesive. The wellbeing of the collective is paramount. Ants and bees don't promote individuality, freedom of expression, liberal values. They rely on electrochemical impulses to communicate. However, when it comes to protect from enemies, their achievements are remarkable, superior to ours. We, humans, despite being capable of complex communication, are stuck with our obsession with our most cherished human ideal, individuality, which makes us incapable of large scale, true cooperation, even in the most threatening times. This is exactly what Malcom X said during the Civil Rights Movement, regarding the competition and the fragmentations inside the African American Movement.

"Whenever you find people who can't forget their differences, then they are more interested in their personal aims and objectives tan they are in the conditions of the whole. -Malcom X

Unity of purpose, cohesion, are not the fruits of crowds of organizations "holding hands."

There is plenty civic awareness in the US. Ray Mc Govern said: “Do not say there are not enough of us. There ARE enough of us!” (here). Activists can fill squares, the D.C. Mall, bring traffic to a still. Groups, FB Pages and their major organizations can take pictures of entire blocks filled with people standing for change at any big event, from Cairo to New York, Athens, Madrid or Lisbon. But, at the end of the day, what you see is "crowds," crowds of organizations holding hands, adding their links and logos on a website, increasing Likes on Facebook communities. That doesn't translate in solidarity. Holding hands for a day or a few months doesn't turn Activism into a "WE," only unity of purpose can hope to do that.

Other than growth in separated organizations and social ventures, or popular communities on Facebook, there's no significant shift in Activism, because the methods available don't achieve long lasting solidarity. It's not passion that is missing, but cohesion. We're not part of a vast consciousness; We'have no harmony of purpose and thought. Organizations are afraid of the threat that other organizations can pose to them. We're stuck. These are not conditions to achieve the security and strength of a unified will. Collective evolution is still trying to figure out what that magic spark of consciousness needs, the trigger of Revolt, as Chris Hedges calls it, that famous "Eureka moment".