Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter
If you think activism and changing a system is meant to be a walk in the park, then maybe activism is the wrong career for you.
Better yet, stop thinking of activism as a “career”, and more like a side hustle that you shouldn’t immediately be expecting to earn money, praise and awards for.
In recent years, perhaps even in recent decades, there has been a surge in people calling themselves “activists” and “feminists” and “heroes for change” who expect to have monuments named after them and worlds bending to their every whim, simply because they believe they have changed the world for the better.
Don’t get us wrong. Many of these activists are actively calling to make the world a better place. Many others merely believe they are making the world a better place by moaning in thirty-tweet threads about how good of a human being they are because they retweeted some poor, oppressed person who isn’t them. The latter is what many on specific spheres on the internet would call “virtue signaling”.
To simply believe that the world is going to change for the better because you arrogantly assume you have the correct opinions, is naive. When an unaware person asks you why you are correct and they are wrong, the incorrect answer is to respond with “I shouldn’t have to educate you. You should know better!” This is the default answer of an aspiring activist who doesn’t hope to change anyone’s life for the better, and merely wants to bask in the smug superior glow of their own ego. If the unaware person/s knew the quote-unquote “correct” opinions, then you wouldn’t even need to call yourself an “activist” because your opinion would be the status quo. You wouldn’t need to educate them in the first place. You would be the norm.
If you truly want to call yourself an activist, an inspiring figure for world change, then this smug, exclusive arrogance needs to go, and it needs to go right now. You are not changing anyone’s mind if your arrogance wafts around you like a 10,000 IQ points Rick and Morty fan. Another argument held by faux-activists is: “That person is a [Nazi/white supremacist/fascist/Stalinist/Trotskyite/plain old communist/evil], so it’s not worth trying to educate them. They’re evil anyway.” This is just another excuse to be lazy. If you truly were all about wishing to change the world for the better, then even fascists/communists should be attempted to be reasoned with. Modern-day bigots are not like the Nazis of old, where literally the only way to stop them was to firebomb Berlin. They can be reasoned with. “I used to be an alt-righter” posts are a dime a dozen on far-Left subreddit BreadTube. YouTuber Caleb Cain had his five seconds of fame talking about how he was rescued from the alt-Right rabbithole after some allegedly well-reasoned debates from Leftists like ContraPoints. If you believe you should just be able to say “Ner ner ner ner ner, I’m right, you’re wrong” and your enemy will immediately bow to your greatness, then you are not an activist. You are a regular person with their head buried pretty damn deep in the sand.
In response to the recent double-shootings in Ohio and Texas, internet personality and aspiring activist Zoe Quinn was infuriated. Let’s ignore the obvious problematic behavior in her tweet thread; that she is turning the deaths of innocent people into a screed about herself. Quinn self-identifies as an activist; a woman thrust into the limelight by her hateful ex-boyfriend, and the victim of torrents of abuse by whiny gamebros who can’t handle that Quinn is the co-writer of a text-based game on mental health. But she is tired. She has spent five years virulently harassed and attacked and mocked and beaten and battered, and now she is tired. It was her birthday, back in 2014, when this all started. Why couldn’t the Agents of the Status Quo have waited another day before they started harassing her? Why couldn’t the evil, hateful misogynistic bastards have cared about her feelings? Shouldn’t they be catering to her every needs? Shouldn’t activism be easy!?
Of course not.
Quinn alleges to be fighting to change a system; a system which has been the status quo for centuries. Capitalism and Western society have run rampant at least since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and Quinn and her coterie of cultists all believe that changing said system should be as easy as making a social media post about cute doggos and woofers. She’s been doing the hard yards, y’all! She’s been telling people how evil gamerbro alt-Righters have been for five years. Why are people only starting to listen NOW!?! They should have been listening to me from the start!
If it really was that easy for Zoe Quinn, then she would not be a feminist or an activist or a hero for womankind.
Because those things take time. Changing the way a system works is not easy. Innumerable scores of people have died in the past even vaguely attempting to craft a better world for themselves and others. Even in this modern day, there are those activists—real activists—who have been tortured, defamed, threatened, raped, and murdered for merely daring to craft a better world for themselves.
Take a look at those trying to uncover corruption within the European Union. Citizen journalists and activists alike—like Daphne Caruana Galizia, Viktoria Marinova, and Jan Kuciak—have befallen horrific ends simply because they were trying to make Europe a better place.
In the Middle East, there are some truly inspiring female activists fighting for change in a land that beats, rapes, tortures, defames and murders them. Women like Masih Alinejad, Wajeha al-Huwaider, Narges Hosseini, Vida Mohaved, Ifrah Ahmed, Malala Yousafzai, Yasaman Aryani, Asia Bibi, are all worthy of the label of activist.
Even in countries like the United States, there are still many worthy causes to fight for, worthy of the ridicule and hatred associated with being an activist. For example, those merely against the restrictive abortion laws being proposed in many states, may not be activists, but those who are actively protesting and fighting back against the pro-life (i.e. pro-birth) politicians should be considered activists.
Almost all of these people likely feel the same exhaustion Zoe Quinn mentions in her tweet thread, but unlike Quinn, they cannot and will not just appear to give up. Western feminists like Quinn have the luxury of being able to take a break, because contrary to what Western feminists think, to some extent they are the status quo. They moan and rant about capitalism, but capitalism is the system that feeds them: it is the newspapers that write puff pieces about them, it is the businesses that celebrate Pride Month with them, it is the feminist apparel sold in clothing stores and feminist marketing teams behind big-name cinema. If Zoe Quinn was truly an activist, if she was against the status quo, then Googling “Zoe Quinn” would only bring up anti-Quinn propaganda. The mere fact that, if anyone ignorant to the happenings of Gamergate looked into Zoe Quinn, they would immediately believe she is a victim worthy of a voice. Most activists do not have that luxury.
Activism involves hard yards. It involves lots of lots of work, because the believer believes they are doing the right thing, and (regardless of if they are doing the right thing or not) will actively attempt to enact changes.
Aspiring activists do not believe in this. They fall into the overused and incorrect trope of the lazy millennial (regardless of their generation), and believe that fame and glory and rights belong to them and they are entitled to it. If you’re tired, your enemies don’t care. They’ll see that as a sign of weakness. Fight back. Fight harder. You should be expecting horrible people critiquing you. Figures like Quinn and her contemporary Anita Sarkeesian appear shocked when they try to change a millennia-old system and society is resistant to that change. Of course people will be resistant. You must fight for the status quo to not be the status quo, if you want any chance of success.
These sorts of people expect wars to be won simply by believing they are The Most Correct of the Two Sides. Even enabling a two-side dichotomy doesn’t truly help your cause, especially when you throw those who aren’t 100 percent behind your cause under the Enemy label. This is a specific call-out to Leftist activists denouncing those dang Liberals (the moderate Left), centrists and apolitical people. If you want people to be on your side, then cliquishness and snobbery will only detract from your opinion.
Keep at it, ignore the haters, and realize one main thing…
Activism shouldn’t be easy.
But if and when that goal is accomplished, maybe then—and only then—will you get the chance to sit down and finally say ,”I’m tired.” And by that time, you’ll deserve that rest. Until then, you’re only an aspiring activist. Get to work. Chop chop.