Why You Should Too

I realise that activism isn’t for everyone. While I find gigs interesting, games of capture the flag interesting, I also find attending forums, plenaries, conferences interesting. I also find opportunities to acquire useful skills, from making clothing to campaigning, interesting. Some of you may not find these things so interesting. Some of you may be in the camp that has sentiments similar to those expressed on Facebook by one friend of mine a little while back:

 “you know joel, i was just thinking, and i don’t believe i’ve ever attended a protest in my life. interesting really, i’d designate myself as a fairly political person too. but on the whole, i tend to either generally approve of government in Australia, coalition or labor, or don’t feel that directly aggrieved by the decisions they make. thankfully we have stable, centrist and responsible Federal Governments really… and our decisions aren’t dictated by any “radical/anti-capitalist bloc”…. at the end of the day it feels good not to live in iran or parts of latin america where extremist politics prevail.”

I’d thus like to put it out there why I think it is time to polish off your walking shoes, to grab your activity hat, and to put on your attending events you wouldn’t normally attend gloves.

Simply put, the most powerful forces in our society do not have our wellbeing in mind, and they will attempt to do exactly as much as they thinks they can get away with. This is a broad statement. It is certainly not true of every politician, corporation, or individual. It is true of corporations, which are legally required to place profitability before doing right. When a Government has an agenda that goes against the national interest, it is similarly the case that the only limit to their action is resistance from the populace. Conversely, every positive change hasn’t come about through the force of inevitability, but through the population’s demanding it. Things that we now take for granted – universal suffrage, the abolition of slavery, civil rights – came about only because activists and others brought them about. Contrary to the implication of the excerpt above, for the population to dictate to the Government what it should do is not democratic. Rather, it is the zenith of democracy.

Here is my point: if you think that it is a good thing that black people are no longer slaves, that the Franklin river wasn’t dammed, that no uranium mine was built in Kakadu National park, that India is a free nation, then how can you justify being anything other than socially or politically active? Change can come from campaigning, from protest, or direct action, or civil disobedience. It cannot come from putting up with the actions of the Government as long as they don’t ‘directly aggrieve’ you. As American ex-slave, negro, Frederick Douglass said, “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening.”

We live in a wonderful world, and every day I am touched and inspired by the good things around me. But there are undercurrents that demand address. Homosexuals are still discriminated against, in the law and in society. Women in Australia still do not have access to medical abortions. The right to die with dignity is still denied to those who want it. Australia is the only democratic nation in the world to lack human rights legislation. Human caused climate change threatens to have devastating impacts on our well being, our environment, and our society, but our Government is too pre-occupied with remaining in power to actually chart a vision for Australia. Sure it feels good not to live in a dictatorship like Iran. But equality isn’t about ‘less unequal’. Justice isn’t about ‘less injust’. Democracy doesn’t mean being less like a dictatorship.

If, for all the good things about Australia, you’d like to see something changed, you have the power to change it. You have a power to make this world into an ideal one. This doesn’t require you to get arrested. It doesn’t require you to be a different person. So try going outside of your comfort zone, learning about what is happening in the streets, the hotels, and lecture halls of your city. All that is needed is to embrace a cause that is greater and more beautiful than anything an individual could create – the progress of human liberty .

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