Why We Need More Activists
When the world’s problems seem too big, too complicated and too terrifying to even try and solve, the words of Margret Meade always seem to provide much-needed perspective, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Activism, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, is “the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one.” By this definition, an activist is someone who does an action on behalf of a cause.

The traditional method of activism usually involved a picket and a protest. However, with the introduction of the Internet and the expanding access to information and connectivity, activism has begun presenting itself in diverse, and arguably more effective, ways.

Activism has played a role in ending slavery, protecting civil rights, promoting equality for women and many other issues, but as the way activism works begins to change, the need for activists grows.

Before globalization and the hyper interconnectivity of our world through trade and online access, problems were handled generally at a local level. Communities pushed against government policies they disagreed with or pushed for social change they deemed fit.

As issues expand to a global level, so must activism. But unlike the past, those most affected by certain life debilitating issues do not have the access needed to have their voices heard.

activistsNearly half of the world’s population — a staggering 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

While the international poverty line has been drawn at living on a $1.25 or less a day, which more than 1.3 billion people do, it is important to acknowledge that a significant portion of the people living on earth today is barely getting by. Poverty is especially rampant in undeveloped nations.

So in addition to dealing with economic insecurity, citizens of poor countries have few avenues for social, political or economic change. They cannot simply sign a petition for their government to implement better social programs.

Many of them live in rural communities far removed from their governments, and most of the governments in developing countries are unable or unwilling to help their citizens break the bonds of poverty.

This is why we need more activists. Half of our world is essentially voiceless. They cannot adequately act on behalf of their own cause, but that does not mean they should not be heard. If the portion of our population, who has enough, did enough, then couldn’t we all have enough?

We need to use activism to scream that global poverty must be eradicated.

There is what seems like endless ways to become a voice for someone who needs to have their needs heard.

Join organizations who have made it their mission to address global poverty in one way or another, volunteer at their events, rally your friends to become involved, contact your local and federal governing representatives to encourage them to join the fight.

It does not matter how you choose to be an activist, it only matters that you act.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Do Something, BMartin, Cambridge Dictionary, One, Permanent Culture Now, Activists Handbook
Photo: Pixabay, Wikipedia

forgotten activists
We live in a time where the notion of human rights has become common. It is almost impossible to evaluate current issues, like the role of women in countries ruled by Islamic Law, the exploitation of factory workers in developing countries or the restrictions on immigration in the U.S. and Europe without making references to human rights.

However, approximately four decades ago, the human rights movement in the U.S. was an uphill battle. It was not until the the early 1970s that lobbyists, members of congress and the public in general began to embrace the idea of human rights in response to the excesses of the Cold War. It took time and significant effort from human rights activists to challenge basic assumptions within U.S. foreign policy and overcome mounting opposition.

Despite the fact that the United States government was one of the major driving forces behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights following World War II, forgotten activists had to engage in a long term struggle to raise awareness about human rights violations around the world.

In the wake of the Cold War, human rights issues moved to the backstage to make room for more pressing issues concerning the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. Dependable allies for the U.S. were regimes that upheld a pro-Western ideology, regardless of their human rights record.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, growing dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign policy and growing military spending led liberals and their supporters to begin scrutinizing U.S. military and aid spending. One key element in the battle for human rights consideration regarding foreign aid spending was the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973, which restricted the flow of aid to regimes with a record of political persecution or imprisonment.

In addition to the work done by Congress, about 100 human rights movements flourished during the 1970s, some were religion-based while others worked on the behalf of specific nations. In the decade that followed, these activists were the basis for a major political movement that exerted great pressure on legislators and the White House to change their stance towards human rights violations.

Some of the groups also worked to bring awareness to the general public. Using the civil-rights movement and anti-Vietnam war protests, they set out through popular mobilizations to create awareness and strengthen opposition towards oppressive regimes overseas.

In today’s world, where information moves at the speed of light, it is very easy to take human rights as a given. But it is important to remember that there was a time, not too long ago, when people did not seem that concerned about oppressive regimes and political prisoners.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Foreign Affairs, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
Photo: LRN

UNICEF is the first organization that is stating the obvious and encouraging “slacktivists” to give more than a millisecond to “like” a page or Facebook meme. UNICEF ads that state “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio” and parody commercials spark conversation about how effective social promotion is versus donations and volunteering. Social-promotion also makes organizations  rethink the motives of social media campaigns and how they are to use the viral sphere to generate monetary support.

Social sharing is no doubt helpful in generating conversation and awareness, but the reality of the matter is that Facebook likes don’t save lives. However, people that socially promote a cause, whether they are long-time supports or just jumping on the band-wagon, prove to have just as much potential in donating or volunteering as non-social-promoters. In a 2,000-person study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide, social promoters were just as likely as non-social-promoters to give money and slightly more likely to volunteer their time. In another 2011 study by the Internet Journal First Monday, Henrik Serup Christensen found that online activities didn’t reduce off-line mobilization. “It is at worst harmless fun and can at best help invigorate citizens,” said Christensen.

On the other side of the argument “slacktivists” are actually less than what they sound like and are simply bored internet users posting another status update. Zeynep Tufekci, a sociology professor and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, explained the social-promotion phenomena as non-activists taking symbolic action to utilize and open spheres traditionally used solely by professionals and activists. Basically, organizations such as UNICEF should not worry about these “slacktivists” because they were never money donating, activists in the first place.

-Kira Maixner
Source: The Atlantic, You Tube