The immense impact of civil disobedience has not been lost on history professor Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar. “There is no doubt that the U.S. needs smart, energetic, courageous activists with integrity and vision to push politicians and galvanize the people when elected officials cannot provide the radical vision or critical support to do so,” he said in a recent contribution to the New York Times. “Activism is politically essential in a society like ours, with such a long history of legal and de facto discrimination.”
Michael Freund, a dedicated activist for his homeland of Jerusalem, believes that activism begins on the home front. “Thousands upon thousands of people suffer at the hands of cruelty every day,” he said in a recent interview.
“Frankly, it’s up to people like us to shine a light on the dark underbelly of our world and look for new ways to help reduce the trauma to those we love. It’s civil disobedience, not blind obedience, that allows us to change the world.”
Freund’s thoughts are echoed by historical abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass who wrote “power concedes nothing without a demand.” The activism of a people against tyrannical leadership is not only important to success, but it is the path to measurable change in our society.
As a political writer, Freund understands the challenges of writing effective political speeches to encourage change, but it must be done. By creating an environment of change, activism manifests lasting impact on the present and future of the modern world.
The Benefits of Activism
Both historical precedence and ongoing struggles for rights and freedoms prove that activism is an essential tenet of the 21st century. Without a voice for change, people across the globe are defenseless against those leveraging dangerous and unchecked power.
Pushing for Change
Activism is much more than a lifestyle. It is a state of being requiring action to effect social and political change. True activists help to push forward initiatives that politicians either cannot or will not pursue by providing vocal, actionable and ongoing support for causes which truly matter to society.
Revealing Hard Truths
Many politicians and policymakers are unaware of pressing issues facing individual communities and populations. It is imperative that modern activists inform and educate their leaders about prevalent concerns—current and future. This allows a community to reach greater equity for all citizens.
Providing a Voice for the Voiceless
Not all populations are able to make their voices heard amidst louder crowds or dense media coverage. In this case, the activist elevates a people’s voice and records its struggles. Voiceless populations can be found in businesses, industries, communities or families with underrepresented or unmet needs.
The Impacts of Activism
Activism has made significant impacts on people all over the world. For thousands of years, activists have allowed Americans and citizens of the world to enjoy prosperity in many ways. In fact, it was the work of activists which gave America independence from Britain and allowed the new nation to achieve opulence and worldwide prominence within a few hundred years. It also led to freedom for enslaved populations, the right to vote and the ability to own and maintain property.
There are many other impacts related to activism that can be seen all over the world.
■ Increasing Civic Engagement
■ Protecting Oppressed Groups
■ Helping Vulnerable People
■ Improving Government Systems
More than anything, the practice of activism pushes people to be better citizens of their country and better torch bearers for democracy. It is important to continue supporting open dialogue between supporters and non-supporters of a cause.
The Future of Activism
Proponents of activism continue to push for ongoing change in their homes, communities and neighborhoods. Despite growing threats and pushback from dissidents, more and more people are joining cause-based communities.
Activists must be careful to avoid the pitfalls that accompany civil disobedience including rampant violence and destruction of property. It is important to practice activism and social justice in a safe manner, taking care to protect vulnerable people from physical or mental harm. In many cases, violent acts in the name of activism are taken less seriously than peaceful protests.
‘Slacktivism’ is another dangerous pitfall to avoid in the realm of activism. The rise of social media and digital hashtag tools has allowed viral movements to spread across the internet quickly. A few of the largest campaigns include the #icebucketchallenge and #kony2012. Online social movements do well to spread awareness of an event or situation, but they rarely bolster true change.
According to a recent study published by the University of British Columbia, “When consumers gave public support, they were no more likely to provide more meaningful support for the cause than if someone was just randomly asked for the larger request.” Those seeking social justice and positive change would do well to deter others from engaging in slacktivism efforts.
Ultimately, the future of activism remains obscured as the world changes and evolves. It is left to modern-day activists to determine where, how and what the future may look like. The efforts of individuals perpetuate the movement of the whole to make activism the fulcrum of change for our modern society.