How does Understanding Protect Activists?
Being Understood Makes Us Safer
We need people to understand what activists are, what we do, and how prevalent, ordinary, connected, and kind we are. Scoffers at the last characterization would change their minds if they witnessed the amazing kindness of the mushrooming mutual aid networks arising from the Covid-19 emergency, heavily populated by veteran and emerging activists; kindness is rife here, not only toward those in need of aid but toward one another.)
Understanding paves the way for empathy, solidarity, identification with activists, for considering that activists are ordinary humans, and that to want to change what is unjust around us is, in fact, a basic human impulse.
So if people understand activists they’ll protect them?
Yes, the more people understand activists, the more they empathize with them and respond with solidarity when activists are mistreated.
Understanding Ourselves Makes Us Safer
Equally necessary is for activists to increase our understanding of ourselves, of our experience and of our global activist community. We are not free from the misconceptions rampant in our society, which we internalize like everyone else who is oppressed. After all, we live in the belly of the very Beast we’re struggling to transform.
Most of us have been conditioned to be passive, silent and afraid. Acting against injustice and against all that internalized conditioning is very challenging. Activism is exhilarating but puts us in constant tension with the status quo at any number of levels. Comprehending the specific tensions we experience as activists, and how they affect us, is essential.
The Beast’s biggest weapon is dividing and isolating activists from one another. The fight against this divisiveness is key, especially tackling the internalized oppression that often causes us to turn against each other and fail to properly look out for each other as we each face a raft of risks, compounding our vulnerability as targets of other oppressions like white supremacy, patriarchy and so on. Much progress exists in the activist community on combatting this divisiveness, but much more remains to be tackled. The more we understand precisely how this works and share the best ways to combat it, the more we protect ourselves from this very present danger.
Understanding Declaws the Beast
Protecting activists means broadening the understanding that activism is no more or less than good planetary citizenship.
If it weren’t for constant marginalization, vilification and the threat of much worse, most people would be activists. That is, they would actively assert their right to justice, equality, freedom, compassion and a good life for themselves, all people, and Earth.
Protect Our Activists explores the nature and culture of activism in our writing and in conversation with other activists, as part of the work of creating a climate safer for all people fighting to wrench the world from the claws of the Beast.
Understanding is not only a shield against the Beast; it is also a weapon to counter it. Clarifying the truth, of who and what activists are is crucial to countering the portrayal of activists as weird, angry, scary, unrealistic (etc.) people. Which is why POA also works for the full and fair portrayal of activists in fiction. (See the Fiction Featuring Activists journal topic, and the Fiction Featuring Activists List.)
We’re clawing back at the lies about activists being terrorists, weirdos and evildoers.
Better understanding means better protection and defense of activists.
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