Activism. The very word sounds big and relegated to the brave. But in reality, activism is all about knowing solutions to problems and fighting for the same.
Day in and day out, we come across several issues. Some pertaining to us, some to our friends and family, to our neighborhood and, of course, some relevant on a global level. How do we react to these? There are several options: we can ignore them, learn about them, or, like an activist, try to fix things and bring about change.
People who are engaged in social issues. People who are think that actions speak louder than words. People whose idea of belonging is based on inclusion. People who see an issue and take responsibility in addressing it. There are a gajillion ways to define what it means to be an activist. People who are on the forefront, who are self-motivated when it comes to taking action on social issues. People who undertake projects to educate people, spread awareness, provide training and do all that is needed to fight a problem. An activist responds to key issues by developing solutions that help bring about change and improve the quality of life for others.
Broadly, the issues taken up by activists fall under catgories including environmental, political, social, socio-cultural and financial.
Activism Comes in all Shapes and Sizes
At various stages throughout history, activism has brought new systems into existence and put an end to an old, existing way of living. One such example is that of the French revolution where the inflexible and top heavy rule of the Monarch was overthrown by activists and people, paving the way for democracy and a new form of government.
Activism doesn't just take the form of protesting: there are several activists who never took to the streets. Writers, poets, singers and even dancers have been very influential in spreading social messages, opening people's eyes and educating them about particular issues.
In the Telangana region of India, there has been a call for a separate state for several decades. Whenever singers and dancers have joined the protest, the enthusiasm of the masses has increased manifold. The might of writers and poets is perhaps best typified by the phrase “pen is mightier than sword”.
In India, famous environmental activists include Medha Patkar, Subhash Palekar, Vandana Shiva and many others. Social activists include Anna Hazare. In various other fields, there are activists selflessly fighting to improve the lives of people.
Activism is the need of the hour. But what is lacking today is a value-based education system which encourages young people to become responsible citizens of tomorrow. The irresponsible behavior of the mainstream media has sidetracked global and national interests, with film stars, sportsmen, and other celebrities today in the limelight. Imagine the day when activists share that limelight – surely that's a better world to live in?!
Casting a Wide Net: Everyday Activism
Contrary to belief, it is very simple to be an activist. All you need is commitment, determination and a sense of being part of something bigger.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention the simplest form of activism I have encountered. Once when I was traveling by bus, we were stopped at a bus shelter and a young man boarded the bus. He was sitting just a few seats away from where I was. This man had a black ribbon on his shirt. People were looking at him in wonder (usually black ribbons are worn as a sign of protest). The person sitting next to him asked, “Why are you wearing this ribbon, and what are you protesting against?”. Swiftly came the reply, “I am protesting Corruption”. Those were the days of the famous Anti-Corruption movement in India, led by Anna Hazare.
The person put another question to the ribbon-man, “What difference can you alone make, and what can this ribbon do?” Most of the people in the bus were waiting for his reply as they were listening to their conversation. In a humble tone he replied, “I am a commoner and I go to on work on weekdays. On weekends I do field work for various activities. I wear this ribbon everyday because when I commute from home to my work place and back, people ask me why I wear it. There starts their inquisitiveness, I tell them about the issues and what I as an individual am doing to fight it, and what others can also do to solve the problem. Everyday I reach out at least 5-10 people this way. Based on the availability of time, I educate them in simple terms about issues which are effecting their lives without their knowledge. I also exchange my contact number with them and later I enroll them in different organisations which conduct activities useful to the society.”
Soon after listening to his reply I started clapping, and following that a round of applause broke out in the bus. This everyday activist was appreciated by the person sitting next to him, the conductor and others passengers as well.
I would like to end this right up here, it is ultimately up to the readers whether to be an activist and contribute (be at the givers end) to the society or to remain a common man (be at the seekers end) as it is definite that the activists will be successful as they are determined and selfless people. Lastly I would like to mention a quote of Swami Vivekananda: "They alone live, who live for others".
Author: Abhishek Jagini/ RESET editorial