The Absent-minded Activists

Before the internet, we often wanted, passionately, to act on social justice issues but didn’t know where to start, especially if we didn’t live in the big cities, where groups met and protests were held. 

Now you can find something out, become incensed, sign the petition, donate, and share this information on twitter and Facebook[1], all in a few seconds, without leaving your chair, then you can wander off to make a sandwich, secure in the knowledge that you’ve done something good today.

This is great for Causes, but it’s possibly less good for the soul. Activism is cheapened by being so easy. You don’t have to give much thought to what you’re advocating, let alone the consequences of your disdainful rebuttals. It’s a sort of Off-hand or absent-minded Activism, as if pitched battles were being fought by combatants who wander onto the battlefield, unleash a devastating torrent of gunfire from highly sophisticated weaponry they found lying around, then wandered home for their tea. 

Perhaps this partly explains the vehemence-and-anguish-inflation online. If you want to show more than lip-service commitment to a cause, you need to intensify the language you use. 


[1] My two favourite neologisms are “Virtue-signalling” and “Humble-brag”. Aren’t they great? They precisely describe very modern, very internet-y versions of age-old behaviours.

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