To The Streets

Though I like writing, learning, and reading, I am becoming more acutely aware that the more time I spend on these hobbies, the less time I have to do active and meaningful actions.

Though the writing allows me to formulate ideas and put my thoughts into words, and though it may even change a few perceptions and inspire people to think differently, it is ultimately an introverted and selfish act.

The commentators, the authors, and the writers, though they have the passion and skill that is able to inspire, without action this inspiration is futile. We can all hope and dream of a better world, but until someone actively works towards that world, a dream is all it will ever remain.

I know of more journalists and writers than I do activists. I read and write more than I participate. And yet I speak of change as if it is an inevitability, an occurrence which will just simply happen.

If I truly believe that a better world is possible I need to evaluate my position in what brings about this better world. This begins with a fundamental question, and one that should be asked of everyone; in order to make the greatest impact what is my most appropriate tool?

As people we all have tools at our disposal. We could be mechanics working with the cogs in a machine, activists and soldiers using our bodies on the frontline, or wordsmiths and commentators with pens as our weapons attempting to portray the actions of others. The question I have been mulling over is the issue of whether I am using the most effective tool currently.

Are my actions, i.e. writing, learning, reading, more beneficial than if I were to conduct other actions, i.e. activism, volunteering, campaigning?

It is true that the world needs storytellers. How else are the stories going to be heard and replicated were it not for the storytellers? But in this time of what some deem as overwhelming apathy, are there too many storytellers and not enough storymakers?

We are all able to like a page on Facebook, to share a thought on Twitter, to sign a petition online, but how many of us support this armchair activism with public participation?

Social media is a platform of almost infinite potential, but somewhere in its development it was diverted from the ability to connect, and moved towards the ability to distract. And though it can come in the stereotypical flashing lights and loud noises style distraction, more often it is appearing as a subversive distraction.

This is a distraction that leads you to believe you are conducting the action you want to be, when in actual fact your eyes and efforts are being shifted on to another topic entirely.

By sitting at home on the weekend, browsing the internet, and signing petitions against the government austerity measures, or against bankers bailouts, or in opposition to Israeli apartheid, you are removed from the real arena of struggle.

I would argue that nothing is achieved through the screen of a computer or a smartphone. No matter how many names, how many tweets, or how many views. Having people sat in their homes watching and commentating rather than participating is a more manageable situation for those in control.

Revolutions and revolts break out on the street. Occupations exist in physical headquarters. People, decision making people, go about their lives in the real world, not online.

Image, brand, PR, yes, they may all suffer due to the activity occurring in the media and online, but the outcome will remain the same. Pressure cannot come through the click of a mouse or the pressing of a button and we should be wise to remember that.

In our clamour to use every means at our disposal, we seem to have forgotten the most crucial and the most effective. The power of the people. Direct action.

One of my biggest annoyances, and one I have been guilty of myself, is hearing those talk the talk, but then failing to see them walk the walk. If the Left truly is as passionate and as determined as we say we are, if we truly hate injustice and racism and inequality as much as we say we do, why are we not doing more about it?

Why must we contend ourselves with the thought that this is how it should be, or that we have done all we can, or that there are no other options?

How quickly the student movement collapsed once it was decided to raise university tuition fees to £9,000 a year. How quickly we succumb to the status quo once the election results come in. How willingly we accept defeat on issues we oppose so strongly.

Strikes are one method, a crucial method of holding those in power to account. They are to be praised and respected, and in such times as these, even encouraged. But not everyone is able to strike. This tool is only available to some. And with this being the case, alternative tools need to be found.

How can the people pressure corporations to pay owed tax money? How can the people ensure that no families are evicted or forced from their homes? How can people take matters into their own hands and promise that not a single member of the community will have to go to bed hungry?

These are issue that need thought, that need discussion, and need highlighting, but more important than all of this is the need for them to be addressed.

Too often I find myself and others addressing crowds rather than problems. Like the showcase political theatre that democracy has become, people are won over not by how a person acts, but rather by what a person says.

On the football pitch, on the battlefield, in society, people are more inspired to follow by witnessing action than by simply talking about it. And those conducting the actions receive more respect than those who only comment on them.

Frantz Fanon spoke of the liberating effect that violence gave colonised Algerians. Mikhail Bakunin spoke of the propaganda of the deed. Glory is to be found in action. And it is only through action that we will be able to create the world we wish to see.


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This article was originally published on Cultured Vultures on 12/08/2015

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