Thursday, April 6, 2017

Slacktivists Are Like Amphibians

Slacktivists are like amphibians. They’re representative of the transition between one way of existence and another. From completely sedentary disengagement to involved activism, these creatures sit somewhere in the center. How to expedite the transition between slacktivism and activism is a complicated question in that, quite like evolution there is no singular correct way to be an survive, there is no singular correct way to be an activist. Your organizational structure can be hierarchical or not, you can be active just in your community or internationally; there is no “right” way to do it so long as it is done. So in trying to catalyze this transition what’s necessary is a basic framework that allows for introspection and self-critique. A framework that will help the now slacktivist situate themselves in the world and decide which path they see as a best fit for their situation, as they learn to walk and survive on land.

What is fundamental is a foundational education about the world. This is good for many reasons but that primarily it allows the now slacktivist to situate themselves in time and space. A good idea of what has happened in the past, what historical forces are still acting, and how it effects what is being worked towards. Additionally education is necessary for this framework because in most fields it requires that the individual entertain different perspectives. This ability is good in it’s own right because it fosters greater interpersonal experience and empathy, but additionally it creates the necessity for a consistent standard to evaluate positions held by people of other perspectives.
Standards are never really as standard as the word standard implies, nevertheless, having standards is generally helpful in evaluating the world. Having a standard for how you evaluate the world creates a sense of consistency, what matters, what should be prioritized, but most important to a standard of evaluation is the end goal. This is what should really help slacktivists most, by explicitly stating what is being worked towards, be it collective liberation, stopping eminent domain abuse, or any other issue, by articulating the end it becomes easier to evaluate by what means you can ascertain that end. Standards also allow for a kind of intellectual self defence where slacktivists who are inundated with a certain perspective now have the capacity to coherently challenge it. It’s a great tool to root out personal hypocrisy, and engage in self-criticism.
A good concept for evaluating the means at your disposal is Jean-Paul Sartre’s facticity. It’s essentially the concrete details that provide a backdrop to your life, that limit the scope of human freedom. The topography of your means, what’s possible for you to do, is what needs to be considered by any activist, and is the necessary question that can foment a transition between slacktivism and activism. Additionally evaluating what means are available broadens the conversation and increases autonomy. When people realise all or more of their options they see that there are alternative ways of living, and are less bound by existing power structures. People can organize their own communities, instead of deferring to existing non-profits; why donate money to the National Resource Defence Council when you could start a Students Against KXL group in your communities? By evaluating what can be done, individual’s autonomy is expanded and the inclination toward slacktivism is countered by a more thorough inquiry into one’s options.

This framework isn’t just useful to slacktivists, but by coherently evaluating the world what one catalyzes is a more incisive outlook. Such that slacktivists, people who have strong beliefs that they don’t act on in a substantive way, can more easily introspect and self critique and thus calibrate their beliefs/attitudes and their actions to be oriented in the same direction. Taking the first step toward activism is probably a lot like the first step onto land, it really sucks and the one stepping initially has no clue what’s going on, but for both that first step may well be one of the most important decisions made.

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