The Problem With Activism – Religion and Politics

activism ăk′tə-vĭz″əm►

n.The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.
n.a policy of taking direct and militant action to achieve a political or social goal.
n.The practice of using action to achieve a result, such as political demonstration or a strike in support of or in opposition to an issue.
Wordnik definition of Activism from a DuckDuckGo search

As I have done before, I went to my favorite search engine ( and looked up a word. The definition for that word is listed above. As you can seen, the word in question is “activism.”

I have to tell you, I spent a good deal of time in consideration regarding the thing about which I wanted to write. My reason for spending so much time, is that I really like to get to the root of any given subject. It seems to me that “scratching the surface” is typically not wisdom.

Simply put, if you stop at a point that really doesn’t get to the heart of a discussion, you’re essentially like a physician who looks only at symptoms without seeking to comprehend the underlying cause.

I’ve seen examples of this. I had a friend who was diagnosed with tachycardia (“racing heart”) and treated accordingly, without the folks doing the work seeking to understand why. Had they simply done their due diligence, they would have found the cancer on his aorta, that spread from or to the lungs, and ultimately killed him, the much faster. In the process, they would have likely prolonged his life and helped him to remain healthy for longer, as well.

I’m quite sure you can imagine that this sort of memory, makes me sensitive to the idea that understanding those things which undergird, is more than a little important.

After much consideration, I decided in this case, to talk about a thing I almost took for a symptom of a deeper condition. In the end, I decided that where there technically may be ideas and ideals that are below activism, it’s worthy of consideration all on its own nonetheless.

Here’s the thing. As a rule, I find activism to be a bad thing. That being said, I would never try to tell anyone they can’t or shouldn’t practice it.

Activism within reason, is not only allowed by the founding document(s) of the United States, in some measure it is, I think, an expected activity.

It’s my hope that I’ve gained a bit of experience, and as a result, as I’ve gotten on in years, some amount of wisdom. On thing my experience has taught me—among a large number of others—is that activism may change the current actions of those “against whom” it’s used, but that doesn’t mean it will change their subconscious view of the World.

Put simply, the fact that people are “forced to” amend their actions and potential patterns of speech by folks taking action of one sort or another against them, doesn’t mean what’s going on in their heads has changed.

I’ve been known to illustrate through short stories. An example of this is the following.

Little Johnny and his mother are driving home from the grocery store. Mommy looks in her rear view mirror, and sees Johnny standing on the seat. “Johnathan!,” yells his mother, “sit down and put on your seatbelt.”

The child complies with his mother’s request.

Mom looks back again to see this is the case. “Thank you, Johnny.” She says.

“I may be sitting down on the outside,” Johnny retorts,  “but I’m standing on the seat on the inside.”

As we get more experienced (read here, “older and hopefully wiser”), it’s hoped we develop good logical and reasonable bases for our actions, attitudes, beliefs and considerations.

The result is that it’s much harder to convince someone having lived a fair amount of life, to change the way he or she thinks though “activist activities.”

We come to realize that a good deal of life is “playing various roles.” As such, we understand that we must act in certain ways and speak in particular fashions, when we deal with others. It should be well understood that what we do and say are not necessarily indicative of what’s going on in our minds.

One result of this fact is, when people stop expecting us to put on a particular face, we’re inclined to do just that. This, “so long as you care, I’ll care,” perspective may seem bad, but in reality, many have come to understand that the perspectives and expectations of others, are of far less import than those others would tend to believe—in fact, we’ve come to grasp that sometimes, the things others expect of us are downright harmful.

It’s on the aforementioned realizations that we tend to act when we’re allowed so to do.

“Putting on airs,” is not only unnecessary, as we see it, but in fact, it takes more time and energy, than just being who we are.

In my view, what activism seeks to do, is modify the behavior of others who have often long since looked at what those practicing it are seeking to change, and decided was—as previously stated—unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.

You may’ve noticed that most people with an interest in activism, and who follow that interest, are young. There’s a reason for this. It is that more seasoned folks have learned there’s a lot to the old adage, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Put another way. As we mature, we learn that the more important thing is not immediate or radical change, but slow, sometimes almost imperceptible, movement in desired directions.

I made a decision some years back. I was going to treat each and every one of my workmates with respect—even if they didn’t like me. Another thing I opted to do, was to entirely remove profanity from my speech at work.

As simple as these two things are, the difference it made to the folks around me has always been pronounced. There tends to be reciprocation by virtually everyone. If you wish to call my choices “activism,” you can argue that “activism changed the tenor” of the workplaces in which I found myself. I have no such illusion. I hold that it’s almost always more sensible to take things slowly and easily, and generally, not to expect radically different things of others. As such, I don’t tend to consider activist behavior reasonable as a rule.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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