Tuesday 23 June 2020

Armchair activism and being woke

It’s all around us nowadays. Activist movements of all kinds, promoting and protesting things of all sorts – from veganism, diseases, feminism, world hunger, domestic violence just to name a few. Everyone’s got a right to an opinion and everyone has the free will to choose what they want to support. I don’t have a problem with that.

Over the last couple of years my social media seems to be rammed with one movement after another. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which may have been the biggest one of recent times (at least, it felt that way to me) was fantastic as I didn’t really know much about motor neuron disease beforehand. The issue I had was the way I was interpreting the entire thing.

Firstly, the opening speech usually went along the lines of promoting the awareness of the disease but then goes on to say that people had to either donate or perform the challenge. Now, maybe I’m just cynical but I saw a lot more challenges being done instead of donations. Yes, you can argue that by performing the challenge the awareness level was increasing which led to more donations than before but that’s not the issue I’m trying to tackle.

My main gripe is the amount of virtue signalling that has taken place ever since. Years ago I remember asking myself how come the reporters and journalists always seemed to get information on when mainstream celebrities and other famous people were donating to charitable causes. Reading the articles in the magazines at the time, it was almost as if the value they were getting wasn’t just more exposure for them but more exposure of them doing ‘good deeds’.

I put ‘good deeds’ in inverted commas as I believe there are ulterior motives than the ones that appear at first glance. When I’ve donated money and/or my time in the past, I’ve donated to charities and organisations that resonated with me on a personal level. I never really understood having to do a song and dance routine to make sure the whole neighbourhood knew about it. If you really cared about the cause, would it matter whether other people saw you supporting it?

Fast-forward a few years to today and you get the Black Lives Matter movement. Reading various articles on the topic I noted a trend that seemed to hint that if you were not for it, you were against it. This part really got me thinking about the song and dance campaigns I previously mentioned. On my Instagram feed, I saw a few posts by people going all-in on the movement – hashtags, black profile picture, the lot. The thing is, these were people I knew personally (I don’t really follow many accounts of those I don’t know in person) and in the case of some of them, I know they jump on the bandwagon of whatever the current flavour of the month movement is and support it. They're nothing but armchair activists or rather, armchair clicktivists in this day in age.

One thing that has always rung true with my life philosophies is that someone is innocent until proven guilty. With some of these posts and articles I’ve read over the last couple of weeks, it seems that you are now guilty of racism if you aren’t flying the BLM flag high and proud. I always thought that you are a racist if you do racist things. Now it seems you’re a racist if you’re not doing anti-racist things. Maybe it’s just how I see it?

I don’t donate to the various animal sanctuaries near me but I don’t consider myself someone that hates animals. I didn’t go to the gatherings or share anything on social media related to the 8th of March protests but I don’t consider myself to be sexist. I don’t see how not fully immersing myself in BLM makes me a racist.

I’ll keep donating to the causes that I feel most moved by regardless of the social pressure to support other things. Perhaps that doesn’t make me woke but I've already accepted that I will never own the full collection of Facebook profile picture frames.

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