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Activism as education

April 11, 2015
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Freddie critiques an essay on police brutality for not offering a solution:

In other words, the piece recounts in exacting detail a political problem but does nothing to establish a political solution. It begs for a next step– “here’s what I would do to convince white Americans to get on board with a political movement against racial inequality”– that it never takes. And in not taking that next step, it falls perfectly into line with the general, bizarre trend, the trend to say “it’s not the job of oppressed people to educate you.” Really? Then whose job, exactly, is it? I hear that all the time, and I find it such a bizarre attitude for self-described activists to take. To call yourself an activist is precisely to say “It is my job to educate you.” Change is active by its nature. The status quo doesn’t need activists. Change requires that you make it your job. So where’s the political strategy? I don’t pretend that it would be obvious or easy– in fact I think it’ll be incredibly hard– but, well, 200 years ago you could buy people, and the ability to do so was deeply embedded in the economy. Things can change, but you’ve got to make them happen and you have to motivate people who aren’t inherently predisposed to be motivated in order to do so. That’s me making a “this is true” statement, not a “this is good” statement. [Emphasis added-PK]

Though I agree with Freddie’s larger point, I think he puts too much emphasis on education as the main purpose of activism. His theory of politics seems to be cognitive change leads to social change. I’m not too sure. I think David Roberts’ critique could apply here.

I’ll try to have more to say soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Victor permalink
    April 26, 2015 10:12 am

    Ahh I responded to a related post. I think I didn’t fully understand what you were commenting on this person’s words. Yeah, as an activist and part of activist communities in the UK, the main point of our activism is not education. In fact, most of the people are already educated about these issues – climate change, Israel and Palestine, etc. It’s more about creating actual change. For us, the goal of activism is action.

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