Stupid Forms of Activism

Stupid Forms of Activism by Adam McLane

I don’t care what color your bra is.

And I really don’t care who your favorite cartoon character was as a kid. Nor do I care about a twibbon.

And yet these meme‘s make their way through social media sites over and over again as if they made a lick of difference. “You just have to do this, it’ll raise awareness about ____.

Don’t kid yourself. Changing your avatar or posting a one word Facebook profile status update isn’t changing the world or raising awareness. It’s just clutter.

Passive activism never works.

You want to change things? You want to be an activist?

Activism is by nature… active.

Speak out. Act out. Write out. Video out. Stand out. Get out. Stand out. Jump out.

There is a whole world full of worthy causes to activate people about. And God may be calling you to be that voice for that cause. So do it.

But don’t fall into the trap of passive activism. Be bold, loud, proud, a pain in the neck, a thorn in their flesh, a force to be reckoned with. Stick it to the man. Get kicked out of school. Live in a tree. Whatever it takes.

Just don’t ask people to change their avatar. Ask them to give money. Go to the place you are trying to make a difference and make a video to activate resources and your friends. Ask them to join you actively in a movement.

If you ask people to do something passive for your cause they will do something passive for your cause.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

15 comments

  1. YES! YES! YES! Passive activism never works. I completely agree.
    Another brilliant blog post by Adam McLane.
    I’m guessing you didn’t fall for the cartoon campaign?

    This is why I support the causes I do, I would BLEED for them, do anything. I believe in the mission because it’s action.

  2. Love this one Adam! This is why I had the following as my fb status for a little while: “Copy this text and put it in your status if you know someone, or have heard of someone who knows someone. If you don’t know anyone, or even if you’ve just heard of someone who doesn’t know anyone, then do still copy this. It’s important to spread the message. And the hearts! ??????, don’t forget the hearts!”

    You were just more to the point. :o)

  3. I actually disagree a bit.

    Passive activism actually does have value for organizations who are trying to make change. But it’s a value that’s easily squandered. Essentially it boils down to

    1. It makes people more likely to take active activism in the future. (Someone who’s taken a small step is more likely to take a large step in the future than someone who has taken no step at all)
    2. Assuming it’s not annoying, it positively raises the profile of the problem that you are trying to solve.

    But you can’t take passive activism as an ends. It has little to no value as an end, but it can have value as a means.

  4. I am going to disagree with you a little bit as well.

    I didn’t change my picture. Basically its because if everyone else is doing it I think its dumb. You’re right that its not going to change the world just by changing your picture, and I doubt anyone who changed it really thought that it would. To be honest, most of them probably did it because everyone else was as well.

    BUT, if you’re getting the word out regarding a problem it will affect someone to start to do something to make a difference. So, if the point is to raise awareness, its successful. Just because everyone who “participates” doesn’t really participate in changing the world doesn’t mean its not making a difference. Otherwise, we might as well close our church doors as well since many of those who attend aren’t really living their lives like they’re supposed to anyways. You’re going to have people who have their awareness raised and do make a difference, and so thats the thing to look for.

  5. …But how will I know what people think of me if I don’t send them a number and then make them tell me what they think?

    I had friends going on and on about the cartoon character thing, not sure that helped any child. It can raise awareness, I can agree with others on that. However, awareness cannot be our end result, we must be people of action.

    I see both sides to this, and…maybe we SHOULD close the doors of the church, I am not saying this positively…but maybe we are spending so much time on people who don’t want to move that we should, instead, spend our efforts on those who NEED our help.

    …but who judges that?

    Around and around we go…

  6. I agree and disagree. I didn’t change my picture or anything like that and think for adults it’s dumb. But I have love the conversations I have had with my students about child abuse the last week with their pictures. So I agree, for the most part totally pointless. But I disagree because awareness is often the first step, and my students are becoming a lot more aware about the injustice in this world, and I’m challenging them to take action, which they are starting to do by raising money for some different causes.

  7. I’m with you. If you’re not making a sacrifice, are you really making a change?

    Unfortunately, I think passive activism (at least how it is playing in mainstream, Facebook status fads) is a way to get the good feeling without actually doing anything.

  8. Agreed, for the most part. Activism is active. But with 500 million users now on facebook, if a handfull of people actually did something about child abuse because a bunch of people changed their avatar to a cartoon character, then maybe it was worth it. I’m not defending myself, because I wasn’t one of the handful. But the great thing about social media is that one person can reach tons of people in an instant. And occasionally something sticks and causes someone to change their behavior or do something.

  9. Adam, you’ve offended me by reading something into my actions that isn’t true. I did not change my pic on facebook to the Livingwaters International logo for anyone else. I’m not trying to raise awareness in anyone but me. You see I’ve done the H2O project and 40 days of water as a way to raise money for clean water. However I realized that doing this during lent is great, but I’m ignoring the problem the rest of the year. By leaving the logo as my avatar it prompts me to do a periodic check. Have I stopped drinking other beverages lately? Am I giving up something to donate money? Why not? How many other beverages am I drinking and how much am I spending that I could be sending to help others? If I don’t see the logo in front of myself all the time I’m likely to go on with my life and forget.

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