Is Moderate Activism a Waste of Time?



Honest-to-goodness activists are hearts and minds deeply involved in the cause that they are fighting for. Their indefatigable commitment to what they believe in is witnessed on the street, online, on the air, in print and in whatever opportunity they can get into to express the urgency of their issues. In most instances, they are the voices of the inarticulate, the abused, the neglected, the oppressed. Activists operating in unison within a broad geographical spectrum during the darkest moment of a nation are a force to be reckoned with for they are possessors of a revolutionary inspiration bound to alter and topple a loathed political order and its anathemized leadership. Authentically devoted activists are therefore intrepid essentials who jolt people in their deep slumber while being hypnotically exploited by the powers that be.

One asset that makes activists esteemed is their ability to get to the roots of problems in particular social loci. In this sense, an activist is supposed to be radical whose relevance is measured in terms of her/his realistic analysis and evaluation of circumstances raised to the level of imminent issues of national–even global–importance. A more significant distinction that makes an activist genuine is her/his decisiveness to act responsibly and thus effect necessary change on what has been deemed to be seriously problematic. More than being formers of ideas based on thoroughgoing inquiry, real activists are active and substantial transformers of states of affairs that demand radical change. In the language of the eminent Brazilian philosopher of education and pedagogy, Paulo Freire, bona fide activists are purveyors of “conscientization” which highlights the crucial importance of an extensive understanding of social and political contradictions in society as well as the pertinency of being able to act responsibly to level off such contradictions. (cf. Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed . . .

In this light, reflection and action are the two necessary factors that define a genuine activist, no more, no less. In other words, true activists are tenacious thinkers and performers of actions deemed necessary to ameliorate a disempowering condition of social importance. With such a balance of reflection and action, we could say that real activists are individuals of moderation who are not prone to act out of impulse but of well-thought plans. In this understanding of the concept of moderation, sensible activists are necessarily moderate and moderate activists are both keenly reasonable in thought and sharply strategic in action. Moderation as being calm, composed, cool and rational is a fundamental character of a competent and impressive activist. Moderate activism is therefore  of the essence if one is carefully resolute to achieve optimum results in a transformational action heading toward better life conditions.

However, there is a stereotypical understanding of the concept of moderation which means being less energetic and hence basically lackadaisical or passive. Combining this connotation of moderation with our understanding of activism leads to the concept of “moderate activism” which could be construed at worst as an oxymoron for how could honest-to-goodness activism be disinterested and apathetic? But the truth of the matter is we find in many instances people who call themselves activists and define their activism as moderate. These are people who want to grab the limelight by getting themselves superficially involved in discussions of emergent issues of socio-political importance. They could come up with a series of synthetic theories arrived at through reasonable analysis and evaluation but offering obscure opinions and equivocal notions as resolutions laid down on hazy platforms that appear as workable plans of action. Nevertheless, they are actually deceptive ploys to conceal the half-hearted commitment of these so-called “moderate activists” to the crucial issue at hand.

Moderate activism in the light of this commonplace understanding is by and large a disingenuous maneuver employed by self-proclaimed “activists” for the sole purpose of grandstanding. They are called “moderate” because of their less impassioned statements and seemingly neutral analyses that waterdown the focal points of critical issues that need to be addressed and acted upon decisively. Moreover, when these “moderate activists” are cornered, they have the automatic tendency to project an image of calm, restrained and reasonable agents of tranquil change considerate towards the two contending sides of the issue under consideration. Unmasking “moderate activists” is getting face-to-face with a bunch of counterfeits who in reality are nothing but armchair revolutionaries and fence-sitters scared to death to get themselves involved right at the middle of a controversial circumstance while at the same time disappointingly creating a public impression that they are sincere and wholehearted in their farcical activism. For them and for their egostical purposes, such an effort is not an exercise in futility but for us who know the true color of their skin, listening to them is a waste of time.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 18 February 2015

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