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Strategies for Activism
I have a one-year-old baby and I have fastened a "Meat Is Murder" pin on his jacket, hoping to get people to think about its message. Even though I'm a longtime animal lover and vegetarian, I’ve never done much activism and I’m confused about whether this strategy is a good idea or not. By having my innocent baby wear such a message, I thought people wouldn’t find it controversial, but many do. When they respond negatively, I tend to become annoyed and angry. Also, I recently designed a Web site about my son questioning animal cruelty, and I persuaded my family and friends to view it. No one has responded, though, and I’ve been feeling down about it. These are my first attempts at activism, but am I going about all wrong?
There are many forms of activism, and you have chosen one approach that is very personal. It aims your views at specific individuals who can respond to you directly and immediately. In addition, you have put your young son in an awkward position at the forefront of your tactics by making him a buffer between those you come in contact with and your controversial views. This is not fair to either your son (he has not yet chosen to be vegan or an activist) or those you approach, who may be put off by the defensive shield you have attempted to place between them and yourself. Your strategy comes across as though you are saying, “Don’t attack me or my beliefs, because if you do, you will be attacking an innocent baby.” Most people are bright enough to see through this, and many will be offended by it.
When you set yourself up as a social activist, you must be prepared for negative reactions. Activism, by its very nature, implies that generally accepted views are being challenged. There are less personal and contentious ways to go about opposing established cultural perspectives, and behind-the-scenes efforts can be equally as effective as more public ones. Each person who chooses activism must also pick the approach and comfort level that best fits her or his style and personality.
In order to endure, activists must realize that cultural change is gradual, people are entitled to disagree with or ignore them, and the intensity of the methods used may result in similarly intense reactions. Just as you are convinced you are right in your point of view, others feel they are absolutely right in theirs. No one, including friends and family, owes you an explanation for how they feel or why they have not responded. Activists persevere because they believe in what they are doing, not because they receive positive reinforcement or encouragement.
Continue to evaluate your course of action to determine if it is the best fit for you. Not everyone needs to be an official “activist” to make a difference in the world. Sometimes just living our truth and leading by example is a more constructive and satisfying approach than “in-your-face” activism, and it often has a more beneficial and productive outcome.
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