|Thousands of activists and advocates have to endure the consequences of stepping up and opposing the government so that women gain the right to vote, people gain access to basic social services, and more / Photo by: Jacob Lund via Shutterstock|
Before November 1989, any citizen in Czechoslovakia who expressed their opposing opinion to the authoritarian regime would face persecution from the police. But, activism has changed this. Czechoslovakia had witnessed mass student protests and a general strike for more than a month, which brought down the totalitarian state and led the country’s first-ever democratic elections.
By 2003, the Second Liberian Civil War had reached new peaks of brutality. Reports show that more than 250,000 people were killed, while thousands of children were captured and forced into combat or sexual slavery. This is when the women of Liberia decided that enough was enough. The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace (WOLMAP) was formed and initiated efforts to stop the brutality.
The organization launched a public sit-in at the presidential palace in Ghana where peace talks were being held. This prevented delegates from leaving until peace was negotiated. WOLMAP’s efforts soon paid off when peace talks were being initiated, ending the 14-year civil war. The group was also a significant factor for mobilizing support for the election Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state.
These stories are just some of the examples of how activism can change not only people’s lives but also the status quo. Many people across the world are not aware that the rights and freedom that we are experiencing today are the result of long years of protests. Thousands of activists and advocates have to endure the consequences of stepping up and opposing the government so that women gain the right to vote, people gain access to basic social services, and more.
The Core of Activism
This year, the world was surprised to see thousands of young activists marching down the streets to demand action on the climate crisis. Young people have been leading the talks on climate change and environmental issues by organizing rallies and confronting policymakers. This all started when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg began skipping school in 2018 to strike for climate action outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm.
Dana Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland in College Park who studies activism, stated that the latest generation of protestors is louder and more coordinated than its predecessors. According to Nature.com, the world's leading multidisciplinary science journal, the movement’s visibility on social media and in the press has been a driving force for the world to know what they are fighting for. “Young people are getting so much attention that it draws more young people into the movement,” she said.
But before young people today started going to the streets, millions of others did the same to raise issues like the right to vote. Mass protests across the world have aimed for one thing: to gain rights and justice from their current state. They seek accountability from their governments after their doing nothing to eliminate their sufferings. When people feel the need to make changes, not just talk about them, they go to rallies, demonstrations, and marches to be heard. Activism, an action on behalf of a cause, action that goes beyond what is conventional or routine, is proof that thousands of people can come together for a single cause and aspire change.
The book “Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice” written by authors Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr stated that activism has played an integral role challenging dictatorships, ending slavery, protecting the environment, protecting workers from exploitation, opposing racism, promoting equality for women, and many other important issues. Its core is mainly to change the status quo and bring change not only for the marginalized community but also for the entire society.
Activism is all about collective engagement in bringing just and empowering social change for all. But why do people resort to protest when they can talk to their governments instead? This is because the usual platforms of grievances have proven to be hostile and inadequate, while nonviolent protests have been proven to be effective. According to BBC, a British public service broadcaster, nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. Also, 3.5% of the population who actively participate in protests have never failed to bring about change.
Why Do People Protest?
Activists became activists because they recognized something wrong in the current system and they want to address it. One of the misconceptions activists face every day is that the only thing they do is complain. This is wrong. These people march the streets and call our leaders’ attention because the issues being raised have not been addressed for many years. Activists always try to bring alternative and long-term solutions to society’s problems.
A 2010 survey of research on the social psychology of protests discovered that factors like emotional intensity and "social embeddedness” have prompted people to bring societal issues on the streets. "Anger is seen as the prototypical protest emotion. For those of us who have been part of protest events or watched reports on protest events in the news media, this is hardly surprising. Indeed, it is hard to conceive of protest detached from anger,” Dutch psychologists Jacquelien van Stekelenburg and Bert Klandermans said.
According to Foreign Policy, an American news publication focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy, protests are people’s means to make political ideas physically present in the world. Even Aristotle argued that all of us are political animals at heart and that active involvement in society fulfills a basic human need.
Thus, we must pay attention to the issues being fought for by activists. They only aim for a social change that would recognize our rights, hoping for the betterment of our society.
|Activists became activists because they recognized something wrong in the current system and they want to address it. One of the misconceptions activists face every day is that the only thing they do is complain / Photo by: Ink Drop via Shutterstock|