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July 12, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Getting some action

Pure New Zealand?

They say each generation thinks that they’re going to be the last. In ours, predictably, things seem particularly dire: climate change, peak oil, rising inequalities, increasing corporate power, a National-led government.

Historically students have been associated with resistance. We’ve often been first in staging demonstrations, at the forefront of protests and actively involved in political debates. We’ve also been considered as privileged above other sectors of society. Some feel that this privilege makes activism a simple act of rebellion from (frequently) white, (sometimes) spoiled, (variably) rich kids.

Touché, this may often be true, but privilege can also be a reason to be politically active. We have time to drink soy lattes and argue about theories to save the world. We’re completely broke, but that’s because we spent all our grocery-money on beer and tickets to Broken Social Scene. Because of the country we live in, our ancestry and our upbringing, we have been given (or rather: have had the opportunity to pay dearly for) the opportunity to skim-read articles as we to stalk our potential crushes on Faceboo… ahem, I mean: to pursue knowledge.

I’m not saying it’s easy: stats lectures are no frolic on the beach, psych all-nighters are no romantic picnic, but still. We have time to learn and we have time to be politically active. Here you inform me (politely) that I’m incorrect: you’re a student-single-parent; you have to, for varying reasons, fight to stay in the university system; your obsessive watching of True Blood leaves you no time for maintaining adequate personal hygiene, let alone activism.But you could try, if you wanted to. At least: I want to. That’s what this column is all about: trying to be politically active in everyday life. Not just chaining yourself to trees, throwing your shoes at world leaders and embassies, or pieing the CEO of BP in the face (there is a global pieing movement; google ‘Biotic Baking Brigade’ if you don’t believe me), but less dramatic forms of action too. Activism can encompass those everyday actions and thoughts which challenge oppressive power structures, a definition which expands the activist net further. Notice that many academics would be included in this definition.

In our isolated, i-phone’d, ‘I’-centric lives we’re not used to active democracy extending beyond voting. We get angry about our crap ETS, about the Gaza Flotilla massacre, about GST rises and off-shore oil exploration, but it’s difficult to bridge to action beyond e-petitions. This should come as no surprise; if we’re brought up in a society that encourages complacency, then hey, we’re gonna be complacent.

So let’s try it out: street art, guerrilla gardening, autonomous communities, permaculture, social movements, protests, radical academia, creative protesting… there’s a 50 cent mixture of activist opportunities out there, waiting to be savoured. I’m not promising anything, but I think it might be fun.


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