The phrase ‘it starts with the person in the mirror’ is often used as a call to action. A way of telling us we should be the change we want to see. It’s a cliché that’s inspired many into doing some great things, be it cleaning up their environment or even volunteering for a good cause. But I believe we only grasp the phrase at surface level, ignoring the deeper meaning it possesses. When we think of the person in the mirror we shouldn’t only translate it as a call to action, we should start by thinking about our motives and interrogating why we want to take action.
Being an ‘activist’ is considered the ‘in thing’ at the moment. Everyone’s declaring their activism left, right and centre and there’s a lot of ‘outrage’ on the social networks to prove it. But it’s fast being used as a social network industry - a method of self-promotion - judging by how hypocritical and condescending it’s become.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all social media has made it easy to condemn what happens at a distance even if we continue to ignore what happens on our doorstep. Perhaps we find it easier to ignore the suffering and injustice closer to us because speaking about it would compel us to actually do something about it. And besides walking the talk is not always as glamorous as tweeting the talk. There are no followers to pat you on the back for a job well done. All this is creating an environment that’s fast seeing activism reduced to personalities. Instead of discussing the issues raised conversations become about ‘who is the better writer, ‘who is the most radical’, ‘who can best articulate theory’ and even ‘who is the better feminist’ - all of which prove to be a distraction. Even legitimate concerns from dissenters are shot down merely because people are increasingly taking sides in these battles and the person dissenting is from the ‘other’ side.
Read the full post on the Mail and Guardian's Thought Leader.