The eco and “non-eco”
Normally when people speak about activism in general they think “masses of people on the streets protesting against something”, right? It intuitively makes sense – in mass, we presume, people are “heard” and taken account for. “Those in power” cannot ignore such “force”. But my political science training orders me to take a wider look on such examples as big “activism ventures”. From that wider perspective I will try to make an argument, that this form of activism is more of “mental masturbation” than “real experience”.
Let’s look on the evidence. What impact had made countless Greenpeace “ecotist attacks”? Costs of reducing the damages (hard damage or PR damage) made were included in prices of final products and/or paid in extraordinary effort of employees. So in the end as customers, because of their “activism” we have or had more expensive gasoline and energy. Many people went to prison, many people work to destroy rather than to create – so in economical/efficiency sense their “activism” was counterproductive. SOPA, PIPA, ACTA – well yes, regulations under those names were delayed or hold entirely, but another regulations of surveillance weren’t pushed through? Seems to me they were and in even greater form. The “99% vs. 1%” Wall Street occupation? No one knows if this was anti-capitalism action, anti-regulated-capitalism and pro lazier-fair and simple policies action. Do you know? What regulations were dropped, what public buy-out of failed or unfair enterprises was hold? None if I remember correctly. I won’t even talk about recent Ukraine “pro EU” actions, because it makes me just sad.
Now, you would ask – Przemek, then what to do? Here’s my opinion:
Circle of influence vs. circle of concern
Basic concept is simple – it derives from rather “old” (1992) publication by Stephen R. Covey – “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Let me explain: The circle of concern represents all the notions of ones interests like health, weather, government spending, threat of war etc. Analogically, latter circle represents those spheres on what we have strictly direct influence (as an individual). Activism then should be considered as “taking actions, changing things, working the influence” – activist in this sense are Coveys “proactive” people.
Proactive people focus their time and energy on circle of influence, or to put it plainly on “be’s” rather than “have’s”. Example: As proactive person I would like to be more organized, be a better role model, be better at decision making. Reactive person would, on contrary, want to have respect, have full establishment, have competent boss etc.
Working through this perspective, activism is a cluster of day-to-day, mundane decision making about what companies you support with your cash, what do you do as an individual to make a living, are you educating yourself to be smarter about your own savings, spending, health and healthcare plan etc. To distill the basic notion – how you act as a customer. That is how real impact happens. Because we are all customers, we all can be smarter than what Frannie May and Freddie Mac were offering, for instance.
When you act on your circle of influence – it grows. Because you are effectively spending your time and energy. But when you’re focused solely on what concerns you, then your influence as individual shrinks. Simple as that.
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Until next time, take good care