On activist fatigue

So much has happened since the Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20. As Trump signs multiple heinous “executive orders”, millions of people have taken to the streets in the United States – and around the world – in protest, solidarity, and resistance.  There is so much to say right now about these amazing social movements. A someone who believes that history is made on the streets through social movements, I think that this surge of activism is the only thing that will stop the trajectory of not only Trump but of unfettered, free market capitalism.

The concept of “activist fatigue” has been buzzing around the internet. Activist fatigue is the idea that too many actions and protests will cause people to get tired of or bored with protesting and, as a result, people will drop out of movements.  As someone who has been an activist for over two decades, I want to address this concern. First of all, it is important to say that activism can be draining – activist burnout happens because sometimes dedicated, passionate people simply need a break. But activist fatigue, due to too much activism going on, is not a real concern – in fact to send out dire warnings about it can be very demoralizing. Multiple actions don’t tire or bore people; they energize, activate, and change them.  An increase in activism – especially large or spontaneous actions –  is a sign of growing social movements and that is an incredibly exciting thing. Many people are inspired by protests, rallies, and other actions and feel compelled to make activism a part of their life. These actions also have the real potential to develop into mass movements – which is exactly what we need in times like these.

I have been to what feels like millions of protests; organized tons of actions; and attended probably thousands of activist meetings. But I have only witnessed what I would call “mass movements” a couple times – and even then, they were only in beginning stages before they died down. We are seeing the beginning stages of mass movements right now and this should be encouraged and celebrated.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, I believe they may be the only thing that saves humanity. When a movement starts to ignite within people’s hearts and minds, multiple actions are just the start. History shows us that within mass movements people start to form not only  activist groups but new models and forms of organizing. People create art, community projects,  and completely new – and collective – ways of being in the world.  As much as right-wing pundits love to complain about “professional activists” the truth is that when you become a dedicated activist it becomes an integral part of your life. For me, my activism is intertwined into all aspects of how I live my life from the seeds I plant in my garden to how I raise my children to  what I do with my Saturday afternoon.  This isn’t to say that my personal choices are profound acts of activism but, rather, that activism is a core part of my identity. This is a wonderful thing; I am part of a growing and global community of people who see injustice, oppression, exploitation, alienation, and environmental destruction and instead of merely feeling angry or sad, ACT. Even when I need a personal break, I remain a part of this community of activists. Through acting collectively, we have utterly transformed society in the past and we will continue to do so in the future.  Join us!

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