With the internet we have one of the most valuable communication tools known to man. Anyone these days can involve themselves in social justice issues by logging onto Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc., or forwarding an email in the privacy and comfort of their own home and generally makes the person feel all”warm and fuzzy” - makes the person feel that they have achieved something worthwhile by posting a cute pic, a graphic pic, or even changing their profile pic to a cuddly panda and so on. If only life was that easy.
Not for a moment do I think it is intentional, but this armchair activism is, generally speaking a slap in the face for those people who give up their time and get out of their chair to promote the cause and also those people who promote ethical veganism in a holistic manner.
From the outset, let me say I have nothing but praise for those activists out there on the ground, getting their hands dirty in the name of the animal rights cause. They deserve respect and they have mine – wholeheartedly. Not preaching for illegality, but I admire. It takes guts, intestinal fortitude and passion to buck the system – physically.
However, like many of you out there in vegan land, I come from a comfortable middle class background, virtually wanting for nothing, at the same time though, I have worked hard my whole life to get where I am. Most of you out there most likely have wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, children, responsible jobs and that omni-present mortgage!
With this in mind, the bottom line is that, in spite of their passion to promote animal rights and veganism, most people don't want to jeopardize what they have worked to achieve. Most people don't want to go to jail for breaking into factory farms, research labs, puppy mills, etc. Most people want to affect change while maintaining their own status quo. Me too.
A martyr is no good to anyone or any cause.
There is a name for armchair activism a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism – slacktivism. It is a derogatory term for those who support an issue or social cause that achieves practically nothing but does feed their own egos along with a hearty dose of self-satisfaction. It is about trying to change the world by doing the bare minimum. We get lazy and in most cases, are time poor. A “+”, a “like”, a “re-tweet”, are so easy.
(I admit to being a slacktivist on many issues!)
Like everything though, this is open to interpretation.
And it is not all doom and gloom.
Reece Jacobsen, www.cerebra.co.za
Jacobsen goes on to say: “I came across an article on the four ways social media has helped redefine activism, and strangely enough, I agree with them.
Social media changes public perception because information circulates freely and quickly.
Social media distribution means we are getting information from someone in our network.
Social media networks cross technologies and have immediate impact that gives it urgency,
makes it personal and allows for immediate individual action.
Social media technologies have changed the psychological impact of communication by changing our expectations about participation.
The key differentiator between your cuddly panda profile pic and these is that social media was the medium used to convey a message and organise physical action and not where the action took place.
When the action, be it changing profile pics, copying and pasting a status, or signing an internet petition takes place on a social platform, it is normally where the action stops.”
Don't stop using social media. It is a useful way to spread messages, raise awareness, galvanise support but be critically aware that it is only as good as the content you are sharing.
A quick look through social media sites shows that a lot of posts, tweets, shares are often ill-informed and poorly directed. The personal campaign against Melissa Bachman is a prime example (to be perfectly clear, I have no time for lion hunters like Ms Bachman, she is ethically reprehensible, without a doubt). While anger against Bachman was understandable and legitimate, activists were barking up the wrong tree.
They were hitting on the wrong target because lion hunting is promoted and condoned as a tourist venture by the South African government. Personal vendettas against individuals are time wasting, resource - hogging, misdirected and shouldn't play a part in ethical veganism. We have to chop down the tree not a single branch.
Sometimes I get this overwhelming feeling of frustration, because like the hamster on a spinning wheel – going round and round – activists/vegans and myself sometimes, don't know what to do for the best.
I do know one thing though. And I will say it over and over and over: that the only way to win the war is to promote ethical veganism. By promoting veganism, everything else will fall into place and we will stop animal abuse and exploitation.
If you are really honest with yourself, you will admit that one of the greatest downfalls of the vegan movement, generally speaking, is in the content that appears on social media.
On a typical day you can simultaneously cry, froth at the mouth, laugh and eventually throw- up at some of the content. Make no mistake, social media is a living tangible organism that has the power to make or break our movement. Think twice about what you are sharing. If in doubt, don't share.
Remember: as sure as day follows night, no animal abuser/exploiter will give a rat's ass about your profile pic or what you had for lunch.
(Coming up in July, “The Truth About Zoos”
(Thank you again to all those who have taken the time to send comments and ideas. Many thanks.)
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