We tend to look at social movements and judge them on effectiveness scales.
“Did this protest actually help women?”
“Did this one actually help science?”
“Was there people there who did not really seem serious?”
“This is not how it was back in the day, this movement will not get anything done!”
I used to look at movements this way too. At one point I lost all hope in Occupy Wall St for the fact a lot of protestors got abused by police and it seemed as if no one ever accomplished anything. It wasn’t until the 2016 election and 2017 class semester I realized I was wrong. A number of times the topic of income inequality and the diminishing “middle class”, which should by now just be summarized as the “working class”, was brought into the attentions of viewers and candidates.
It is not so much about instant, success, and change that you should evaluate. Sure Occupy did very little if anything about legislative change, maybe it did spark a few Fight for 15 campaigns, but even that has only changed in a small portion of the nation. But we need to look at the multifaceted influence movements can spread. This also cannot be done through one tried and true method, we need a multitude of strategies to exercise the many ways to spread a movement.
First, we need to step back and think about stratification. American culture loves to say how helpful and united we are, yet we push competition and hierarchies that show us otherwise. A social movement that is cited with the remembrance of the lines of workers marching through the police arm locked with their fellow workers who demanded workers’ rights and pressured federal law to pass and give breaks, a shorter work day, and health benefits, we would think as victorious. We would love to think those are the most important compared to movements where their legislative ideas never pass, the movement eventually breaks down, and at its smallest attribute is that it allowed a new discourse to be focused on. We want to rank them vertically on which was “successful” because it is what we have been born into, success and failure, those who made it big and those who did not go far enough in life.
We seem to apply it everywhere. I did. The featured picture is a public domain picture I found when searching Creative Commons, and the picture is being used a bit out of context but captures my idea of activism. Originally mainly centered around animal rights movement the rainbow and each color should represent a style of activism. One color does not make a rainbow, but a few distinct colors and shades in between that complete a rainbow. One style and one movement should not and sometimes cannot stand alone. The rest of the picture shows the range of those who hide identity and are known for social chaos, yet they are cuddling bunnies which can show the more nurturing side of activism, to look after one another and help those in need. These people who are both in the cities and towns for civil liberties and worker’s rights, while also being within nature and advocating for animals and environments.
Sure those who marched arm in arm may seem like the best way to ensure big change, but even today all their work seems that it was for nothing as once again economic disparity plagues us and worker’s unions seem to constantly be hammered by union busters and fighting for conditions or reasons that by now should not even be a problem. Not saying their work is a failure, but those social movements cannot be inherently more valuable. We need those that focus on education to people of the topic. “Educating them means the problem will go away,” is also not what I am saying, but those who bring problems to the attention of people and try to educate them on the issues and possible solutions; educating the younger population to what the problem is, educating the current young adult and adult population of what the problem is, and the older population, who may not see or understand the problem, show them how and why it is a problem.
We need those who can simplify and educate the children, allow them to get to a conclusion they can understand.
We need those who are aggressive and literally fight against oppression and wrongdoing.
We need those who swarm media and force it to be a topic and exposed to the people.
We need those who force their problem and movement to be discussed by media and the governments.
We need all movements styles to be respected and supported to its flourishing capacity.
I will expand upon some methods in the next post.