Sunday, May 26, 2013

Caricaturing Activism

So everyone who speaks out is an armchair activist. "Talking" is not "doing". "Doing" seems to be confined to  acting within the framework of status quoist organizational spaces or the other extreme of militant activism. No other voices have a legitimate space. If you're just being vocal about your views against the state or anything that doesn't appeal to "popular" imagination on social media, you are labelled an armchair activist, you are neither here nor there. The words themselves aren't so bad; maybe they do appropriately describe people who express their views as such but the problem is with the way they are projected derogatorily and using this as an excuse, their views are discounted. It so seems social media can be used to share everything as long as it doesn't question our politics fundamentally. If you dare cross that line, you are being too serious, or taking things too seriously, you have lost all your sense of humour. You fail to entertain. Your sarcasm is not appreciated. You are labelled a cynic. You have too negative a world view. You are unable to appreciate the existing systems. What really intrigues me is how armchairism is prefixed only to activism. Aren't managers armchair managers? Aren't all top decision makers armchair "workers"? Aren't IT professionals armchair workers? But strangely, they are never accused of armchairism. But if writers like Arundhati Roy speak against the political problems on which there is an eerie silence, it is called armchair activism. And anyone who appreciates her views is again derogatorily labelled "the Arundhati Roy wannabes".

Forget armchair activism, today even activism is framed so negatively in popular opinion. If you protest, you are a trouble maker, you don't seem to understand the complexity of the working of a system usually of a large scale, how difficult it is to implement something, you never got your hands into implementation. So, the debate goes back to, if you want to do something, do it through the system, even if it never allowed any space for going against it being within it. There may be a few exceptions. But by and large, unless one climbs one's way up the ladder through the systems that exist today, one's voice is but a feeble whisper, but even in order to climb up, one has to accept the system and reinforce its problems everyday. After all, most problems reproduce themselves by justifying action within a system, the so called whole being larger than its parts subduing dissent from individuals. Activism is made to look out of legitimate meaningful respectful space in today's democracy. The state acts the patriarchal father who stubbornly believes and admonishes the childish citizens that he knows better and tells them in a raised voice, "you don't know what's good for you, let me take care of everything."


  1. why do you get so defensive about your Roy obsession? :)

  2. Because I wonder why isn't anyone else obsessed with her while she speaks out so beautifully! :P