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Effective activism has no easy answers

Published: April 20, 2007
Section: Opinions


When I was thinking over some of my recent articles, I noticed I haven't been very controversial in a while. And so, I write this article to strike a chord. I adamantly believe that something should be said on this topic. Brandeis is a college that prides itself on being a politically active campus. We have more activist organizations than a capella groups and I think that is a wonderful thing for our university.

For the most part, these clubs spread awareness, organize activities and do a number of other things in order to promote their missions. With the exception of the core activists among these associations, however, I believe that a dangerous hypocrisy and inactive participation has developed in many such organizations.

Numerous members are all too willing to join a club, walk in a rally or organize an event yet those members still commit actions that undermine the general cause of their organizations. Whether it be with the members of global warning awareness campaigns patting themselves on the back for committing a good deed while using an elevator, or any other number of groups, it should be said that members of these clubs need to put their actions where their mouths are.

Its funny how, when I am branded a Republican, people always point fingers and say I am against some glorious mission that they are executing.

The hypocrisy of certain members of the anti-global warming brigade is a good example. Many people who are members of environmental clubs, sometimes jokingly, other times in all seriousness, claim my ignorance of environmental issues and then proceed to state that I hate the environment because of my political attitudes. These ignoramuses do not know that I held public office as a member of my city's environmental commission, am well-versed in environmental issues and am fully capable of making a rational choice.

Most of the rank and file members of activist groups are willing to make a poster, participate in a rally and of course vote, but do not actually live a lifestyle that is conducive to supporting their purported issues. It is not enough to voice your opinion;

activists at any level should practice what they preach and lead a life that fulfills their overarching mission. Unless activists want to be more like John Travolta (who is against global warming but still owns five jets) they must be more active.

I remember having a debate on global warming with a gentleman on WBRS who claimed that my actions were hurting the environment. However, this person had taken the elevator to get to the third floor of Shapiro while I used the stairs. One person mocked the fact that I support people who dont impose emissions restrictions when he was the one driving a gas-guzzling SUV. I am not saying that the leaders of these organizations are hypocrites as they oftentimes live the lives they preach. I know of an environmental leader on campus who encouraged me to use the stairs at Gosman, and another who rejects flyering because of the damage that it may cause. Nevertheless, I believe that a sense of hypocrisy runs through the ranks of many activist groups on campus.

Because I am a Republican, many people try to derogate my position by stating that I hate the poor. I find this funny because not only do I pay for college by myself, but I spend my summers teaching inner-city kids Politics and Government through Americorps. Anyway…

Numerous groups on campus exist in order to promote programs that alleviate poverty, and some actually do quality community service. The latter is great. The problem I have with the former is that merely talking about an issue and spreading awareness is not enough. It is all too easy to make a poster or alleviate your guilt with the ballot box while you go to Starbucks and talk about your valiant efforts to help the poor. This is ludicrous. I am not saying people should sacrifice everything and donate all they have to UNICEF. What I am saying is that these activists should get more active. Give up that coffee for Dunkie's (its so much better!) and use those funds to help charities. Join a national service organization like Americorps. Dont just spread the word about an issue and bring awareness. Be active.

Anyone who watches the movies knows about the poor (and man do the inner cities look just like the pictures);

dont feel satisfied as you trout around your upper-middle class, suburban-bubbled self, raise a sign, and go to some fancy restaurant to talk about your valiant efforts. Be active, get involved, and make a positive change in the world.

There is a huge difference between talking action and taking action. I feel that certain attributes make numerous, but not all, activists on campus hypocritical and ineffective. If you care about an issue so much that you work with a club and make posters, get more involved. If one truly feels for the sentiments of the poor, make more sacrifices to assist them. So in the end, without hurting anyones feelings, I implore all you activists on campus to be more active. Your ballot boxes, posters, and (hopefully not) letters-to-the-editors are not enough.