What is activism? Anjali Appadurai at TEDxYouth@Biddeford



you I am an activist and that's why I've been called to speak to you here today I've been an activist since I was 15 years old I started working with the Canadian Red Cross focusing on global issues and I was so passionate and I could talk for hours and hours about child soldiers and small arms sales and fair trade and I ran a global issues Club at my school that was a big part of my life this was in high school and my global issues Club would do events like we'd have bake sales and where we'd have little gingerbread men with one leg or one arm cut off to symbolize the limbs taken from landmine victims and so we do really effective things like that we ran all sorts of workshops and facilitations and camps and different types of events and then after that I moved on to international activism and that's what I do now I'm in my final year of university and I focus on international climate change negotiations and I've had the wonderful opportunity to travel the world and have been to South Africa and Qatar and Mexico and I've worked with amazing youth and NGOs and basically my whole life has been a whirlwind of caring deeply about these issues and and working non-stop um to do something about them um so I've been wondering lately is that what makes me an activist my track record of activism and I decided that what I'm really here to talk to you about is what that word means what is activism in our chaotic and globalized world a fast-paced world today and really I'd like to say that I have a problem with the way that we define activism in in today's world and the way we practice activism so let's move into it what is it um activism can look like this you know hundreds of thousands of people rallying for a cause in solidarity or activism can look like this one person refusing to give up her seat in what was labeled the white section of the bus Rosa Parks in my definition of activism it is the practice of addressing an issue any issue by challenging those in power and this can take so many different forms in my work it is an act performed by civil society that's us outside of government two words those in the system of governance sorry that got cut off but what I've come to realize is that activism is so diverse and this definition in this definition can span so many different forms some of them silent and some of them quite loud I engage in activism because I desire to see a world where there's justice economic environmental and so justice and I would actually argue that that's the bottom line for most or if not every form of activism I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Golden Rule right the golden rule is do unto others as you would have done unto yourselves and I know that I grew up with that and that was definitely a principle for me to live by and probably many of you as well what's interesting about the golden rule is that it's actually been found in one form or another in many of the most ancient civilizations which is really interesting because it goes to show that if different races and different civilizations all had this idea simultaneously or at different times it goes to show that somewhere deep within us there is a drive for justice and there's a drive to know that a good society means a just and equal society so that's what I strive for and I honestly have faith in us as a human race because I believe that if you're looking at someone who has a problem if you're looking at an issue or someone suffering something within you wants to fix that injustice something within you and I call that compassion and compassion is within all of us none of us is exempt from it which means that everyone can be an activist so what do I mean by everyone can be an activist well in 1999 in Seattle the World Trade Organization big bureaucratic institution run by a small group of probably mostly white men in suits running the lives of the rest of the world came together to have its ministerial conference in a big secretive building in Seattle and this conference was very hush-hush and they were laying out a plan for globalization to unfurl in the 21st century and 50,000 people showed up from all over the world all different kinds of people from different walks of life to protest this very secret governance process and they actually shut it down the whole meeting was cancelled and they couldn't move forward because people had stood up for what they knew was right and stood together against that now another hand I have a friend who is a doctor he's young he just became a doctor last year and he started to notice in his workplace that there was several instances of medical malpractice by his senior doctors and so my friend called this out because he knew it was right and he knew that it was part of his professional ethic to to uphold a principle of patient safety and of course they didn't like that and he got suspended from work and he was targeted but the point is what is the common thread between this and this I would call both activism and I would say it's because these types of activism are essential pieces of these people's everyday integrity my friends everyday integrity in his workplace and these people's integrity in doing whatever they do thinking okay this is something we need to stand up for and stand together against and I would say the integrity question comes into play in both these types of activism it shouldn't be something that's a separate act a separate a separate activity that you engage in that's almost the flip side to governance activism is not separate from life but rather it is life itself and so whatever you end up doing if you end up being a doctor or camp counselor or the head of an NGO whatever you do activism is what you do within that profession or activity or whatever it is that helps you stand up to old rotten systems of power so that's a pretty broad definition and I would say the main thing I'd like to talk to you about today is the notion of fear and to me fear has been a big part of my journey as an activist in the last few years because I've noticed that it's actually the biggest thing stopping us from achieving the world we want to achieve fear has become a motivator for activism we're told to be terrified of the future we're told to be terrified of the people around us doing bad things and that is the fear that's supposed to drive us to action you've probably seen this before organizations whose slogans are something like the future is approaching and it's terrifying do something sign up for this cause join this mailing list volunteer I was at the UN last year and I was writing a speech or something a policy brief and I was trying to talk about the world I wanted to live in and the policies I wanted to see passed so that I could live in that world for myself and my children and a fellow activist came up to me and said hey we need some stronger language in there and I was like what kind of stronger language and they're like you know write something like climate change will burn your children to a crisp and in 20 years you will probably be dead or many people in this world will probably be dead and I thought okay that's interesting because it's true that climate change is a huge issue and I would notice and my work has been centered around it for years now but why do we have a vision of the future something terrifying why don't we have a vision of the future is something positive that we want to move towards and actually be motivated to work towards fear when it's presented to us like that breaks the connection between natural human compassion when we connect to an issue and what we actually do about that issue it forces us to move forward based on a negative view rather than a positive one it works as blackmail rather than incentive and it becomes a club I've had so much discourse and the climate change work I've done where if you don't show terror and if you don't show a sort of doomsday scenario for your future you don't belong in the club you don't really care about the issue and I'd really like to fight against that because I think that undermines the entire notion of activists and of justice the bottom line justice so fear in addition to being a divider actually serves to flatten the individual I honestly believe as I believe that every human has compassion within them I honestly believe that each of us is a diverse complex multifaceted individual each of us is interested in different things you may have different strengths you have different weaknesses you have different interests and I think those are really flattened in the type of activism that we're called to do in this day and age um where were we're asked to plug into sort of a beehive system we're told protests here join this organization use this discourse be afraid work hard and you're an activist and I would like to fight against that because we're not a mob we're individuals within a group and when you have fear of the future that flattens us into just the masses um so getting past fear is really important because the type of change we need to see and we're on the brink of it we're really almost there as most of our speakers will attest you after this the type of radical change that we need to see depends on each person resisting power in their own way many different kinds of power and so when you're told as an activist to be busy and to be doing the same types of things that busy body nests because a facade behind which business as usual can continue unhindered and that's something that we can't let happen as we move into this next new era so this is not to undermine the really heavy and weighty issues that we're facing in our future where youth and we're going to see a bunch of really really big changes in our world in the next 20 30 years in our lifetimes and our kids are going to be living in a world that's very different from the world we're living in today and that's a serious issue but it and and those are heavy often crippling things but I would argue that those are things not to be approached with fear but rather with motivation and compassion and a desire to stand up to power and a desire to to maintain your integrity in whatever you choose to do so I would ask you before I leave if you see the future something like this if you want to see the future or something like this or if you'd rather view to something like this and work towards this are you running away from this or are you running towards this and I think that's a very key distinction to make so if there's a message I'd like you to take away it's that you know do not be afraid stay true to yourself don't let fear bog you down and don't be scared yes we're in a lot of trouble in the next few years there's a lot of work cut out for us but you are complex and diverse individual you have a lot to offer don't let anyone tell you otherwise thank you




Comments
  1. https://www.gofundme.com/community-animal-sanctuary&rcid=r01-155558934045-25faedc8f1004387&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_m

  2. You don't have compassion, you have beliefs that you impose on others. This is false pride and superficial blind arrogance.

  3. White men in suits, she just blew it, this is the attitude of separation, not compassion.

    I think we people should make sure we understand how to mitigate our own individual suffering by loving oneself like we are supposed to love another.

    What is the difference between yourself and another?

    Consider that.

    If we come to a conclusion on that consideration we have probably given up and taken up an assumption that isn't in harmony with the wellbeing of everyone.

    A system is a system.

    A human being is us all, not just the nice seeming ones and not excluding the bad seeming ones.

  4. In having to be an activism?? in this day of age i feel that No one is to born to activism or to be taught to be one but it is a calling! i truly feel that in our civil society of today there are a lot of democracy protest's young people being arrested for what they truly believe in what ever the issue maybe at hand, but to be a good Activism it really starts with in yourself and how you would want to see that change in our world today where we begin our work in raising awareness having people's voice being heard demonstrating good equality have a good standing and knowing to stand with a firm compassion Solidarity heart as well having to make a differences taking opportunities when Action's can be made. Activism is also a life long lesson's of being a good Advocate for yourself and other's of what we call as Social Change with in social justice and injustices.

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