All change comes from individual citizens through collective action. Whether an individual conscience is sparked by an event or personal experience, or groups of citizens have become or remain impacted by an event or experience, individuals and groups come together, organize, strategize, and protest for change in their own lives, lives of their neighbors, and their communities.
Political activism remains the same. The nuances are different. Though the tools and outcomes may differ, the emotional motivations are the same: the need to make positive change within the current political framework. For many others, of course, the point is to make a change outside of the present political structures of power because of the felt disenchantment with the political system. Different methodologies, frameworks/structures, and general considerations are dependent on the individual and the collective. Occasionally, as in the Arab Spring, governments can be overthrown, which can, unfortunately, be bloody.
In certain nations such as North American and Western European countries, characterized by advanced technological infrastructure and well-functioning economies and a high standard of living, with the fundamental needs of the majority of the citizenry met – needs such as food, water, shelter, civic life, civil society, amicable social relations, international respect, and a constitution, especially in contrast to international standards – the political activism takes different masks.
In particular, Canada seems like one of the more economically developed nations to us. It seems to have the aforementioned foundations. What does political activism look like in this province, in British Columbia?
Political activism in general and in an economically developed country, more often than not, remains the same as that in less wealthy democracies with the ability to vote. No individual’s vote counts more than another in a functional democracy.
Beyond that, the next stage of political activism includes the electronic or physical forms of education. Political activists can become active in respectable online forums, or other public forums designed for the furtherance of debate, dialogue, and discourse such as town halls. These each have pluses and minuses with the latter’s advantage in in-person meetings and planning and the former in rapidity of communication between members. Through education of others and oneself through respectful dialogue, and even heated debate, individuals can become active in collectives devoted to particular causes of personal importance.
The most active members in political activist movements will write, teach, lecture, march, boycott, and protest with blockades (sometimes with their bodies). Political activism has numerous facets.
There are many difficulties to overcome when it comes to being politically active within one’s community. Perhaps, one of the larger hurdles for an inspired individual is deciding on one of the many channels available to them. Whether it be through more formal means like aiding local politicians such as your local Member of Parliament (where the foundations for political activism already exist), or somewhat informal means like starting a local club, event or group based on one’s own values. If someone seeks to be politically active through present structures like the office of a local politician, the biggest challenge is finding ways to utilize your skills to the various causes that one as an individual supports.
If an individual or a small group is taking on the challenge of being politically active for a valued cause, the most difficult barrier to overcome is proving the worthiness of the cause to others. If other people are uninterested or disengaged, then such a cause will remain stagnant.
Some specific forms of political activism experienced by Zach have been the formation of a provincial political party, ProBC, devoted to progressive values. It comes with difficulties in terms of translating values into practice.
In particular, the organization of individual members and the coordination of meetings that everyone can agree upon can be difficult because many people living in B.C. have busy lives and may not have the ability to find the time for political activism through working with a provincial political party.
Even taking into account the challenges that those involved in elections, Town Halls, online fora, group and organization formation, and protests and demonstrations encounter, the many benefits that come from political activism can make it worthwhile.
The stresses that political engagement puts on the infrastructure and organization of society, including provincial culture, can effectuate that desired change to make for a province, and even Canadian society, desirable to sectors of citizens.
Most activism involves piecemeal reform and change because most adaptations to the changes in communities require minimal effort or simple recourse to legal and social structures in place. To observe real world changes over time remains a true privilege. One can influence the future landscape of life for oneself, one’s community, and the upcoming cohorts.
Indeed, political activism remains purpose for and devoted to positive impacts in communities. The greatest benefit is implied with all working together for communal change, in harmony.
By Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Zachary R.W. Johnson
* All views expressed in this blog post belong to the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CYH.
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