Thursday, May 30, 2013

Good vs evil: Join the Activist Fan Club

As my children get older, I have the perfect excuse to enjoy epic children's adventures - again, for Narnia or The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars - for the first time, with Harry Potter.

In real life, I'm scornful of the idea that anyone is better simply by birth, but discovering that grungy Aragorn is the Heir of Isildur, or that weedy Harry is actually a wizard, fires my imagination. Why?

It's always the same: the fight between good and evil. Imagining there are people who dedicate their lives and risk their own safety to stop bad people doing bad's inspiring and compelling. And fans of these epics pour limitless energy into keeping the fantasy alive, all for the good feelings.

Making the magic real

What if some of that energy were used in the real world? In real life, a dark wizard rarely lives in a tower on a smoking volcano as a target for the good guys. But evil is out there. Or, if you don't like the word evil, there are people and groups in the world who are doing great harm for their own benefit. And there are people trying to stop them.

Millions eagerly watch Frodo toiling along with his hopeless task. Why aren't we equally excited for our real-life heroes who actually do dedicate their lives and risk their own safety to do the right thing?

Hen's Night is a short movie with no special effects. It shows real people working long and extremely hard to make one brief public statement simply because they hate how horribly animals suffer when they are farmed for food. They hope the truth will eventually make a difference.

Activists like Noam Chomsky and  Penny Bright spend their lives telling everybody about the corruption of the people in power over us. We know power corrupts; why aren't more of us cheering them on?

Maybe we need more special effects.

The power of the dark side

Real-life activists won't get encased in anything as cool as carbonite. Instead, they risk jailtime, fines, beatings, or even death, for saying out loud what those in charge want kept silent. (some victims: Judi Bari, Rachel Corrie, Mohamed al-Gendy, and more.)

This is exactly the sort of willing self-sacrifice worshipped in fiction. Yet most people roll their eyes, call them troublemakers or conspiracy theorists, or ignore them as time-wasters. If they get hurt, they asked for it.

Even nonviolent activists get called terrorists. The information they share is legally protected by "commercial sensitivity" to protect profits. The new Ag-Gag bills, making it illegal to record what actually happens in an animal farm, should alarm any animal-lover anywhere.

Activist Fan Club

When they rolled down the Ban Cages banner in Hen's Night, that was true magic in action.

I'm a big fan. Who's with me?


  1. Yes activists are heroes. But not only those who stand shouting at police and politicians. There are also activists who engage in building alternatives: food banks, better workplaces, community gardens. Demonstrating on the street only takes a day, real activism takes a lifetime.

    1. Hi, thanks for the feedback! Do you think that there is a sharp dividing line between demonstrators and real lifelong activists? That hasn't been my experience.

    2. No not a sharp divide, I do think they are similar types of people. The way I see it, a demonstration is where someone goes when they begin to see a problem with the system. They can meet like-minded people there, receive encouragement, and expand their knowledge. However sooner or later they will see that protest doesn't work (it cannot, because governments should not concede to an angry mob - they can only reform through their democratic systems of representation and debate). At this point, the activist must either give up, or find a more realistic way to make change, which often means working reluctantly within the existing system.