Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why I hate the word "activist".
I hate this word first and foremost because it has a meaning in the popular press that says, basically, "someone who makes their living by advocating certain social causes" ie a "professional leftist". There may indeed be "professional rightists" as well, but they are far outnumbered by their left wing brethren. The right generally has an easier time of rounding up volunteer labour than the left does. Right wing causes may often be controlled by the same set of personal manipulators that left wing ones are, but they rarely achieve the degree of "hollowness" that some leftist " government grant machines" achieve. It's the old "too many chiefs..." story.
In the popular press, left or right, the term "activist" that they assign either neutrally or in praise, means, in 19 cases out of 20, somebody who makes their money by petty politics. Now, I'm of the opinion that Canada would have a much more vibrant and realistic left if the government ceased to spend one single cent in support of these "activists". What activity there was left would be far more in touch with reality and far more independant. Today it is neither.
I also hate the term "activist" because it still carries a "connotation" of self sacrifice from past decades when one's activism in various political opposition groups demanded self sacrifice rather than being a path to financial benefit -pretty well the "denotation" today. This "taking up the cross" is a sure pathway for the activist to sacrifice others in the same way as he or she sacrifices themselves if they ever gain power. Saints easily become inquisitors.
So, whether it refers to the self-deluded or simply cynical present day opportunist or to the old style puritanical fanatic the word makes me more than slightly queasy. Not that the old style "activist" has entirely disappeared. One may still find them acting out petty fantasies of two bit terrorism or blathering on about "anti-oppression", or lurking in the moldy caverns of failed Leninist sects. But they are much rarer than the "new style" activist. Somebody who gains tenure in an university by churning out "leftism 101" is flogging others, not themselves. They actually profit handsomely from it.

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