Saturday, August 22, 2015

Weekend Activism

Tropical storms and hurricanes are given names for easier tracking. The names also serve an accounting purpose as insurance companies treat named storms differently. They have higher deductibles as some can be very costly in this line of business. A lot of money exchanges hands at hurricane wind speeds during natural disasters, which means the accounting audits are "temporarily" overlooked and we end up with instances where half a billion dollars slated for Haiti earthquake relief end up building 6 flimsy houses. In the case of hurricanes, names are recycled every so many years. In some cases where the storm's damage crosses a certain threshold the name is retired. The same name technique is used in other fields where financial auditing may be needed.

Some NGO projects may in themselves be more damaging than many a natural disaster. Now if we want to rate NGO storms on the same scale that tropical storms are rated on (the Saffir-Simpson scale), then what has hit Lebanon in the last couple of decades is definitely a Category 5 hurricane.  Recent years have seen a rise in NGO named campaigns. Blame El NiƱo. Also the convenience of the hashtag makes the campaign names easily trackable. The CVs of NGO campaigners applying for funding include such hashtags to boost their donation worthy credentials. Trainings provided by civil society advocates teach a step-by-step guide on how to act in the case of a "cause." The 2015 summer garbage crisis was gold for seasoned scavengers… It's a textbook case for an opportunistic cause.

Today's international-funder-preferred activists are against the ideological -isms. But this form of activism is the worst of the -isms. They fulfill their -ism solely by being active. Maintaining a status quo works in favor of those with accumulated experiences and techniques on how to be apolitically active. You can recycle a campaign every so often as is. Shockingly, the non-results are always the same too. Tracking the success of campaigns is essential to accumulate experience and gains with political aims. Any half-serious political movement cannot overlook that. However, "politics are bad" and "all politicians are equally shit" are repeated by the depoliticized NGO activists. Empty slogans of unity are invoked. The cycle has been repeated many times over the past decade and it always ends with no gains; except if you measure gains by the NGO grants to some individuals. Some old campaign names are retired because they cross a certain threshold of notoriety (see the campaign against sectarianism of the Spring 2011 collection). But it's 2015, and NGO-bred depoliticization has more of a foothold today and thus the stakes are much lower. Visibility is always prioritized in NGO-friendly movements because they need to be tracked and audited. In these depoliticized campaigns, street protest becomes a goal rather than a means to achieve a goal. Despite the demands being minimal, today's movement like all previous hashtaggable ones will fail at achieving anything substantial. They will create real disillusion for a new generation of enthusiastic youth, and this is likely by design.

This is not to advocate inaction, but inaction is always better than action that is doomed to fail. Political action is a must, but serious political action tends to be invisible...except when necessary. Results should be more visible than activity: Resultivism over Activism. It should be more earthquake than a stinky wind.

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