I think many (most, all?) of us are troubled by the question of how effective what we do is. And that this question exists outside of specifics about what it is exactly that we do. I was challenged on this recently, resulting in this reflection. Reflection is something we should all do, regularly and repeatedly, as long as such reflection is not crippling.
More than the last 15+ years of my life have had working for a more just world as their precursor. What actions I have taken, being many and varied, have all emanated from this maxim. The first question which arises is how do we define, label and seek to categorise effectiveness. Can we even answer such a pejorative? Who and what is the arbiter?
I have engaged in actions across various situations, circumstances and ‘playing fields’ in search of what I feel and perceive as the most effective for myself (covert, civil disobedience, and other). Reflection on what is most effective ‘for me’ continues to not just occupy my brain space. Such thought is, and should be(?) haunting…
I have been fortunate. I have not had my ‘liberties’ confiscated by the state to any level near that of so many others. I have not had my life completely defaced by the state. As someone who falls within the socially constructed category of a white person, I fall within a privileged category that affords me a number of benefits.
All this aside, what constitutes effective activism?
Is this ‘working’ 100+ (or 148) hours a week on grassroots campaigns, 40/60/80 hours or more a week for a non-prof (and quasi-non-prof) or other organisation, or working 60+ hours working in education sectors? Is it utilising all of ones ‘spare time’ outside of (benign, meaningless, soul destroying) paid employment working on issues? How do I/we respond to such questions. Are our responses valid and appropriate? Are our actions effective?
These are valid question. We will likely come up with different responses (not answers). My point here is not to get (uncritically) postmodern, accepting of ‘all’.
Actions have value. Value for those taking the action. Perceived value for those taking the action. Value for those ‘benefiting’ from the actions taken. Social value for taking action.
Value is socially constructed, itself predicated on values we ascribe (individually and socially).
I continue to reflect on such questions, and my current thoughts are direct and indirect. Beyond how much my actions directly influence individuals and society (and the self), do my actions potentially influence others to influence others (and society)? These questions we cannot answer, yet hope to tailer our actions towards maximising. In our own mindsets, contexts and perceptions, I feel this is what should should be what we aim for…