McCallum: The New Activism

Apr 19, 2017

The use of online communication to advance social causes has created some clever new words, like clicktivsm – the signing of online petitions to feel part of social change.

But so far, my personal favorite is slacktivism – meaning the minimal involvement in any social change activity other than tweeting and commenting online about the genuine efforts of others.

Not that tweeting and commenting online don’t count - both are powerful tools when paired with real action, like the Women’s March on Washington that drew half a million participants, based on just one woman’s idea that went viral on the internet.

But for me, ‘action’ and ‘activism’ are still the operable words here. So in order to avoid being a slacktivist, I’ve been developing a new engagement strategy.

Sure, I continue to attend group rallies to hold up protest signs and wave at passing cars. I write to my legislators and sign online petitions. But for extra clout, here’s how I engage: when I hear that the Environmental Protection Agency is no longer allowed to use the words “climate change,” I get out my checkbook to support fact-based science. The labeling of the press as an enemy of the people or the banning of immigrants based on religion and ethnicity makes me pick up my pen once again.

I’ve become a checkbook activist, giving what I can to support national groups that work in the trenches to safeguard the environment, uphold the free press and fight legal battles that protect voting rights, free speech, and the civil liberties we hold dear. In a struggle over extremist ideas on many fronts, I want my dollars to push the agenda toward balance, reason, transparency and negotiation – all of which seem to be in short supply these days.

In 1597, Shakespeare wrote “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Nearly four hundred years later, American author John Steinbeck chose that phrase as the title of his final novel. And for me, it pretty well sums up my view of the last few months of allegations, investigations and political outrages du jour. But now that it’s spring, it’s time to move on from fears of being derailed and ineffective.

To borrow a pithy saying from quipsters of the past, I’ll put my money where my mouth is.

I’ll write checks.