An Open Letter to Activists

Dear Activists,

Firstly, congrats to those participating in legitimately good causes like Relay for Life, SlutWalk, Cancer Coucil, and so on. Think about Salvation Army volunteers. They stand quietly, holding a donation box, not seeking eye contact to guilt people into donating, minding their own business, and then thank you for your contribution. I like organisations that truly care and want to help people who are disadvantaged. These activists desire to change others’ lives. They do not smother you with their opinions or try to coerce you. No activist knows your contributions to other charities or causes. I should not have to feel guilty for not donating or taking part in every charity by people who assume I reside on a capitalist throne, create a huge carbon footprint, consume as much palm oil as possible, or whatever skews their view of me.

Now to the activists who shit me up the wall. I kindly request you to refrain from shouting profanities at innocent passers-by who may not agree with your (often ludicrous and extremely one-sided) views, thrusting flyers at people who you are obviously disinterested or in a rush, and abusing others for not participating in your cause. I reserve the right to my own opinions and moral code. Screaming at me that Tony Abbott is the Devil Reincarnated will not spark in me an epiphany along the lines of ‘Oh my god, you are absolutely right. He is an oppressive, self-serving prick who is out to ruin my life! I must vote for Labor in the next election!’ nor will it inspire me to join your group so I, too, can shout at random people walking by in the vainglorious hope that they  will be enlightened.

A recent experience at university could have spurred my well-justified rant (maybe this was the icing on the cake of rage instilled by years of stupid, oppressive activists harassing me). It was O-Week and I was having a great time supporting Lot’s Wife by offering students a copy of the first edition of the year. I passed a political tent and swapped a copy of Lot’s Wife for a flyer that said something seemingly contradictory to me about education cuts, so I asked whether it was pro or against Abbott. “AGAINST!” he screamed.  I said, “You should probably take this back then because I voted Liberal.” He then proceeded to swear at me at the top of his lungs whilst storming back to his tent. I am not happy about this, not at all.

You are entitled to your opinion, but do not assault me with it.  No one wants a lecture on how right you think you are and how wrong everyone else is. Even if you actually are supporting a good cause, you have no right to harass someone. Do not question their contribution to society, which is their business. I whole-heartedly agree with activism as opposed to “slacktivism”, a reasonably new trend where people think they are raising awareness or helping a cause without actually doing anything. Think about tweeting and ‘liking’ a group on Facebook; it is an expedient alternative to actually expending effort. It is the lazy person’s activism. Some people in the media call it “useless UNI activism”. Spreading awareness does not always mean you are taking action. This is where I think many people lie. That could be why I resent many “activists”. It is trendy and almost expected that a uni student attends rallies, strikes, and protests.

Charities gel with me more. I do not participate in rallies or strikes, political activism (I spend a fair bit of effort in avoiding politics altogether). I do, however, partake in Relay for Life, donate to the Glen McGrath Foundation, the Cancer Council, and volunteer for numerous events to support people with disabilities (kudos Mum and her company for engaging with and volunteering for the community so much). I do this to help others and raise awareness for more people in the community to help too, but I do so conservatively. That works for me. If rallies and shouting works for you, fine, but at least be aware of how your actions affect the people you are trying to recruit. Please do not abuse me or intimidate me. How does anyone think that is appropriate? There is a time and place for loud, chaotic activism, and it is not around people not affiliated with your concern.



Gabrielle Mitchell

The author Gabrielle Mitchell

I am Gabrielle, a second-year Arts student majoring in Literature and History, hoping to break my way into the world of publishing and editing. In my first year of being a university student, I perfected the art of procrastinating, distracting others, hangovers, and the occasional study. This year I hope to balance that impressive skillset with my love of reading, writing, and learning. You will usually find me trolling the internet, and learning what is going on in the world without actually needing to venture outside too much. When I leave my cave, I am residing in a café or bar.

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