Before jumping into past, present and future -based activism, I’d like to clarify what I consider activism, especially when compared with “productive” work, or “productivity”.
The only purpose of “productivity” in the current monetary market system is contributing to the “Economy”, i.e. helping perpetuate and accelerate the cycle of consumption and growth. “Productivity” is blind to any negative social or environmental damages, as it considers that the monetary market and the various regulatory bodies (including government and NGO’s) will moderate its impact well enough. “Productivity” is exclusively present-based (when considering the near-future as part of the present). Its only drive is the pursuit of profit, i.e. causing a differential advantage for the producer in terms of purchasing power. In the “productivity” game, products and services are created, many of which have a net benefit to society, and many only a partial benefit, sometimes almost nonexistent. However, for most products and services produced, there is a social and/or environmental cost, sometimes moderate, sometimes extremely high. For example, someone who produces, say bleach, produces a net gain to society in terms of cleaner buildings and possibly safer/healthier people who would otherwise be exposed to pests; however as well at a likely very high environmental cost where rivers are polluted, animal and plant species endangered, and the social cost coming from extreme cleanliness, which causes a reduction in people’s own immune systems, and thus facilitating epidemics of, for example, flu and allergies. I say it is present-based because it doesn’t care about the animals, plants, or people’s health, let alone their socio-economic situation as the bleach factory owners increase their slice of the pie of wealth, causing everybody else’s become smaller. It is important to acknowledge, however, that in any start-up enterprise the capitalist runs at a personal risk (gamble), and the products they produce provide some degree of social benefit (like cleaner houses). However, in the “productivity” game, the purpose is making money satisfying people’s wants, whilst being mostly disinterested in people’s needs. Thus, corporate greed in this system will always prevail over human need.
The only purpose of “activism” is moderate the negative impacts of “productivity” in a monetary market system. Should we transition to a sustainable system, activism would no longer be necessary as it would be implicit in the system itself. Sometimes activism is done motivated by profit, but most times it is motivated by awareness of the negative impact of such “productivity”, and a willingness to take action so as to reduce such impacts. For example, people may chain themselves to trees in order to prevent a “productive” logging business from plundering a forest that would take hundreds of years to re-generate. The business doesn’t care about the forest or its animals, it only cares about making a profit by fulfilling on peoples want for wood: it is the governmental regulation that arises from the social discussion resulting from such activism that moderates the businesses’ way in which they log trees. Many people don’t understand the very important role of activists, and use derogatory name-calling like “tree-huggers” to refer to activists who care about the environment and the future of humankind. However I can see there are three types of activism: past-based, present-based and future-based. Unlike businesses in a monetary market economy, all of them are much more concerned with people’s needs than people’s wants. The monetary market system requires regulation and activism to avoid self-destruction. However, as a result of corruption and inequality, “productive” businesses are consistently overpowering regulatory bodies and activists’ ability to keep up with the damage done. All of this while the larger sections of the population are distracted with entertainment and in addressing their never-ending wants, which are now easier than ever to address (because they can never be fulfilled). This happens mostly because people’s general ignorance of their own needs, since when needs are met, wants tend to diminish as they’re mostly based on addictions and addictive behaviours. Consumerism is aware of this fact, and quite possibly the reason why needs of the people are consistently neglected with macabre intentionality, just like with planned obsolescence and marketing to cause perceived obsolescence.
Past-based activism requires a vast memory and being judgemental and ideological. It includes strategies like protesting, exposing, publishing news or opinion articles about events that happened, and seeking restoration and compensation for past misdeeds and offenses. It is usually motivated by anger, frustration, discontent, even hatred, and a drive for change. Past-based activism has a significant component of “us vs them” and thus tends to be divisive, and cannot accept the idea of forgiveness, or that the world is what it is and could have never been any different. Past-based activism wants to change the past by having the offenders make amends to the offended, and introduce adjustments so that there would not be any future similar offenses. It does not care much about the future impacts of what society or they themselves are working on, as it tend to only look backwards. Past-based activism assists in keeping the integrity of the system, helping bring justice and order.
Future-based activism requires a great idealism, optimism, future vision, and love. It includes strategies like writing or discussing about strategies that might address the needs of the people of the future, analyse and foresee the impact of current trends in the near and far futures of the environment and humanity, suggest and campaign for new regulations to address and prevent those impacts, including human and animal rights campaigning, and sometimes even forcibly take action that sabotages or blocks environmental or socially damaging activities, like cutting whalers’ harpoons or chaining themselves to trees. It is usually motivated by a sense of responsibility towards future generations and the health of the environment, love of animals and nature, and a passion for an idealised beautiful future in which we all share the Earth in harmony. Future-based activism does not focus or pay much attention to the root causes of the problems they foresee, as they’re usually not concerned with the past or the near future: they’re reactive to the present circumstances and launch themselves in crusades against likely future damage. Future-based activism is mostly about embracing the beauty of nature, the protection of the goodness in humans, and even though they plunge themselves into fierce battles with their enemies, they’re motivated by altruism and love. Future-based activism assists in giving hope, a direction to the system, and helping bring purpose and sustainability.
Present-based activism requires great spirituality, peace, acceptance, and critical thinking. It includes strategies such as constructive criticism of hypocritical social attitudes, raising awareness about the nature of things and the root causes of problems, offering solace to those afflicted by the pains of hatred and addictive behaviours, suggesting personal responsibility, and facilitating the peaceful resolution of conflict. It is usually motivated by a sense of peace, a belief or an understanding that the past and the future are fantasies constructed in our own minds, and a commitment to personal principles and values without attachment to standards, ideals, or property. Present-based activism does not focus or pay much attention to the past nor the future: it seeks an understanding of the nature of what is to be human, an understanding of our needs, wants and desires, and the root-causes for what we consider tragic or undesirable events. Present-based activism acts by not-doing, focuses on creativity and the birth of ideas and passions, it embraces the whole of what IS and opposes none, and willingly gives up wanting to be in control, letting events unfold the way they may. Present-based activism assists with introspection, analysis, peace, love, and wisdom.
I consider that all three are important, and that balance is key to their effectiveness and workability. I propose we acknowledge each-other’s relevance, work in harmony, and do what each does best, supporting each other in our quest for a better world.