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Activist Communiqué

Krystalline Kraus's picture
Krystalline Kraus is an intrepid journalist and veteran reporter for rabble.ca since its 2001 beginnings. She needs neither a red cape nor safety goggles to fly into her latest political assignment. She often live-tweets from events -- almost exclusively First Nations and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @krystalline_k.

Liturgy of an activist guilt trip: Part 1

| March 27, 2016
Occupy Wall Street. Image: flickr/studiofour

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An activist guilt trip comes on with the feeling that you have not done enough to support a cause or the movement in general. 

It's a cruel way of thinking.

The types of feelings that trigger an activist guilt trip include logistics overload that can come simply by the importance of remembering people's names and the roles they have been assigned to, so that real living people suddenly become merely bodies to fill in scheduling gaps. Or, if you're in charge of fundraising, your job is to find ways to separate a person from their money.

This can often occur when a social justice movement like Occupy quickly sprouts, or when the community doesn't get much lead-in time when a major multinational conference is announce for their city.

Regarding Idle No More, people were so busy on the streets that they neglected participating in the very culture or community they were trying to defend. I admit I fell into this trap as I was so busy drumming and singing on the streets, with my voice shot and my wrist sore, all I wanted to do when I was wasn’t in drumming circles was go home to sleep, not participate in sweats. It took my good friend Giibs to remind me why we do this good work right before I went on my Spring Fast so I owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

But I digress...

Let’s move on to who is most likely to lay down the guilt trip (not including ourselves here):

We all know of the activist that works 24/7 a week, the kind that rarely goes home, if they have a home at all -- since a globe-trotting lifestyle keeps them from setlting down anywhere.

They don’t have a mainstream type job which gives them plenty of free time to plot the revolution.

These are the same uber-organizers who get mad if you miss a rally despite the fact that you are exhausted because of your own crazy shift work schedule or because you suffer from an invisible disability or a visible disability that isn't deemed serious enough or cool enough to warrant any sympathy.

Or heaven-forbid you didn't have money to pay for bus fare or a coat and boots warm enough to handle "quaint" Canadian winters because we can’t afford to let any opportunity to demonstrate go to waste since Oh Canada! do we ever love winter; with its pretty snowflakes and Carnivale and never mind the homeless man they found dead with his body and his blanket frozen to the sewer grate. No time for them, we are a movement about life!

Both Hands Full:

I just want to touch on the subject that need notice. There are two types of pressures that can push a person down: acute and long haul activism.

Now I'm not trying to say here that there was never a social justice movement across North America before Black Lives Matter (anyone remember the "I AM A MAN" campaign) but the ferocity and agility by which the Black Lives Matter movement rose up still took a lot of people by surprise at least here in Canada so we had to move quickly to be in solidarity. This is exactly the same as other movements that drift up from the south, like Occupy.

The exact opposite happened with Idle No More. I'm not putting any movement down, I’m simply explaining a process that often lays itself down.

Because this movement was in the acute phase, everything had to be done right now. This is when the activist-know-it-all is at their finest and while a lot people will automatically signed up, activist guilt tripping was deployed.

A lot of the quilt came up when people were asked to join a burgeoning cause.

Guilt was put upon people who were working, not realizing who the hell would take care of the child when the activism as a whole has a serious lack of child care. Let alone elder care if the primary care giver is on the barricades -- let alone if they get arrested.

The government is more likely to call CAS than it is than to let an activist go free so they can tend to their children.

Sometimes you can gain inspiration from the people who are really in the mix and who cannot help but participate if it is their community targeted by immigration enforcement, or gone missing without a trace along the Highway of Tears, or when it is their people who are dying on the streets, literally being shot to death by the police.  

Another example of guilt laying occurred during Occupy. I am only going to speak of Occupy Toronto.

Not only was there a relatively short time between when ADBUSTERS called for action in New York City, until a handful of Canadian activists felt that there should be a Canadiana-Occupy.

So for every major city, we had a month to get organized.

As much as I hate to admit this, the love of my life was hospitalized at the time so instead of giving him 100% of my attention, I would slip away from organizing meetings.

Why would I do such a horrible thing?

I hate to say it but I fell under the activist peer-pressure that I had to be involved, that Occupy and its highlighting the 1% was the first time ever such a global action has ever been tried. We really need you at the Media Tent.

So you see, I myself did fall victim that guilt trip because I dove right in. I'm still dealing with my own guilt around my participation being awake all night at shifts at the Media Tent when in truth, I should have been carrying for my loved on 100% not risking getting arrest when after 40 days and 40 nights, the camp was raized by the police. If I had been arrested, then what?

I found myself like I couldn’t say no even when I was bone-tired because I just such guilt that if I weren’t participating then who in the world? If not me, then who?

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