There are many reasons why I have not ‘done’ anything about social injustice myself yet.
First off, what on earth can I do – little me? – what on earth could I do that would make a difference, the issue is so huge! I’ve finally prevented myself from using this cop out as it stands in contrast to my equally strong view every tiny pebble thrown in the pond can make wide ripples.
reason excuse for not doing anything is less lovely – the ‘I’m alright jack’ rationale, that if inequality does not touch me too much, then I don’t have to do anything about it. Thankfully this rarely lasts long as I do care about the fellow human beings enough to do something, and I realise that doing nothing is far from a neutral position, it is instead a collusion with social injustice, and that is something I can’t tolerate.
The third reason is knowing just where to start….. I mean which issue? Where? I found it impossible to prioritise one issue above another and to decide which place to try to affect change. To overcome this one I have decided to raise issues on a national scale and to challenge people at a national level, and to also raise the nature of these issues in Cumbria and Lancashire as that is where I live and where I am likely to have most impact. A good friend and colleague Ruth Balogh recently advised me; “start where you are!”
As for which issue, well that remains troublesome. All issues of social injustice seem to impact on one another. If you look at employment, you have to look at education, education is affected by poverty, poverty is affected my meritocracy and so on, and so on. So, ever pragmatic, I have decided it therefore doesn’t matter which one I get on with as long as I get on with something. And the first opportunity that is arising is some work for the Cumbria Child Poverty Action Group looking at the impact of poor housing on child outcomes. So that will be the first blog on an issue of social injustice in the next week or two.
Not knowing how to be an activist was my fourth and huge barrier. I do not see myself as an angry shouting protestor, I just am not that sort of person. I had to find my own way. I recently saw Michelle Fine from New York talking about how she enacts scholar activism and was impressed by the range of creative possibilities:
This list included:
• You tube films
• Art work / displays
• Establish interest groups
• Education / training
• Media work / documentaries
• Online social media platforms
• Take out a lawsuit.
Michelle did, by the way, successfully prosecute the education authority in New York state for failing to provide an adequate education to youth in New York – wow!
I decided that I am very capable of doing some research and sending it to people – lots of people, over and over again. And so hence this open access blog so anyone can see what I am discovering. I will also turn each blog into a little manifesto of change to send to relevant Members of Parliament and local councillors to try to lever change.
I have therefore opted for what Charles Derber calls ‘progressive universalising resistance’. This is “non-violent and loving, but it refuses to let the system continue business as usual. Its activists refuse to be a cog in the machine; universalising resisters use their own bodies to slow down the system and to stop it spreading more poison and harm” (2018, p.4).
This works for me, who knows where it will lead, but this is my attempt at a ‘something’, connecting to the many ‘other things’, to support social change.
Here are two other equally compelling words both old and new with which to end:
“To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing I can do). Each of us must find our own work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, it if ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming” (Audre Lorde, 1982).
“Those of us for whom oppression is still shocking, and privilege a tradition, would do well to learn from colleagues and allies who know well the long march to freedom and justice”. (Michelle Fine, 2018, p.81).
Some questions for you:
So what is your attitude towards social justice?
What do you want to change?
How will you do it?
Where could you do it?
What would it look like?