I’ve been worrying about the motivations of the very media friendly, and column inch rich Enough Food IF campaign.
So what is campaigning or activism, and what makes it a success?
I didn’t get into campaigning as a wee young thing. At university my spare time was taken up working to pay for my books, food, train fares home. (And I received a full grant, I can’t imagine how students get by these days).
And also at university I was slightly distant from some of my more activist student colleagues. I was shy, I wasn’t 100% sure of my political leanings, and I didn’t want to be pigeon holed, limited or forced into acting in a certain way or adopting certain behaviours. Which may not be what student politics is, but it must have seemed that way enough to me that I was dissuaded from getting involved, even though I was studying politics as my degree.
I guess the problem I had then, which I still have now, is that I struggle when my opinions are constrained by outside forces. I am lucky enough to work in campaigning, which means I have learnt to temper some of my opinions in public, but then I’m being paid to be an activist.
If you wanted me to give up my time and act in favour of your cause for free, well, then I’d expect you to a) be aligned to my way of thinking and b) give me space to talk through my thoughts on the issue in question.
And I think my overarching problem with much of todays campaigning is that you have to buy in to a lot more than the cause in question. Take the IF campaign. It sounds perfectly reasonable, and there are celebrities and big NGOs on board, what could there be to object to?
Well, its funded by the Gates Foundation, who earn millions from Monsanto, who are pretty much destroying insect life and ruining the lives of peasant farmers across the world. And, from what I read, there have been numerous discussions about how lovely it would be for the campaign to be active during the G8 visit to the UK so that David Cameron could make some positive noises about international aid.
I have no problem with the aims and objectives of IF, but I do have problems with their means.
Which brings me to my point. If the means you use to achieve your campaign ends are dirty, unethical or crowd-pleasing above end-resulting, then I have less time for you than I do for campaigns who strive and battle to work towards their goal without resorting to clicktivism or celebrities or easy stunts.
It’s my naive opinion I guess. But I want the campaigns I support to actually achieve change, not just column inches or sign-ups or celebrity endorsements.
Which is why I donate to the New Economics Foundation ahead of other organisations. As is often said but not acted upon – system change is the key to achieving real change. Not just tinkering at the edges or tweaking tiny aspects.
Call me cynical, I won’t argue.