Alex de Waal on activism

From this.

[…] activism should challenge power. That doesn’t mean abandoning the pragmatics of calculating effort and impact, of calibrating intermediate and strategic goals. But it does require being honest about where the greatest concentrations of power lie, and how that power is utilized, and making that power uncomfortable, at least. Lobbying that merely adjusts the trajectory of super-power policies, in directions that are not uncomfortable for that superpower to shift, is not challenging power, but giving power an alibi. The U.S. government didn’t need the Enough Project to know that bad things were happening in Darfur, that Joseph Kony is a villain, and that the war in eastern Congo is causing desperate suffering. But maybe it needs principled and brave people to tell it that the interventions in Somalia, Libya and Mali are deeply problematic, that its friends in power in Juba, Kampala and Kigali need to be more honest and less militaristic. “Activists” who pick only on the already-identified bad guys are at best activists-lite, whose inconvenience to policymakers is that handling them takes up precious time. If these policy lobbyists did mount such challenges, they might lose some of their insider access and glamour, but they might gain our respect.


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