This is an address specifically aimed at the students and activists and those who attempt to combine the two occupations. This is about your fight, the reason behind it and the way you approach it.
By calling you student activists I am attempting to create common ground between us. We are, by definition of studying at a tertiary institution, deemed ‘academics’. By making the decision to further our education we accept the responsibility of what this term encompasses. We accept a level of responsibility to think, to study, to work in order to obtain knowledge. No student has ever achieved much success without completing these responsibilities.
Similarly activists have a responsibility. By calling yourself an activist, you accept the responsibility to campaign (in which ever way you deem fit) for social change (which ever change you believe is necessary).
I do not believe that these occupations should primarily be associated with those who have the opportunity to study at universities or protest in streets. I firmly believe that anyone and everyone should strive to be a student and an activist in whichever circumstance you find yourself.
Therefore, I am addressing both young and old; those who are registered students and those who enjoy reading academic reports as a pass time; those who are at the front line of a protest march and those who report about it- all of us.
Let’s begin with your fight.
What is it you are fighting for? Summarise it in one convincing sentence.
Example: I am fighting for means of accommodation at the university, as it is financially straining and therefore academically crippling not only me, but others around me as well.
Next, address who you think can help. Not who is responsible for crippling you, but those with the means of assisting your problem.
Example: I think that the Student Representative Council can start a campaign to raise awareness about the accommodation and in doing so find means to accommodate those who are subject to extra travel and accommodation costs.
It is best to get involved yourself. Talk to those around you about the problem and figure out if it is affecting others. Talk to people who won’t know and discover how people are willing to help.
Think outside the box. In no way is throwing a tantrum on campus going to get you any attention. Your mother used to punish you for throwing a tantrum while others merely shrugged at your childish behaviour. The same thing will happen if you start burning libraries and artwork while kicking and screaming. Authorities have no way to emotionally calm you down in order to conduct civilized and rational discussions about your grievances when you are spreading hate speech and vandalising their institution. The only option you leave the institution with, is to incarcerate you. Tantrums are a threat to fellow students and staff members.
Following your calm awareness campaign, I suggest educating yourself as well. You have a wide range of sources to consult, all of which explore political terms such as ‘class system’; ‘capitalism’; ‘dictatorship’; ‘idiot politicians’; ‘reconciliation’; ‘xenophobia’ in your library. In doing this, you are enabling yourself to see further than your problem. You discover that it is in no way only one person, one culture group or one president’s fault for your crippling situation. You will discover that it doesn’t help to eradicate a past or the people responsible for the vast discrimination. You will also find that it is a universal problem. You will discover that people in Syria also have the right to curse those who crippled them. You will discover that people before you have always had the right to curse those who crippled them- but it never actually changed their situation.
It is important to realise that you are not targeted as an individual or even as a group. You are targeted merely because humans have always been a manifestation of greed, pride, jealousy and any other cardinal sin you can think of.
With your further studying you will soon acquire the ability to educate. Now comes the real activism- living it.
Involve art students and manifest ideas on convicting art pieces to display somewhere people will see, think and start to question it. Get involved in a newspaper and start questioning those who need to be questioned: not because they know about the wrongs they commit but because they really have no clue. Write novels that expose information to people. Sing songs that will pierce the hearts of those affected and those responsible for affecting.
In doing this you are not demanding a small superficial change of one situation. You are educating and changing mindsets. You are not only changing the situation for your generation, but making sure that your children will experience a society that has improved.
Often times we forget that political and lawful equality does not guarantee freedom. The concept of equality is of arbitrary nature itself. There will always be greed, pride and jealousy that lurks in the corners of humanity if we do not make sure that our cause is not selfish. If we do not make sure our fight is just and conducted in a just manner where we eventually place others ahead of ourselves, we cannot ever dream of a peaceful diverse country.
Always remember that you are not entitled to what others have, but that you do have the right to recognise those with less than you. If your cause has base and your conduct is sufficiently heroic, society is sure to support you all the more.
Good luck and don’t fight a bad fight.
_featured image: Mural by Antoine Stevens_