Tag Archive: activist

Very recently, the student newspaper at Rutgers New Brunswick, The Daily Targum, published this editorial about the recent tuition freeze that was won by the students, who had the audacity and gall to aim their complaints directly at Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa.


I largely agree with this article and offer my explanation as to why such things do not occur in America as well.

From what I can tell, the problem for student activists here in America is a lack of diverse messaging, as hinted at in the article. We seem to accept activism of only one kind from our prospective recruits: either radical/grassroots, or reformist/legislative, but not both. We can’t seem to strike a balance between these two approaches. State- or nationwide legislation-oriented groups butt heads with campus-specific radical groups, to the ultimate detriment, discrediting, and disintegration of both.

We don’t inform people, as this article does, that those who sign petitions are just as important as those who stop traffic with sit-ins, but we also don’t try to convince them that more is needed than a signature. We take no long-term strategy to unite both privileged students and underprivileged students around the issue of tuition gouging—though they definitely are both needed; we can’t expect people working three jobs in addition to going to school full-time to spend their one hour of free time per day tabling, though of course anyone who wants to should do so, or demand that people with no documents expose themselves to arrest—nor do we tie the immediate self-interests of students to the cause of fighting tuition-gouging.

Instead, we try to tie it to collective interests, to selflessness and “injustice,” but the pseudo-libertarian “personal-responsibility”-mongering trolls speak louder than us with their harsh, racist/sexist/homophobic invective to silence the masses and convince them to remain passively and individualistically selfish, and that protest of any kind is a waste of time, and that they should continue to watch out for themselves, even though fighting to freeze tuition WOULD be watching out for themselves and others.

We make no effort to first form a large-scale cohesive radical/reformist student movement that sustains itself after we graduate, based first on “little victories” like longer library hours and leading up to escalation tactics that could serve to challenge the university power structure itself. We instead (as I hinted at earlier) rely on short-term or medium-term successes that are often purely legislative in nature, that require only a vote or a signature from a student to win (and no other student involvement), and that often don’t win or win completely, and any benefits that are won aren’t seen or recognized for months or years, and the credit for winning them goes to the wonderful Democratic politicians who “fight” for us, when in reality we fight for them to do their job, and these same politicians would scarcely do 1/10 for us what we do for them, or bestow us with 1/10 the faith we place in them, in part because “the students” have proven incapable of remaining coherent, self-sustaining, and organized for longer than one generation of students at a time.

This is a critical explanation of why things like what happened in South Africa don’t happen here. There is not enough unity over who the allies are, who the adversaries are, what is needed to win, and what the true obstacles are. This is just my opinion. I love the student movement and believe in its inherent power, and will continue to fight for it, and fight against neoliberal austerity and privatization, against the social stratification, against war, and against the lies and condescending misinformation of our detractors.

Evolution of Message premise

Activist: a person who works to change the nature of society through exposing hypocrisies and inconsistencies in its parts and drawing public attention to them in an effort to correct them in solidarity with those whom they disadvantage.

Presentist: a person who shows up as an activist but who has no deep devotion to the cause, i.e. who isn’t there for the cause, who is there just to be present.

Possible Ethic: Presentists must be allowed into the movement, but not directly acknowledged. They must turn into activists through listening and by their own decision to stop “being for being’s sake” and start “being for becoming”.

Revisionist: an presentist who seeks to customize the message of the movement to the status quo and in doing so obtain acceptance by society. It is a sublimation of a deep desire to be accepted. It can be done passively, by seeking compromise (revision) of the movement’s values, or assertively, by founding a breakaway group.

Possible ethic: Revisionists must be warned that catering to the adversary (dialectical decay) is not an option, that altering the message and that continually trying to do so will result in ostracism. Since revisionists tend to require acceptance, this should seldom be necessary.

Reactionary: a presentist who demonstrates an inability to act according to the tenets of the movement; who relies on internal (emotional) obligations rather than external obligations.

possible ethic: Reactionaries rule by impulse. Someone hits them, they fire back. Therefore they are dangerous to any peaceful movement that seeks legitimate progress.

Counterrevolutionary: a presentist who demonstrates revisionist and reactionary qualities but who also seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the movement in two ways: 1) to the society that it means to change, and 2) to itself by violating laws of transparency and inciting conspiracy. The purpose of these acts is to actually damage and fracture the movement while serving the purpose of enriching the counterrevolutionary himself, whether with money, power, or fame.