Failure of Activism

The Australian government describes multiculturalism as a “.. term which recognizes and celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It accepts  and respects the right of all Australians to express and share their individual cultural heritage…” (Jordan 142). This, however means that the government respects all opinions regardless of whether they are hurtful to the sentiments of any other race or community. Although this idea promotes social inclusion and acceptance of differences, it is highly politically influenced because it hides the fact that some ideas of different communities might inherently be wrong. According to Tim Jordan, author of Activism!: Direct Action, Hacktivism, and the Future of Society, this is the place where activism fails in a democracy, a form of government which promotes free flow of thought and opposition. According to Jordan, diversity of wealth is not a social difference, but rather a result of exploitation of the lower classes. A democracy accepts this social difference as a part of the society and seems to respect it undermining the activist movements which call out the exploitative nature of these wealthy groups.

It is really interesting to read such a fresh take on the relation between a democratic government and an activist group. Although a democracy might not be this liberal in accepting the differences that exist in a society, a lot of popular movements do seem to be discouraged by this acceptance by the government. But ultimately since movements as well as governing bodies are operated by the people of a community, if a certain opinion of a community is disrespectful to the another group in the same community, it would certainly be opposed by the people regardless of whether it is defined to be politically correct or not.


One thought on “Failure of Activism”

  1. Very nice take on Jordan’s outline of the main failures of democracy! I agree with you that most democracies are probably not as liberal as the Australian government which gives equal voice to any “cultural heritage,” but using the Australian government’s definition, I wonder how it would be possible to fix the situation so that no groups are actively oppressing other groups. Jordan mentions one possible avenue to a solution – a sort of radicalized democracy in which anybody would be able to find an appropriate place to be represented without fear of oppression. Though I think this has potential to work, I feel like it’s a compromise rather than a total remedy to the problem. Instead, I’m interested in a society where clearly unjust biases such as racism and sexism cease to exist. In the first chapter of the book, I was grabbed by the thought that activism could be the “source of authoritative ethical visions” (Jordan 10). Movements have already existed for decades attacking racism and sexism, e.g., feminism, Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and more, but these -isms still persist.

    If all oppressive relationships were able to be done away with through the new ethical norms established by activist movements, then Australia’s democracy is totally purged from the issue of one group oppressing another. Of course, this would be an ideal world, and this grand vision reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech will likely never be completely achieved; however, I believe that through relentless effort, activists can at least minimize the oppressive relationships in the present. As President Obama so often says, “democracy is hard work” – it requires unending conversation and debate to establish new norms for ethical living, but progress is only possible through this hard work that activists take on so passionately.


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