To you all great people.
Allow me to get ancient and use the Cocacola ad
“Welcome to the World!”
The New world of the New activists.
Because the kind of people you are looking for above….
All of them…DEAD
All Social activists are DEAD!
All those people who care about social justice
All of them
When we decided that we will “engage” governments and not challenge them, we killed activism.
When we decided to respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs) by the EU and the US and literally every one today instead of challenging what was clearly a strategy to control what civil society do, we killed activism.
When we started finding excitement in meetings that take place in safe confines of hotels and with our own colleagues who talk and speak like us, we killed activism.
When we started writing proposals jointly with donors in the name of Partnership, we killed activism.
When we started placing values on NGOs that have big budgets, big systems and big salaries and big rents, we killed activism.
When we started to place value and respect on people who say they represent networks of “hundreds of other NGOs” instead of individuals who have the pain and the passion for the weak,we killed activism.
When we started to value speaking at international meetings whose agenda is shaped and driven by governments and donors, we killed activism.
When we started sitting in hotel rooms to develop policy papers and then share them with our entire mailing list, we killed activism.
When the poor became statistics that we use to raise funds and justify our need to travel more, talk more and earn more, we killed activism.
When we started using twitter to send a message and get excited that we have mobilized, we killed activism!
When we started holding press conferences and seeking signatures from our colleagues before forwarding documents to “Senior Government Officials’ we killed activism.
When meetings attended by government officials became more valued than those attended by citizens, we killed activism.
When we started giving legitimacy to the many “Civil Society Engagement Forums” created and hosted by Institutions, Governments and Organizations that neither care about civility nor society,we killed activism.
When we started placing value on intellectualism and professionalism rather than connections with and passion for the poor and the suffering, we killed activism.
Activism is dead.
Social Justice is dead.
Its no longer socially acceptable to seek justice in ways that activists used to do.
Its backward, its not professional.
And who will fund you, anyway!
When was the last time there was an outcry about Central Africa Republic, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine…
Tell me , what happened to “#bringbackourGirls
Did twitter bring them back?
Because Hash tag is a comfortable way of sitting in front of our flat screens and pressing a button on our smart phones.
Its harsh and it does not tag along.
But we feel comfortable that we have done our work.
If you are looking at activism you will have to look far far back into history.
Because they are dead.
They are dead because they are left alone on the streets.
We call them lone rangers.
Because they do not belong to our networks, they do not speak our language.
And they have no funding to even reach us.
When was the last time you saw any global mobilization organized by like me who show up in suits and shuttle between conferences and meetings?
When we go to countries we travel in taxis because of comfort convenience and insecurity-
never mind that the reason for the insecurity is the very reason we earn the money.
Sorry to you all good people.
If you are waiting for some mobilization about ebola, about Syria, about Vulture Funds….
That,too, is dead!
Because there are no activists today, only “Partners”
They died in demonstrations in Egypt and Libya and Syria.
They died as we watched in horror on our TV screens with popcorn in one hand and a remote in the other.
Do you remember the women who were crying on Television during the first few weeks of attacks on Syria?
Those are the activists.
They are dead!
Do you remember a Kenyan known as Boniface Mwangi who photographed the Post election Violence and was so disturbed by the pictures that he became an activist..
They forced him out…..he stepped down….!
The men who led demonstrations in Central Africa Republic asking for protection.
They are the activists
They are dead!
The activists died in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations
They die daily in their own demonstrations.
Here are the new activists
We write proposals….to the very people who are destroying lives and livelihoods of the poor.
Yes, we write proposals to them.
They sit with us and say….we are not donors…
We are partners.
So they sit with us and help us “shape the proposal”
They delete the things they do not want us to do.
They say its too sensitive.
They choose who to fund and what to do.
If you speak against them you are branded a lone ranger
You must be the leader of a network of some NGOs. The more network you lead or “represent”, the stronger your “constituency” becomes, and the more donors love and adore you….
We mobilize in hotel rooms.
Some of the hotels we hold our luxurious meetings are owned by the very people we are criticizing!
We work between flights, in flights, out of airports.
We even have business tickets and sit in business lounges working away at our laptots and ipads and tablets and smart phones.
We are busy.
Very busy serving the poor.
The more Donor logos appear on our websites and our documents as “partners” the more important we are.
The Donors even have specifications on the size of their logos on our documents.
Because it’s all about the show.
It’s about the image.
As for the poor, well, we are working for them so why should they bother.
If you want invitations to meetings, do not ruffle feathers.
That will not only risk your funding, it will risk your next pay check, and perhaps your next conference invitation.
And if you are too loud you may not even get your next visa.
And who wants to be denied a chance to travel around the world helping the poor?
Did you say you are looking for those who stand for Social Justice!
Did you say you are looking for activists?
They are dying daily as they demonstrate on their own while we send out position papers and policy briefs.
The rest died last year, last week, yesterday, today
More will die tomorrow.
Original article by Madi Jobarteh – Gambia shared by Pau Okumu, Head of Secretariat, Africa CSO Platform https://africaplatform.org/ and @GogontlejangP