What is activism?
No matter how developed and prosperous country is, it will not avoid discussions in society, because even representatives of one nation are very different, they live in different conditions, face different problems and seek different things. Theoretically, authorities are hired managers who should respond to the attitudes within society and satisfy interests of different social groups. But in reality this is not always the case and then citizens have to declare their needs «louder». People who openly and unselfishly advocate an idea aimed at changing behavior of other people or changing the law are called activists. Sometimes activists come together and form public organizations for systematic realization of common interests.
I couldn’t understand for a long time if I'm allowed to call myself an activist. But then I participated in a thematic discussion and reflected on my experience. It turned out that I really am an activist, because I make efforts to improve the situation in Ukrainian society. I have never been a member of any NGO, but it doesn’t stop me from spending time, resources and energy to fight for positive changes in my country.
In 2014 I actively participated in the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, in 2015 and 2016 I created 2 educational projects for inhabitants of my city, in 2018 I worked as a history teacher at a small rural school because I wanted to contribute to education reform. I have signed a bunch of petitions, participated in an enormous amount of protests, demonstrations, marches and strikes, systematically worked with various communities, joined many flash mobs and boycotts in my entire life. All of these are methods of activism and different people choose them for themselves. How far you can go in your struggle for changes is also an individual choice, which often depends on the circumstances. It is not necessary to start a hunger strike as a political prisoner Oleg Sentsov or to strip in public as “Femen” activists to be called an activist. But it is very important when people stay sensitive to problems in society and they make a strong contribution to solving them. People should defend their interests and actively promote them, because quiet complaints about bad life in the circle of friends just remain silent complaints about bad life in the circle of friends. Actions of activists should take place in an atmosphere of peace and authorities should be ready to promote changes, not to resist them.
Development of social media has created tremendous opportunities for activism. For example, in 2015 hashtag «Je suis Charlie» became a symbol of public condemnation of terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Thousands of people around the world used it in their posts with condolences to relatives of killed people. Many activists used this hashtag in context of discussions about violations against free press and freedom of expression.
Ukrainians recently started using frames to their profile pictures on Facebook to show that they support particular project, idea, event, organization or person. For example, my friends-activist add to their profile pictures a frame «I support KyivPride» before every LGBT pride in the capital of Ukraine. Some people added frames with logos and slogans of political forces to their profile pictures before presidential and parliamentary elections.
Everyone can also promote ideas on social media by sharing and commenting posts of opinion leaders, writing posts, creating memes and posters.
A petition is also an easy method which helps to convey demands or proposals to authorities. A petition as a method of activism was known in Ancient Egypt. In the 21st century people in many countries can create and sign a petition to government online. For example, in Ukraine there is a site called "Unified system of local petitions", where every citizen can publish a petition or sign an existing one. The local government will consider the petition if it receives the required number of votes. The number of votes required to consider a petition depends on the number of inhabitants of the city (for example, if there are between 500,000 and 1 million inhabitants, at least 500 of them must sign the petition). Ukrainians can also sign a petition to parliament or even to president. This procedure does not take a lot of time. Anyone wishing to sign the petition just needs to register on the site where it is posted.
When people feel the need to make changes, not just talk about them, they go to rallies, demonstrations, marches. So the authorities can see that people who are concerned about certain processes in society are real, that they are ready to combat problems. For example, Europe is talking now about actions initiated by Swedish political activist Greta Thunberg. Guided by her example, thousands of people around the world have joined the «Fridays For Future» movement and are protesting to bring attention to climate change.
Art can also be an instrument of activism. For example, famous artist and political activist Banksy, whose face is still unknown to the general public, creates art pieces on political and social topics. For example, he is the author of picture «Armored Peace Dove» on the wall between Palestine and Israel. In the beak of the dove is an olive branch, a symbol of peace and tranquility. But the dove is wearing a bulletproof vest and there is a red target on its chest. What is the meaning of this art object? Peace is possible only when both sides of the conflict want this.