The term street slacktivism sounds like an oxymoron at first but let me explain. First, for the unfamiliars, here is the definition of slacktivism by Oxford Dictionary:
Slacktivism [MASS NOUN] informal
Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g. signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website:
The definition assumes that those participating in street protests shall be considered as doing something more beneficial to reach their ultimate purpose. Well, Occupy Wall Street and Gezi Parki protests have already proved that wrong on September 2011 and June 2013 respectively.
What changes those protests bring to our lives?
Occupy Wall Street
Some say it created a public awareness on wealth inequality. Some say politicians change how they talk about inequality. So what? What laws do they pass to deal with it? It is only an effort to keep the people calm and relaxed. Practically wealth inequality is growing larger and larger everyday.
The mall construction is on hold but nothing else is changed including the police violence. Recalling that the main purpose of the protest was based on anti-government acts, we could easily say that Gezi Parki protests had no effect on public policies in a positive manner. In the elections, only 9 months after the “glorious” Gezi Parki protests, red voters voted red, blue voters voted blue and Tayyip is the prime minister again by gaining almost the same percentage of votes.
Why no success?
When we pour into streets rather than posting status updates to social media sites, we just seem to be doing something for the change. This illusion has two undesired results:
Democracy is about numbers yet we ignore others
Changing things starts from people’s minds. You need to change the way other people think so that they enjoy producing something that is beneficial for humanity instead of praying for easy money. You need to change people’s moral values. You need to make humanity respect science and nature. Otherwise there is no way of changing this powerful global capitalist establishment. However, changing one’s mind is not an easy job.
Have you ever imagined how repulsive you seem from a conservative’s point of view when you hit the streets with all those masks and slings. What do they think about you when you clash with police? I am already on your side. You need to persuade other side’s supporters to be with you to change the world yet instead you are doing the the most misleading thing you could ever do: giving a reason to people for hating you and believing how right they are to support what they support.
Without convincing people to change, nothing could be change.
The fake virtue prevents participating more effective acts
Hitting to streets, making an effort to resist police, sacrificing comfort and shouting loud about what you believe give people a chance to clear their conscience about ideological responsibility. Uncaring of if the acts are resulting the desired outcome in an efficient manner, people consider themselves to have the virtue of trying to change something. This illusive situation prevents people of participating more efficient and effective but more effort required acts like participating union organizations and political party works or trying to communicate other people to change their world views.
The keyword is efficiency here. Of course if it’s pushed hard, there can be found little changes caused by those “street slactivism” activities. But the question then arises: Is it worth?
Is it worth to sacrifice a person’s eye to save tens of trees while millions of others are being cut at the same time?
Is it worth being tortured to death to make people think about corruption for just a second, knowing that afterwards they will be brain-washed in a few hours by TVs?
Is it worth to risk your life to fight to police just to give yet another press release which is surely incapable of changing or influencing anything?
Is it worth to spend days or weeks on streets to gain something so tiny and practically negligible?
No it isn’t, it shouldn’t! A human’s life and time are too valuable to spend in such inefficient ways.
We need to (re)invent more effective and efficient ways to change things that we don’t like. Unless we are well organized and our acts are well planned we are doomed to fail again and again.
Pouring into streets to make noise in order to “increase awareness”, to fight against police, to give boring press statements has no greater impact than social media activism on things we want to change. On the other hand, more efficient ways would require more effort and long time dedication than aforementioned street activities. This is the main reason that people choose short running, conscience clearing but ineffective ways of protests.
Hence, all those street protests should be considered as slactivism as well, a new form: street slactivism.