Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Activism? Now what?

I wouldn’t consider myself a veteran activist by any means, and I wish that I could say that I was more experienced, but after doing three years of service learning for a different organization each time, I just feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

In fact, I am pretty I got more out of the volunteer work that I did on my own, than doing service learning that was required for a class. After reading Ivan Illich’s article, “To Hell With Good Intentions,” my social justice senior seminar class deconstructed service learning into a model of “us vs. them,” but yet we still are participating in the service learning part of the class, after the one class discussion about our volunteering at various nonprofit organizations, I still feel like we didn’t reach a conclusion in whole deal. We talked about how we needed to be mindful of the “us vs. them” way of thinking and our privilege as college students to go into an organization, serve for a semester and then check out, no strings attached, obligation free; but after that, we were done ready to move on.

Sometimes I feel disconnected from the word activism, because I’m not marching and shouting, or chaining myself to something in protest. One major reason why I feel so conflicted about the word “activist” is because I feel like my journalism major has really contributed to this internal ethical and moral conflict that I really struggled with for several years. I still am uneasy about my role as a journalist, and how I feel about the journalism commandment to be objective, but I think as time goes on, I move away from journalism and more towards social justice – and I am at peace with that.

The School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota has been a place where I have learned a lot of about the history of the media and the role it has had in the formation of ideas and opinions, so I’m not really sure why the need to objective and inactive has always been the rule of the house. The way I justify my activism is that for so long, one side has been presented and now, it’s not just a matter of being balanced or objective, it’s simply presenting the other side. Here I am thinking about the other side of justice for Palestine, in-group prejudice and oppression. After the other side hasn’t been given a voice, I still struggle with the feelings that I should take a side in the first place.

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