Armchair activism

Bas Heijne questions the motives (gated version only) of people joining initiatives like avaaz.org, a “community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today”. Sites like these only enable people to ‘take action’ without any offers. It takes only a few mouseclicks to feel good about yourself.

Heijne argues that this feelgood activism is cheap. Really solving the Middle-East conflict, really ending dictatorship in Pakistan and oppression in Burma, really ending violence in Darfur requires understanding the complex conflict of interests, confronting moral dilemmas and compromising. And that’s way too much effort for the average armchair activist.

This illustrates that not only do people get the politicians they deserve, but politicians too get the electorate they deserve. As politicians engage in over-simplified populism, the electorate sits back and communicates only by single-click megaphone.

Is this bad? Yes, this has nothing to do with the ideal of a polis democracy anymore. The real question however is: Has such a polis democracy ever been within reach anyway?

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