Until recently I didn't fully understand the danger suggested by the term "slactivism."
What is slactivism?
Slactivism is someone who jumps from cause to cause - each cause being, to the slactivist, as worthy as the next. The term could, at its least dangerous, be given to those who loosely link causes together and change focus regularly. Each cause is, on the surface, one that can be supported by activists, each cause bringing with it a new meme or a new trendy logo and visuals. It brings with it a kind of "altruistic street-cred." A selfish altruism.
But its seeming legitimacy is its inherent danger as imperialist governments and oil companies take advantage of the slactivist's lack of focus and in depth critical thinking.
White teeshirts and tax evasion
Back in 2005, we were told that clicking our fingers would "Make Poverty History." Bob Geldof, a proven tax dodger, made us feel guilty. Of course his altruism does not extend to the poor in his own adopted home - welfare projects and education and health benefit lightly from his taxes as he has found out how to hide money in properties purchased abroad. Bono and his pompous band are the same - Ireland is in huge crises - poverty in his own country is increasing hugely, but to him, his tax millions are better in his own offshore accounts.
Slactivists clicked fingers, pounded the streets of Edinburgh, listened to Annie Lennox and wore white shirts.
Geldof labelled anti-poverty demonstrators "good and bad," to refer to the rubber wrist band wearing MTV slactivist as opposed to the anti-poverty groups that had been lobbying the capitalist governments of the world for years. Good = concert goer, bad = poverty groups demonstrating near the G8 summit.
Poverty was not made history, and in fact the continuance and depoliticising of the message to the G8 that year allowed the powers that be to make compromises to a virulent capitalism that ultimately failed in 2008 and created even more poverty. Tax dodgers Geldof and Bono, by diverting the question of why people are in poverty, at the very least, were guilty of the worst slactivism in history.
Compromise and capitulation
Slactivists make the pretence of challenging the status quo - though compromise, or lack of analysis will mean they always veer to the right. As the capitulation of the Lib Dems in the venture capitalist Tory driven coalition has shown in the UK, compromise with capitalism drives the living conditions and wealth of the working class and poor downwards. Millionaires and billionaires are benefiting more and more through compromise between the wishes of the very rich and the wishes of the majority. Poverty in the UK is being dressed up as necessary cuts. If you are working class, everyone around you is struggling with heating bills, electricity, food and rent or mortgages. The rich are rubbing their hands as the capitulation of the slactivist Liberal Democrats allows them to increase their incomes exponentially to our cost.
To the slactivist, Kony 2012 has everything. Disfigured children, raped women, fantastic visuals, a rocking sound track and a charismatic leader holding guns in the Jungle - almost Che -like, but without unfortunate reference to that old fashioned socialism/sharing stuff. The cause of the post-MTV, laptop glued online ranter.
A friend has been punting the Kony 2012 cause in a local group, organised through Facebook. This slactivist is in Facebook groups calling for the U.S. not to attack Iran, though the media blackout and lack of slick video has ensured he would rather focus on a cause that is trendy, but extremely dodgy. He can't seem to see that calling for US troops to help a repressive African regime is in any way similar to what he is rejecting for Iran.
Even the mainstream British media has become more than cynical about this "movement."
Of course, the Invisible Children crowd and slactivists are on the counter-attack, saying cynicism is going to allow Kony off the hook (which he definitely shouldn't be), but what they are calling for - US intervention that supports a despotic regime that uses child soldiers openly, is way short of what Uganda deserves. It was way short of what Afghanistan and Iraq deserved - the peoples of those two countries were butchered and continue to be because of US strategic interest. What are the common denominators in these countries? Oil, and a public lack of knowledge of the political situation in the countries.
The fact is, Kony left Uganda six years ago. Slactivists don't seem to understand that supporting the Ugandan government is supporting an oppressive government that uses child soldiers.
The first principle of a Doctor is, "Do no harm." The USA pretence of being the "healers" of the world should be treated with the cynicism it deserves - because the ill patients it seems to want to cure have been harmed for the coming generations - real healing won't happen until these exploited lands run out of oil - and are no longer strategically important. Slactivists should look to this medical principle. It will lead them to question their support of MTV causes and empty sloganeering. The US has no qualms in propping up despotic Governments to pipe oil across continents to ensure profits increase and in doing so, many thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, livelihoods, children and parents.
A little knowledge is dangerous. Slactivists should stop propping up the despotic US military machine and perhaps tighten up their critical thinking.
Follow Neil Scott on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@nwsocialist