today’s column: "A conversation with an activist"

My last column of the year, “A conversation with an activist” is in today’s Crimson. You can read it here. I’d love to know what people think, so comment away.

What’s the matter people? Cat got your tongue? Share your thoughts!

ALSO: I know this is annoying, but Cambridge Common is celebrating 3000 visitors today! That’s keeping our general pace of 1000 a week. Thanks for reading!


One response to “today’s column: "A conversation with an activist"

  1. I liked your column, but I must admit, I didn’t entirely grasp the point of it. The sense I got from it is that in Harvard activism, there are agitators, legislators, and vegitators, all trying to muddle through and occasionally coming into conflict with one another. You did a nice job of rendering the predicament, but I didn’t really see a recommendation anywhere. Could you clarify a bit?

    Your column did remind me of this passage:

    “One day, I remember, a dirty glass of water was on a counter and Mr. Muhammad put a glass of clean water beside it. ‘You want to know how to spread my teachings?’ he said, and he pointed to the glasses of water. ‘Don’t condemn if you see a person has a dirty glass of water,’ he said, ‘just show them the clean glass of water that you have. When they inspect it, you won’t have to say that yours is better.”

    –Autobiography of Malcolm X

    I think you’re right: people can get too focused on pointing out the defects in competing activist or non-activist groups. The problem in this case, though, is that no one has a clean glass of water to show off. No long-standing organization has a perfect record of success in reform efforts. Still, progress has been achieved at Harvard through various means: we’ve had the more radical living wage movement of 2001; the establishment of the Af-Am and WGS departments; the Unite Against AIDS Summit; and this year’s DAG victories, to name a few.

    So how to find a fresh glass of water to showcase?

    Perhaps your flier-waving character is partially right: the intellectual critics, institution-based reformers, and sign-toting protesters need to join forces somehow. As paloma observes, while efficiency and tight organization are critical, part of what makes activism so inspiring to people is its accessible community orientation. If we can learn from successful activism and politics of the past (as you encourage in your column on DAG), maybe we can strike a better balance between efficiency and edginess that will please both agitators and legislators, while galvanizing vegitators (that’s not the right word, since not everyone’s enamored of politics/activism and that’s okay, but it rhymes, aiight?) without getting all up in their faces about it and making them late for Human Mind.

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