Over on Plan to Win we’ve been holding a bookclub to discuss Daniel Hunter’s brilliant book Strategy and Soul. We had the chance to talk with Daniel via video link up recently and he had some interesting things to say about activist oppression and self care.
I appreciate that Plan to Thrive is grounded in the reality of activism, that you navigate a tight spot for activists around self-care.
Some of the ways a lot of non-organisers think around self-care is ‘so Cindy, you look really tired, you look like you’ve been working really hard. Why don’t you take a couple of evenings off because you just can’t keep doing what you’re doing’. But the reality of our political work or job situation may or may not be accommodating that.
As an organiser it’s not helpful to hear things I can’t do institutionally. It’s helpful to hear about things I could accommodate institutionally, but unless that person is willing to go to bat for me, is prepared to go to my workplace, have a big fight with my boss, to talk with the union about how many hours I’m putting in… unless that’s actually what they have in mind – I think what they’re asking for they’re not aware of it being a reality or not.
Something that’s been helpful for me is having increased empathy for the trials and tribulations that is the life of an activist and an organiser.
There are so many ways in which activists are marginalised as a group. I think we’re systematically oppressed – in the way we think of people of colour or other groups as oppressed classes, I think of activists as an oppressed class.
Our history is hidden, our stories are submerged. As a group of people we’re denigrated by society. Mainstream media trivialise us, individualise us. In the moments when they do tell our story well they tokenise us so it becomes a single hero rather than a collective body or movement.
So, we’re a pretty beat up group in a number of ways.
It’s been helpful for me to grow in empathy. No matter how people are doing their activist work it’s great that they’re in it and that they’re challenging the activist oppression that lives out there in society.
Daniel Hunter is a US based social movement trainer, strategist and author. As a trainer with Training for Change he is sought all over the world to train activists in experiential methodology, campaign strategy and direct action. He was a lead campaigner on the Casino-Free Philadelphia campaign, about which he wrote his book Strategy and Soul.
Do you think activists are an ‘oppressed class’? What’s that oppression been like for you?
For more excellent insights see Strategy and Soul – and check out Daniel Hunter’s latest publication, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: An Organizing Guide.