Activism should be a positive force in society; should not spread negativism and hate

Activism is a glorious concept, which means that activists are defenders of  what they perceive to be truth, courageous persons who stand up to the cause dear to their heart at any cost and honest crusaders who would dispassionately analyse the happenings and events and  take a firm stand

N S Venkataraman Sep 14, 2020

Activism is a glorious concept, which means that activists are defenders of  what they perceive to be truth, courageous persons who stand up to the cause dear to their heart at any cost and honest crusaders who would dispassionately analyse the happenings and events and  take a firm stand.  Obviously, activism, unprejudiced analysis, and strict neutrality should go together.

Activism need not mean that it should always be against any event or policy decision of the government or any particular activity. It can also be proactive with regard to developments and happenings.

Unfortunately, all over the world, the concept of activism has been considerably diluted in recent time, with several activists being suspected of having preconceived notions and prejudiced views, which inevitably distort the glorious and progressive concept of activism.

There are environmental activists or social activists who are often seen to be more involved in opposing and defying rather than supporting or encouraging any development. Further, it is seen that most of the activist groups are opposed to the government of the day and believe that sustained criticism and opposition is the hallmark of activism. This is a very unfortunate development in recent times, which has spoiled the image of activists all over the world and inevitably branding them as negative forces.

Further, it is often seen that activists are big shouters and use extremely harsh language and mostly talk in general terms without studying the details and implications at the micro-level from various alternate viewpoints. Most of the activists do not appear to be good listeners, as seen these days.

Particularly, what causes concern is that many activists identify themselves with sectarian or political groups and most of the activist groups are identified with one group or the other? One can always guess what a particular activist group would say on a particular development, even before hearing the person, if one would know the background of the activist group.  The activists are often described as leftists or rightists, whatever these terms may really mean and reflect. They are never described as neutralists.

 The role of the activists in the ongoing presidential election in the US is too glaring to be ignored.  Many of them who term themselves as activist groups and reformers criticise President Donald Trump bitterly as if he has done nothing good at all in his four years of governance. It is very obvious that their criticisms are not balanced and prejudiced views are being advanced under the cloak of activism. It would be in order if the opposing political parties would make such criticism but certainly, it is not in order for activists to advance such prejudiced criticism, which sometimes gives the impression that they are motivated and suffer from blind hatred for Trump.

Similar is the case of environmental activists, who seem to be opposing most of the industrial and commercial projects terming them as in violation of laws and regulations and against the larger interest of society.  They do not seem to conduct the cost-benefit analysis before coming to the conclusion. The anti-nuclear group, anti-coal mine group and the so-called green activists around the world have, by their conduct, paved the way for creating an image of themselves as hate groups and keeping on advancing their arguments without considering the view of the other side.

In India too, the situation is not much different. There are a number of activists, who describe themselves as thinkers, lawyers, writers or professors and who have firm political views and they seem to hate those, who do not agree with their views under one pretext or the other.  Of course, every government takes many decisions, some of which could be controversial and deserve a debate, when the recommendations should arrive based on majority views. In short, the activists should be willing to drastically change their views, if they would be convinced about the basic flaw in their approach and they should be willing to be convinced on the basis of listening to alternate views, instead of taking a stoic and uncompromising stand on any matter.

There are several activist groups in different countries including India, who are accused of indulging in some activities which could destabilize society. They do so under the excuse of defending liberty and freedom to say anything or do anything as per their wish and desire. Extreme liberty at the cost of larger national good cannot be accepted as a fair approach by any government or any discerning observer.

When activist groups involved in political or religious or social spheres think it to be proper to take fund, support, or any other form of support from abroad for supporting a cause which in their view is right, it can be legitimately viewed as an anti-national activity.

The activists often abuse the judges, government in power, or some religious groups without established facts and term their abuses as legitimate pronouncements in a democratic society. This approach is totally wrong and unacceptable.

Activism as a concept should be restored to its exalted status and it can happen only if all and sundry do not call themselves as activists and indulge in spreading negativism.

The qualification for one to be hailed and respected as a genuine activist is that the person should abhor violence in letter and spirit, be neutral in outlook and vision and should not be under the pre-conceived notion that the other side is always wrong. Capability and willingness to listen to the alternate viewpoints and honesty in approach to reverse the views if there would be stronger arguments from the other side, is the hallmark of a progressive activist.

Activism should be a positive force conducted in a healthy and civilized manner and need not cause a rupture in the fabric of society. For an activist, means should justify the ends, as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at

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