The stories that enrage and sustain us.
rage \ respite
edition 15
the stories that enrage and sustain us.
There comes a time when something - be it an idea, thought or phrase - grows to be so ubiquitous that it must become a commodity. This idea will start small, and the devoted, early adopters will nurture it to grow. But before long, it is loved by millions (billions!) and those at the top see their chance to strike for gold. 

This week, the thing that became a commodity was activism. Much like feminism and the #girlboss that came with it, activism has been swallowed by the corporate machine.

In the US, the undoubted epicentre of making money out of anything and everything, CBS, a commercial TV station,
announced their latest reality TV series, The Activist. Under the judging eyes of Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jones and Julianne Hough, six activists will go head to head to compete for the chance to attend the G20 summit in Rome in October, where they can further lobby for their cause. The aspiring activists will choose a cause that falls under one of the very savoury banners of education, health or the environment, and aim to affect change.

Most concerningly, success on CBS's The Activist won't be measured through policy reform, structural change or bridging economic divides. Instead, and further perpetuating the false narrative that awareness of a cause equals change, success will be measured through online engagement and social media metrics. As one tweet perfectly put it, "Sorry Jessica, your TikTok about police brutality didn't get enough likes. You're out.".

What the show fails to understand is that activism isn't a game with a set deadline and KPIs, it is a long game, with more losses than wins. Alicia Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, has
written at length about how a movement cannot be built overnight, it takes lots and lots of hard work on the ground, with social media being just one tool in the activist's belt.

Additionally, reality TV thrives on pitting contestants against one another, at a time when we need collaboration in activism more than ever. As UK-based activist, Gina Martin,
put it, "Why the hell is there a TV show that turns activism into a competition when the whole *essence* of activism is solidarity and community?".

The show comes at a time when activists are more under threat than ever. Human rights and climate activists have consistently reported receiving
rape and death threats. Last year was the most deadly on record for environmental activists, with 227 people being killed for defending the environment. Right now, a 12 year old boy in Columbia is defying death threats to continue to demand better access to education for children during the pandemic. And yet, to the north, corporations are gamifying activism for our viewing pleasure.

While it should be celebrated that activism has become more mainstream and accessible, we cannot give fuel to the narrative that change making is measured through clicks or how much Usher likes your Instagram post. The Activist pushes the convenient trope that you can change the world from your bedroom, without really changing anything at all.

It's fashion's biggest night of the year. The world's leading designers, creatives and performers gather at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to celebrate the opening of the cultural institution's latest exhibition. For months leading up the event, commentators and fans speculate about who will be attending, what they will wear and, most importantly, who will best adhere the the night's theme. This year's theme? In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.

From stars and stripes, to odes to Cher and Marilyn Monroe, many guests fit the brief. But for some, the red carpet was an opportunity to demand changes in America, on a global stage.

Enter: progressive New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wearing a floor length white dress with the words 'Tax the Rich'
emblazoned on the back in red. Internet discourse exploded.

Many said that you can't go to the Met Gala, one of the most high profile events in the western world, and preach increased taxation on the rich. The Guardian asked "can democratic socialists have nice things?".

The majority of backlash called AOC a hypocrite for fraternising with the rich and famous, while also calling for them to be taxed. But we can hardly expect to believe that congress wants to go after influencers, actors and models, the bulk of guests at the Met Gala. What AOC is calling for is taxation of those with incomprehensible wealth; the tech heads, private healthcare leeches and space explorers, those who hide their wealth offshore. The wealth that, if taxed, could help fund major public sector schemes, from the Green New Deal to Universal Basic Income.

AOC is doing something powerful. When in DC, she campaigns and works to introduce legislation that will increase taxation on the rich, and fiercely advocates for her community in the Bronx and Queens. Rumour has it she's been pulling 14 hour days over the past fortnight, working on
financial relief for her constituents following Hurricane Ida. She frequently shares progress to her following and speaks openly, and brutally, about the failures of the US government to strong-arm the 1%. She is doing the work.

And on this night in New York City, at a star-studded event, hosted by Vogue and viewed by millions, she is bringing this hard work to the fore. AOC is taking a perceived 'radical' policy and turning it mainstream; she is normalising progress and pulling it out of the obscure. This is crucial for accessibility, accountability and encouraging political participation.

The world is in crisis on many fronts. We can't keep disruptive, groundbreaking policies in exclusive corners where only those who understand the theory behind them can get involved. We have to thrust these policies into the spotlight if we want any chance of them gaining traction on a mass scale.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is changing how the world engages with politics and policy. She is mobilising a new generation. I find respite in her courage, dedication and action.

If this newsletter has ever encouraged you to take action on an issue that's important to you, I'd be thrilled. But if you're still wanting to learn more about particular causes, a fantastic new (and free!) streaming service has just launched. WaterBear is a hub for films and series that are having an impact. Today I watched the first episode of their original series 'Redress The Future', hosted by an activist that inspires me, Mikaela Loach. Discover incredible stories of activism and resistance from all over the world, I hope you feel inspired!
This newsletter is created on the stolen lands of the Gadigal and Bidjigal people of the Eora nation. I pay my respects to their elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded.
I'm Georgia Gibson, a freelance content strategist and writer working with impact-driven clients.
You can visit my website or follow me on Insta for more.

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Clovelly, Clovelly, NSW, 2031, Australia