Simply changing ‘The Activist’ from game show to documentary misses the point


In anti-racist and feminist analyzes, the concept of empathy is often presented as a powerful and transformative tool for change. Revered opinion leaders such as Brene Brown base their entire practice on this precept, with thoughts emphasizing empathy as an antidote to the evils of the human condition. This same concept has spread to the world of humanitarian aid and social justice, where the emphasis is on sharing and documenting trauma as a means of providing a tangible measure of suffering in the settlement process. the importance and definition of an appropriate remedy. It’s the status quo in the new compassion economy; the recognition of the causes is based on the assessment, categorization and legitimation of poverty.

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Over the past decade, we have seen some defining moments. While the list of people lost to state-sponsored gun violence, poverty, and all of its byproducts – poor healthcare, homelessness, a prison industrial complex – may seem endless, the names of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin are known all over the country. After 8 minutes and 46 seconds on May 25, 2020, George Floyd has become a household name, posthumously anointed following his murder. Shortly after, Breonna Taylor’s face landed on magazine covers across the country, a young and unwitting symbol of this latest “racial account.” Social media was engulfed in empathy; the streets were, as people proudly reported, filled with a multiracial presence of protesters demanding justice for the lives of black people.

It is difficult to dispute that the concept of solidarity is largely based on the recognition of the humanity of the other; like Fred Hampton said, there is power wherever there are people. However, without a coherent political intention, empathy is largely aimless; a blank slate for those in power to determine the best way to appease their complicity, channeled by appointed ambassadors and delegates who negotiate diminishing returns compromises. The decentralization and capitalist commodification of people-led social justice movements becomes inevitable if those involved are not united by vague feelings instead of principle. So is a phrase like Black Lives Matter – a phrase originally intended to indicate a desire for liberation and freedom from oppression for all black people in America.can now be thought of as a hashtag on a mask worn by a white person at an endlessly gentrified Flatbush cafe in Brooklyn, without a hint of perceived irony.

While the example above may sound absurd – although I witnessed the script with my own eyes – the truth is far stranger than fiction. By now, many self-proclaimed leaders of recognized social movements have openly admitted that they are fighting for commitment, patronage and support corporate sponsors while claiming to work to dismantle white supremacy. They defend actions and subsistence from within – while using their acquired power to silence the communities that have long questioned it. The the apprehensions of the parents of those who have been lost to state violence were made redundant because they were ill-informed; Social media inquiries are seen as trivial complaints from those who do not understand the ins and outs of fieldwork, despite being beholden to the companies themselves.

A quick glance at public figures will provide insight into the current state of the movement’s work. Of the $ 50 billion companies pledged for the Black Lives Matter movement As a result of the 2020 racial calculation, $ 45 billion was in the form of loans or investments, and only $ 70 million of the remaining funds went directly to criminal justice reform. BLM Annual Impact Report 2020 emphasizes social media, mailing list and website engagement, leading their year in review with views metrics for campaign videos and Giving Tuesday fundraiser. Social justice is an intrigue in music awards ceremony and reality TV shows with a large number of black viewers – such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Love and Hip Hop, where Tamika Mallory’s organization to Freedom is heavily plugged in – in serialized programs such as to grow, and Patrisse Cullors had a recurring role in the Freeform series Good problem, where the allusion to Civil rights movement couldn’t be heavier.

What makes pop culture so rich to explore isn’t just that it can be used to effect social change, although that can certainly be true; it can also be a mirror of the perception of society, which currently seems performative and incoherent. To that end, the latest announcement in the series Activist, as avid as an entertainment business as it may be, does not venture into forbidden territory. It’s just about following the path set by the existing gatekeepers of the so-called social justice movement, who “also promote their causes, their success being measured by online engagement. [and] social metrics ”(as indicated in the Deadline announcement), as part of the carefully constructed compassion economy in which we passively participate. overwhelming reaction resulted in the series forgoing the reality competition format in favor of a docuseries; less Survivor, Following Naked and scared. While this will certainly allay many concerns, the gamification of the experience is not the crux of the matter. Whether or not the designated activists disagree directly with each other, how successful activism is defined, measured, tracked, and rewarded – including, of all things, an invitation to Hotly contested G20 summit – is unchanged.

While the headlines are in the lead with celebrity names – Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough – it’s yet another program that has been created in conjunction with a popular philanthropic arm: Global Citizen, the team behind them. annual star-studded concerts that are broadcast internationally. in exchange for petition signatures. The measures are massive – 900,000 “actions” are taken on women’s health, poverty and education, among other causes, but the returns are intangible; the organizational commitment to end extreme poverty by 2030 is no closer to reality than in 2012, but the event is not likely to lose its popularity.

There is a direct link between the erosion of the principle into empty symbolism and the process of creating a spectacle such as Activist. When the tongue that leads with liberation softens to demand inclusion and recognition, it is part of a series of actions that are easy to minimize – and allow empathy to be engaged in conditions that are least burdensome for the powerful. A poet is hailed for proclaim the return of democracy, while the the working class continues to wade endlessly in sight; despite the funding of police rhetoric, police budgets across the country have increased, with qualified immunity being discreetly excluded as a provision in the George Floyd bill. An elected official can be present at an elite tax-deductible macabre affair such as the Met Gala, sporting toothless aphorisms such as “Equal rights for women” Where “Tax the rich” – phrases that are not unpopular and are commonly spoken in campaigns and debates – while those fighting for their rights across the red carpet are arrested, and their constituents across the river continue to recover from a hurricane Where fight for freedom from within of a prison cell.

Activist, as a program and a concept, is obscene. But so is the state of our social justice and community work, an increasingly cartoonish reconciliation exercise where power is intentionally concentrated among the leaders vested in preserving the compassion economy in its current state. The challenge shouldn’t be to keep the performance from getting on screen; he should stop it completely. It is time to stop turning a blind eye to this crisis and demanding more than empathy from those responsible for our suffering.

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