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How to be an Activist & Save the World

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by David Dragonetti (subscribe)
I love politics (I do realize that there aren't many people like me) and a history buff who also likes nothing better than watching a live comedy.
Published August 22nd 2012
... or just a bit of it

Just 10 percent of Germans actually supported the Nazis in World War Two, 10 per cent were against the rest and just simply went along with it. Turn the clock forward to 2012 and what's really different? A few vote for one party, a few for the other, while the rest just go along with who ever shouts the loudest or just wears the nicest suit or smile.

When it comes great change in society it is so often due to a few who make the bold decision to break free from the chains of convention and take a stand. Campaigners rebels, agitators, protesters. Those who follow the path of NVDA (non violent direct action) are the ones who stand out from the crowd and in some cases make history.

1. The Cause.

"So what yah rebelling against?"
Well what yah got"

Marlon Brando's character in the film The Wild One is a humorous rarity. The protester invariably knows what their fighting against. Stopping the council closure of a local swimming pool maybe doesn't sound as sexy as stopping wildlife being killed in Africa, but then it isn't about what's cool - its about answering that voice inside that's telling you something must be done.

2. Start a Petition.

If you oppose a local park becoming another generic supermarket, then you can be certain others feel the same. A petition can help you gauge public feeling. Get friends to help you set up a stall at local events to let the community know what you are doing

3. Contact your MP.

Go to your MP's surgery and also find out who your local councillor is. It's their job to listen to your concerns. Handing them a petition with a lot of names of angry voters should make them listen even more!

4. Organise a Demonstration.

The word demonstration and protest can deter people. A shrewd idea would thus be to perhaps advertise a "Fun carnival in protest at the closure of our local park". Having musicians and entertainers to lighten things up is nice and will not be necessary once people have gotten used to public gathering. The power of the crowd is sometimes all you need.

Find some artistic people to paint banners. Quite often people are more drawn by your passion to the cause than the cause itself. Such people will gladly give what time and help when they can.

5. The Media.

The media are attracted by anything that makes a good story. Saving your quaint local post office from closure won't mean a damn to them, however if its a post office that is used by a famous celebrity or that the campaigners trying to save it are walking 600 miles for charity, then they might be interested and could even put it on local TV news.

6. Contact your MEP

The cause that you raise with your local MP could clash with the political stance of that MP's party. Therefore be clever and approach the political party that opposes your MP to get their support. Also write to your MEP in Brussels. European regulations could overrule British ones.

7. Breaking the law.

Many armed terrorists start by demonstrating then gradually (and sometimes out of desperation) they become more violent. The vast majority of people reading this will never mercifully be driven to such extremes, yet when all else fails what's your next course of action?

In the western world, it is as a person's right to non violently protest. Yet when asked by the police to leave an area, then you do so. However what if you refuse? What if you decide to hold your ground come what may? You are now crossing the Rubicon and there is no going back.

8. Getting arrested.

Sometime hundreds of people oppose a new development by staging a sit down protest. In such situations, the police will merely drag you away and maybe fine you. However chaining yourself to a post will be determined as resisting arrest and will incur a heavier fine and even a weekend in a police cell. All things considered, being arrested in Europe, Australia etc is not the end of your life. An accompanying criminal record though could radically change it. Work and career could suffer, as could personal relationships if you are unlucky to be detained for some time by the judicial system.


When facing a multi million pound corporation, a few hundred people protesting against it will seem certain to lose. However that isn't always the case. The important thing is to try. Allowing indifference to take root in your mind, to give up at the first hurdle may be the sensible thing to do, but life is about more than being sensible. You must ultimately do what you truly feel is right and do it regardless of what the consequences may be. That, my friend, is the best damn feeling in the world.

It would be impossible to list every campaign or protest group. But here are a few of more well known and less well known groups;

Women in London
A directory of London based women's groups and feminist activities.

Education Activist Network
Protesting against education cuts.

Activists Legal project
Legal issues relating to activism.

Friends of the Earth
Info and action on environmental issues.

Sea Shepherd
One of best environmental groups around.

The Young Foundation
Lottery funded group that develops campaigns about local issues.

Writer David Dragonetti
Arrested 55 times during 5 years of environmental campaigning from 1995 to 2000.
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