UCSB is one of the most politically active campuses in the state. However, I see some of the activists we have on campus and can’t help but suspect them of having ulterior motives. The specific organization is irrelevant because it can apply to any of them.
While there are some activists who truly care for the causes they have invested in, others use these issues to further inflate their egos. These characters are the ones who are simply motivated by their desire to garner attention and publicity for themselves. These people not only want to be the hero who saves the day, they also want everyone else to acknowledge it.
I despise these political mongers and attention whores, not just for their hypocrisy, but for the damage that they bring upon these important social issues. These phonies and their continued presence within an organization devalue the cause of other organizations. These people shift the focus away from an ideal so they can gain notoriety. Some are even willing to go so far as to martyr themselves to achieve their goals. But what happens when these people don’t get their Tiananmen Square or their Kent State? Will they continue pursuing their cause with the same passion or give up on it completely? Is a cause any less relevant just because it doesn’t lead to some climactic battle between good and evil?
This phenomenon isn’t limited to the local level. It can be extrapolated to a wide range of situations. Think about the Bush administration’s continued insistence on military presence in Iraq, or even Madonna’s attempt to adopt a Malawian child. Are their motives genuine or have they solely taken up their causes because they desire praise?
To be honest, I myself am not currently involved with any activist groups because I don’t believe that I have the true concern necessary to resolve some of our society’s most pressing issues. Still, I don’t think that makes me a selfish, uncaring villain. On the contrary, it means that I’m trying to remain genuine to myself and to others.
The closest I’ve come to becoming an activist was when I signed up to be an International Student Volunteer. I did so because I wanted to tour Australia rather than help conserve the indigenous wildlife. I know I wasn’t the only person, since I talked to several other volunteers who felt the same way. I came back feeling the same way about wildlife conservation as I did prior to my stay in Australia. However, that’s not to say I didn’t come away with a different outlook on life. What differentiates me from the phonies I’m writing about is that I was completely aware of my stance and didn’t pretend to feel otherwise. Many phonies have been active for so long that they are in denial of their insincerity.
I am not going to point out the specific people I suspect of being dishonest. I do hope, however, that the activists reading this column can take a moment to determine their exact motivations.
Take this insightful quote I got from “Futurama”: “If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” If you feel comfortable with not being recognized for your actions, if you don’t care that your cause isn’t tomorrow’s headline and if you don’t mind being on the losing side of a fight, then perhaps there’s still hope for you.