Many great thinkers and doers of modern history have labelled themselves activists, many have not and there have been plenty who called the title for all the wrong reasons.
There are different schools of thought on this but generally speaking if you want to be good at activism forget about being an “activist”.
Forget activism as a concept. At least for while.
Now I’m not advocating against advocacy. But we cannot ignore that we live in a world where identity is weaponised, for better or worse. A trap many people fall into is to see activism as an identity and not a process.
Plenty of educators, scientists and artists who never used the word activist to describe themselves were vital parts of a process of progress.
Full disclosure: I call myself an activist. I have since I was 14 and first joining political campaigns. But I have also let my ego get in the way of my work before and I know I’m not the only one.
So forget your activist credentials, and think about activism as something outside your personal identity. It is the manifestation of change.
You want to fix a problem. This is social maintenance work.
(a) Identity the problem and educate yourself.
Read as widely as possible and discuss what you’ve read with any interested person you can pin down. I’ve been amazed at the flaws I’ve found in my thinking just by saying it out loud to another human.
Find existing campaign groups or reach out to people and form one.
(c) Develop your strategy.
Is it public protest? Is it fundraising? It is producing literature to raise awareness? Direct action? What are the risks? How will you keep each other safe?
(d) Implement the strategy.
This is the active bit.
(e) Rinse and repeat stages c and d until victory.
That’s it. That’s activism. In any given campaign there a million different factors and nuances but when you get right down to it this is it. Identify the problem and identify the particular way that you can tackle it. Find your niche: art, music, research, teaching, outreach. Your passion becomes your power.
What really makes effective activism (other than luck) is passion. The rinse and repeat could last your entire life. You might never see the change you are fighting for. It takes a lot of passion and commitment to keep going indefinitely but that’s what it takes sometimes.
And surround yourself with people who have your back. Keep each other safe and as sane as possible.