The first protest I ever went to was when I was 6 years old. What did I have to protest about at the age of 6? Not a lot, but Australia as a whole had an important message. In 2000, on a freezing cold morning in May (we stopped in the Blue Mountains on the way and played in the snow) my mum, dad, my aunties and cousins along with 250, 000 other people took to Sydney Harbor Bridge in support of Indigenous Australians.
This is a pretty distinct memory of mine, someone wrote ‘SORRY’ in the sky with an airplane and my feet hurt after walking all the way from Hyde Park to the bridge. What did stick with me, and has till this day is the coming together of people to represent something they believe in. That wasn’t my only experience with political activism at a young age. We also went to Sydney and Canberra to protest the war on Iraq.
I think these demonstrations taught me the value of becoming part of something bigger than yourself, and that every voice – even a six year old girl’s, can make a difference.
My best friend and I at our very first Protest for Peace
So what happened to my generation? I know I wasn’t the only kid at the protests I went to with my parents. Where did the marches and demonstrations go? Why doesn’t Gen Y seem to be present in political activism?
Well actually we’re still here, we’re just employing a new concept to make our voices heard. It’s called clicktivism. Oxford Dictionary describes clicktivism as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.” The most pressing issues for our generation (outlined by the age) are marriage equality, asylum seekers and climate change.
Clicktivism was employed recently with the now viral, rainbow-crossing trend. In homage to the rainbow crossing on Oxford Street (Sydney) being removed, James Brechney created a temporary rainbow chalk crossing in Surry Hills and put a photo of it on Facebook. People started to share the picture and within a week there were DIY rainbows sprouting up everywhere; from sidewalks and streets in Canberra…to Kenya.
It involved not only sharing photos and hashtaging #diyrainbow, but it also involved going out into the community and creating your own crossing to raise awareness about equal-marriage in YOUR neighbourhood.
Clicktivism is evident all around the world and is being used in many different ways for many different causes. In the case of Kony 2012, Henry Jenkins believes that many young people got their first experience of clicktivism by having the video forwarded onto them by classmates and friends. What was interesting about this case though, is that the only goal that the movement had was to create awareness about Joseph Kony and his crimes, in the hope that he would be arrested by the end of 2012.
Most of the campaign was based around people sharing and ‘liking’ the video on Facebook and unfortunately it has resulted in something called commodified activism. Essentially it’s taking activism and turning it into a novelty or trend, the issue gets lost behind the stickers and t-shirts and actions fall by the wayside to someone ‘liking’ a post on Facebook.
Here’s some slam poetry from a guy who feels pretty strongly about commodified activism