I came upon an interesting conversation in our AfroSphere on what sacrifices one is willing to make in relation to being an activist against injustice through utilizing internet resources. In the cyber age where one may feel some (false) sense of security and empowerment, due to the vast numbers of bloggers, web sites and the “supposed” anonymity associated with being a faceless moniker (or avatar), the question becomes once that veil has been lifted: “what is the real level of one’s commitment to their cause(s)?” Terry Howcott makes this point in this way:

“The question then becomes will you tighten your understanding of what activism is – because activism is not a hobby. Activism is specifically defined the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc. The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.”

There is indeed a sense that “Activism” within the cyber world is redefining our understanding of and stretching the boundaries of that concept. In my estimation, the above definition used is too limiting and confining to encompass this new phenomenon, however the reprecussions are just as real! There is no doubt in my mind that being involved in “cyber activism” can get you “white-listed”, harassed, monitored, surveilled, intercepted, arrested, interrogated and yes…. maybe even killed? AND I am refering to North America, Europe and not China, Iran nor North Korea. Or am I being too dramatic!? Terry Howcott stated:

“In that light, it’s always possible you might be arrested and it’s very possible you won’t. If you and some friends are out driving tonight and you come across a road that is desolate and no one around – and you see a police officer beating and kicking a Black man who is not responding or fighting back – would you act as an activist and risk going to prison? Or would you think such intervention outside the confines of your perception of activism as a hobby?” 

“A hobby?”…. hmmm. I had a recent (minor) experience which opened my eyes to the possibility of being identified through blogging. I had blogged about a course I attended through the organization I work for and I subsequently received a comment from someone who stated that they were applying for a position with that organization…. and wished for us to connect. Now I am not trying to be an “anonymous personality” when I blog, but it showed me that if I had said something negative about my organization, it could have had real reprecussions. I know for a fact that the organization I work for has a media division which peruses the news, internet and blogs daily, for any reference to them.

Now I am not one to fall into the paranoia of conspiracy theories, but if one doesn’t know that ALL so-called “western democracies” do have agencies monitoring websites and blog pages for “undesirable content” (whatever that may mean to them), AND they can very easily identify who you are and where you live…. then you are like “an ostrich with it’s head in the sand”. There are numerous mainstream media stories of non-violent and non-threatening groups like the Quakers and other senior citizens peace activists, who are purposely infiltrated by federal agents and some of their members are even placed on “no-fly lists”. Terry Howcott continues:

“These are critical questions to ask oneself when determining if activist engagement is for you. Activism is acting out a level of integrity and decency. Seeing disenfranchisement and injustice and resolving to doing something about it is activism.” 

So my question is what are you willing to sacrifice for “integrity and decency”? Your career? Your finances? Your reputation? Your security? What cost are you willing to pay for helping, enlightening and empowering those of African descent by cyber activism? Look to history, recent history, to get an idea of what road you may be embarking upon. Or am I being too dramatic? Let me end with Terry Howcott:

“The committment to what is right is a risky affair.”