Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Surviving the ups and downs of social movements


      
On August 1, 1976, 18 people entered the  Seabrook nuclear power plant's construction site and were arrested. (Lionel Delevingne)
On August 1, 1976, 18 people entered the Seabrook nuclear power plant’s construction site and were arrested. (Lionel Delevingne)

Those who get involved in social movements share a common experience: Sometimes, when an issue captures the public eye or an unexpected event triggers a wave of mass protest, there can be periods of intense activity, when new members rush to join the cause and movement energy swells. But these extraordinary times are often followed by long, fallow stretches when activists’ numbers dwindle and advocates struggle to draw any attention at all.

During these lulls, those who have tasted the euphoria of a peak moment feel discouraged and pessimistic. The ups and downs of social movements can be hard to take.

Certainly, activists fighting around issues of inequality and economic justice have seen this pattern in the wake of Occupy Wall Street. Many working to combat climate change have encountered their own periods of dejection after large protests in recent years. And even members of movements that have been very successful — such as the immigrant students who compelled the Obama administration to implement a de facto version of the Dream Act — have gone through periods of deflation despite making great advances. Further back in history, a sense of failure and frustration could be seen among civil rights activists following the landmark 1964 Freedom Summer campaign.
After intensive uprisings have cooled, many participants simply give up and move on to other pursuits. Even those committed to ongoing activism wonder how they can keep more people involved over the long haul.

Unfortunately, the fluctuating cycles of popular movements cannot be avoided.

Read more at:  http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/surviving-ups-downs-social-movements/

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