Don’t hold on to the climate

The recent political turmoil and manipulation experienced in Madagascar led many of the ever so opinionated Malagasy to fear reprisal if they were to take on the streets and protest. Here is a valued aspect of advocacy and activism – there are many alternatives. One of which is slacktivism.

It has been repeatedly said around tables at home, in cafés and restaurants that “something” must be done for one cause or another. Poverty? Injustice? Political manipulation? Involvement of the international community in our politics?

Indeed, in the midst of this political unpredictability we must be careful not to contribute to the confusion. Yet, standing aside and leaving causes worth fighting for be reported to a later time is not an option. At a time when the majority of the population is attentive to Madagascar’s well being one must act, that time is now ! Manifest into actions those never ending criticisms. Enough heard already. Do something!

The-rise-of-the-Slacktivist


What is slacktivism?

Slacker ? Activist? Well guess what you can be both and still make an impact. If you don’t want to take the streets for whatever reason then be a slacktivist, it is ok !

Slacker and activism are the two little words to brand a new age “feel-good” measure of making an impact in your world. Slacktivism has become somewhat of a buzzword when it comes to demeaning the electronic versions of participation, may it be political of otherwise. Slacktivist activities include signing internet petitions, joining a community organization, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages.

You are not a lonely bowler

Skeptics have raised valuable arguments opposing this approach to advocacy. Namely the view that internet activities are ineffective, or that they lessen real life political participation or other forms of civic engagement. Robert Putnam, a political scientist and Harvard professor has argued that citizens are becoming “lonely bowlers” who no longer interact socially. As a result they are no longer willing to take part in political matters. May be so, but the beauty of the social dynamics of Madagascar renders it an ideal breeding ground for a mixture of both.

 The willingness is there, unfortunately so is the fear, the hesitation. Those who are well ingrained in their causes willing to lead should go ahead and do so. Giving others the opportunity to follow and support. Malagasy, we think we are lonely bowlers but give us an opportunity to gather and we will. This is when slacktivism comes into play. There are already some precedence: “liking” an NGO’s status, signing petitions to strengthen conservation projects, paypal donations to so and so charities. Let take it a step further !

Tools you need for your slacktivism

Social media and new technology are your essential tools. These are extremely versatile and adaptable means for civic engagement in the 21st century. They can be used for any purpose: to seem “cool”, to develop a business and lately for social change. Hence, it can be used to destroy or build depending on the purpose of its user.

Make sure your message is well researched, informative and tailored to your audience. That been said, I can already hear the typical excuse: “not all Malagasy have access to the internet”. Guess what? There are always alternatives: your mobile phones. Ilay foza-oran’e !

 In 2009, there were 4 835 000 mobile phone users hence 25 % of the Malagasy population. In fact, this number doubled in 2011 to 43% hence 8 665 000. Seen as at least 20% of us are literate, logically if you can read you are most likely to own a mobile phone.

 Social media is also on the rise. The facebook, twitter, instagram and you-tube fever continues. If you have not heard about one of these you may have lived in a cave for the past decade. The Malagasy’s limitless curiosity will only strengthen our internet presence. These are the tools you need for your slacktivism. Bear in mind the importance of being well informed so as to reinforce your impact.

58_Slacktivism_300x217

 Civic engagement through slacktivism, why not?

Noticing, an increasing number of groups using new technology and social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective actions in Madagascar is a breath of fresh air. We must continue opening up to the World. Continue informing our distant neighbors about Madagascar. Please let us talk about other topics and not just “the unique fauna and flora”. How cliché ! It is not the only cause that needs collective participation. How about: Political crisis? Democracy? Transparency? Upcoming elections? Or even our colonial history? And finally ! the ever growing consciousness and reactions on the manipulation of the “international community”.

We cannot all be chiefs

If we are so fearful to taken on the streets, then let’s be slackers. Instead share powerful messages, petitions or join organizations that stand up for our principles. See ! we cannot all be leaders. It is just the way it is. There will always be some chiefs and more indians.

If we were all intending to be chiefs of within a household, at church or for a social change organization, nothing will be achieved. Chiefs, elaborate that researched and targeted cause and spread it. Followers, show your support in a concerted effort.

We can criticize and moan all we want on national radio and we should, but let us aim for an even larger impact: the international community itself. The citizens of those countries who only view Malagasy as confused, powerless, manipulated population. Show them how mistaken they have been. I have never experienced such an opinionated and passionate population! We know it, but do others know?

 Andao ary i-slacktivist e!

Activism has taken on a new route and we, Malagasy cannot and should not fall behind, use it to our advantage. Let us be opportunistic. I have witnessed first hand the firing dedication inside us when it comes to our own politics. A spoken desire for change but also an apparent hesitation.

Well, social media and new technology is there as your companion. It can shield you from the prejudice of others and that “gaz lacrimogène” you so fear of. No one is judging you so long as you do something within your capacity.

 So fellow Malagasy once again here is a call to use the digital tool of today to shape your future. For those with an internet presence, use it ! Reach beyond borders and please enough talks about that one endemic flower. It is time to explain clearly, share information abroad so as to strengthen your initiative for change on the Malagasy territory.

Remember we can be supporters, faces and ambassadors to shape Madagascar’s new future as slacktivists.

The motto is : samy mitondra ny anjara birikiny e !

 

Reporting from London

Michaella 




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