Half-Assed Activism – A Rant

Something that bothers me so much and angers me to my core is people simultaneously calling for change and yet carrying out actions that directly go against their values.

For example, all of my friends claim to be anti-Trump and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights yet many continue to buy from Chick-Fil-A even though they know this company donates huge amounts of money to anti-LGBTQ+/homophobic and pro-Trump organizations.

Similarly, all of my friends claim to be concerned about the environment and climate change, yet are unwilling to adopt a vegan diet (and are financially within their means to) despite animal agriculture being the source of a huge chunk of environmental destruction and pollution – and certainly one of the easiest to change (as opposed to, say, transportation).

I feel like so many people are all talk and act only if it doesn’t limit them in any significant way. Otherwise, they’re unwilling to make sacrifices and find some excuse for not making them. It’s frustrating and infuriating to witness.

2 thoughts on “Half-Assed Activism – A Rant

  1. I was wondering: Would it be preferable (to you) for individuals to not participate in activism at all if their actions would render their activism “half-assed” as defined by this post?
    Additionally, I may be wrong but this post’s argument seems to be that “If you don’t back up your activism with your actions and you have the means to do so, then your activism is half-assed.” So the contrapositive (“If your activism isn’t half-assed, then you have the means to back up your activism with your actions and you do so”) is true. Thus, for an individual’s activism to not be “half-assed”, they would have to also act in ways according to their activism.
    But if it would be very costly for a person to back up their activism with their actions, presumably their activism would not be “half-assed”. I think this is what the parenthetical in this post’s second paragraph is trying to address, i.e., if an environmentalist didn’t have the financial means to become vegan their environmental activism wouldn’t be considered “half-assed”.
    But at what point can an individual be judged to have the means to back up their activism with action and unwilling to do so? Or in other words, at what point can an individual’s activism be judged to be “half-assed”? The Chik-Fil-A example is an egregious one, but how can someone other than the individual in question themselves judge whether they have the means to do so? Is it enough to judge someone’s monetary ability to back up their activism? What about time? Or even cultural connections (e.g., being unable to consume heritage foods)? Unless an individual explicitly stated, “Yes, I have the money and time and willingness to not consume foods traditional to my culture and [insert other possible costs here] to act according to my activism, but I still choose not to,” it seems that it’d be difficult to judge someone’s activism as truly “half-assed”.
    Some situations are as obviously hypocritical as the Chik-Fil-A one (an individual who consistently buys clothes from Forever 21 would obviously be engaging in “half-assed” activism against sweatshops if they ever protested against them) but a lot of other situations aren’t clear. I realize you never claimed that this definition of “half-assed” activism was a rigorous one! But if you have any thoughts about this (amidst the many other thoughts/projects you have in grad school) it would be interesting to hear them.

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    1. We should be careful not to over-intellectualize what I’m saying here and lose sight of my main point. Take this post for what it is: a rant – not an analysis of half-assed activism. There is no “argument” in this post. It’s not meant to be interpreted with a rigorous philosophical lens.
      The purpose of this rant was to call attention to a trend I have witnessed within my own social circles: That there is such a thing as half-assed activism, and it’s quite common, and it often appears in the form of people demanding change and attention towards some issue but *not in their own lives*, and it’s a form of hypocrisy because they want and expect others to do something about it but do not want to do something about it themselves, and this is a moral fault in their actions and they ought to change.
      But providing necessary and/or sufficient conditions for half-assed activism, as well as its epistemology (“how can we know when activism is half-assed?”), is not the aim of this post.
      The danger of over-intellectualizing what I’m saying here, as I hinted above, is that we lose sight of the point I’m making. If we focus on critiquing a technical definition of “half-assed activism” (which I wasn’t claiming to give in the first place), then we shift focus away from the idea that there is *in fact* such a thing as half-assed activism (whatever that may be – often times it shows up as a mismatch between call for action and an intention for action) and this is an area in which individuals can improve their lives from a moral standpoint.
      So this post is, as titled, a rant. What is the purpose of a rant? Well, firstly, to get something off one’s chest. More importantly, however, rants serve to draw attention to an issue and help bring about a realization in others. So maybe someone reads this post and thinks to themselves “yeah, this sort of thing rubs me the wrong way too but I’ve never been able to concretely put it into words,” or maybe someone realizes the ways in which their actions could better align with their values (e.g. “This isn’t food-related, but I realize I complain a lot about Trump but didn’t vote in the last election because I was too lazy. I’ll definitely register and participate in the next one.”)
      Maybe one day I’ll actually write something which aims to give an analysis of half-assed activism as a technical term, in which case questions like yours will be appropriate, but that’s not this post.
      And to answer your very first question: No, I don’t think I would. Just because some state of affairs isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we should rid ourselves of them altogether. On the flip side, that also doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t strive for improvement. πŸ™‚
      (This response is in part inspired by Ebels-Duggan’s paper “Autonomy as an Intellectual Virtue”, which I highly recommend you read. It explains the idea I’m trying to get at here far more eloquently than I have the ability to, and in general, has really helped shaped my outlook towards how to do philosophy.)
      Thanks so much for your comment! πŸ™‚

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