Why Am I An Activist?

Why am I an activist? I ask this question to myself sometimes, when the steadfast stress of being politically and socially aware at all times takes a toll on my mental health. I feel like I am angry all the time.

Being a social activist is not easy. It is definitely rewarding, but not easy. I am not aggressively active in politics and I haven’t cut ties from the luxuries of my privileges like some activists have. But even then, the constant spiral of knowing that antiquated stereotypes are continuously keeping certain groups of people from accessing opportunities has the tendency of leaving you feeling a little emotionally exhausted.

I am a woman of color, and that in itself are two categories of people who are subjected to constant discrimination. As a woman and a person of color who is conscious of being negatively stereotyped by society, I don’t have much of a choice other than to advocate against sexism and racism.

But men, white men, white women, these people all have certain privileges over me that allow them to not have to face the same challenges that I do. So when I see a man speaking out against sexist discrimination in the work place like the gender pay gal, even though he was never personally affected by it, it makes me realize how important it is for everyone to be an activist. Everyone needs to feel this same anger. It is only when we are angry that we can rage a change in the society.

I have come to realize that being an activist should never be about what affects you and only you – although that can be an acute motivation – it should be about what affects the society and all the other marginalized sections negatively incorporated in it. Just like I want someone who doesn’t have to deal with sexism or racism to use their privilege to allow me to have a louder voice, I will use my privilege to allow those who do not have a platform as large as mine.

I am an activist because I care, not only about the problems that I have to face, but about the problems that are keeping those around me from reaching their fullest potential.

I am an activist because I believe in equality so notoriously that I am willing to give up the tactile peace of not caring, as should you.

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India’s Energy Crisis

The Indian economy has been running on fuel since the very beginning of energy consumption. This fuel has been largely generated by the burning of fossil fuels.

The spike in the use of fossil fuel occurred during India’s industrial revolution, under the probing of the British Crown. Of course during the period when this was taking place (early to mid nineties), the consumption of fossil fuel had never been linked to environmental degradation. In fact, the impact of rapid industrialization had never been seen as a negative prelude to the environment. During this period of expanding economies and growing hostilities in the political sphere (which lead to an increase in the burning of fossil fuel for military purposes) the environment was hidden under the backdrop of economic growth.

But lately, since global warming has been consuming environmentalists and the dire lack of fossil fuels has become a striking truth, it is becoming increasing important for India (as well as other developing countries) to become more conscious about their fuel consumption.

India’s energy consumption presently consists of more than 80% fossil fuels, this essentially means that India primarily relies on the most polluting form of energy for economic and industrial survival.

While India has taken comprehensive steps towards promoting the use of more eco-friendly measures like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), it’s use nationwide has still been formidably limited.

Developing countries are obliged to look at the needs of their citizens first. With limited resources and a large population at hand, it is virtually impossible for India to make any substantial changes in its energy consumption any time soon.

It is in this period of globalization and increasing international collaborations on environmental protection that I think it is becoming very important for leading countries to look at developing countries as potential investments. It is time to invest in true human security, the security of human sustenance (which is everything that we find in nature) won’t be taken away from us.

If developing countries realize that their duty to their citizens is economic development, then they should also realize that their prime duty is to protect the basic human right: right to life and liberty. We cannot live in a concrete jungle polluted by a consumerist agenda, we need the reassurances than the environment will be protected for our generation as well as generations to come. And for this we need the developed countries, those which have already prospered economically in a period where environmental impact was blindsided, to use their privilege to provide for the developing countries.

Countries like India need substantial aid in setting up hydroelectricity as well as solar power. Sharing resources that can help in leaving a cleaner footprint should be vital to the global goals as well as the international forum. It is through collaboration that earth can prosper safely.

The Child Separation Policy: An Aftermath of Trauma

I recently read an article about the effects of The Child Separation Policy (initiated by POTUS Donald Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen) and it was quite horrifying, to the say least. Being a liberal, I had never supported the Immigration Policies that Trump had put forward, but I had failed to imagine how traumatic it would be for immigrant families to be torn apart within a matter of days.

The Child Separation Policy, inherently strives to separate US-born children from immigrant parents. Consequently, the parents are deported and the children are kept in set-aside “camps” which lack any real educational or health facilities, and are expected to grow up there, without the presence of any family member or anyone whom they can trust.  It really does sound barbaric and makes me wonder how such a policy could have ever come into effect in such a socially active country.

The story I read highlighted how an immigrant woman (mother of two children) had been deported from The United States and forced to move back to Mexico. When her husband and her children came to visit her, her eldest son (around five years old) believed that his mother had left him on purpose and refused to be around her; and her youngest daughter (perhaps a year old) couldn’t even recognize her.

This woman’s children were traumatized by having their mother ripped apart from their family when they were at such a tender age. I can’t even begin to imagine how the mother would have felt once she was finally reunited with her family but greeted like a stranger by her own children. People need to realize the negative and long-lasting effect such a policy can have on those affected by it.

There are, of course, people who do support the extreme rightist Immigration Policies implemented by the Trump Administration; but even if you do believe that illegal immigrants should be deported from the country, you must realize that there has got to be a better way to do that. How can someone think that tearing up families, traumatizing young children, making children stay in small camps and grow up thousands of miles away from their families is a good idea, or even a humane one?

My heart goes out to all the families and individuals who were effected by this blatantly racist and conservative policy. The time has come for America to act out against this brutality. We, as human beings, should realize that we are citizens of the world before we are citizens of any particular country.

Indian Politics and the Middle Class

Indian politics is vastly different from western politics, and these differences emerge not only from its geographical position, but also from the ideals and opinions inbred in the Indian Parties since Independence.

Since independence in 1945 from The British Crown, India has experienced a diverse leadership in parties like the Congress and BJP, as well as many dominant alliances between several parties.

But while this agglomeration of parties may provide a facade of idealistic diversity, it can be noted from the political history of India that Indian politics has widely been directed in the same, agrarian issues.

Due to the vast composition of farmers and rural peasant in the Indian population, the leadership has always stressed on rural development and development of the agricultural sector.

While this is a good step forward to bridging income inequalities, it does little to satisfy the growing needs of the urban middle class. And in practice, these policies that allegedly benefit the rural section, have only caused a slight increase in their standards of living. A large section of the Indian population continues to slug in poverty. All the while the middle class continue to slug in the lack of liberal political development.

Issues like rape culture, reproductive rights, abortion, gay marriage, trans rights, etc. – issues that have been emerging and developing in western countries, have failed to grip the Indian political scenario.

Indian politics continues to walk the meek path of pushing rural development, solidifying religious identities, and pushing for the Indian cultural values to be dominant.

While I agree that rural development is an important and substantial issues, focusing on only these antiquated policies has resulted the interest in Indian politics by the middle class to die down.

The younger generation, the generation of students and youths that is soon coming forward, need a government that focuses on liberalization in its society and social rights. The Indian political scenario needs to accept the changing social situation and encompass ideals like feminism, abortion rights, lgbt+ rights, etc. into its constitutional development.

Opinions vs Oppression

I’ve heard from people, usually those trying to justify their stereotyping, that it is hard to differentiate between opinion and oppression. That since we live in a free country, we have the right to voice what we think, the right to perhaps bring an action to our opinion.

While the latter sentence is true, I don’t, however, think that it is really all that hard to find a difference between an opinion and an act of oppression.

An opinion can be anything, it doesn’t always have to be political. Someone might not particularly like the color purple, it is their opinion. What is not an opinion, however, is if someone doesn’t “like” a group of people solely based on their race, sexuality, sexual orientation, etc. Because not liking a person or group of people due to inherent stereotypes is not simply having an unfavorable opinion – it is oppression.

Recently, there have been many anti-Semitic attacks surfacing in the United States and there is one very blatant thing they have in common with anti-black KKK attack, besides fascism, is that everyone associated with them somehow justify their hatred by saying that they have a right to free speech and the right to have an opinion.

But the fact is, while everyone may have the right to free speech, it does not mean that we also have the right to be protected against its social repercussions. So when a Nazi receives backlash for their fascist beliefs, it is not an attack on their freedom to articulate an opinion, but it is an attack on their oppression of a certain section of society.

As we grow into an interconnected world where there are vast differences in opinion, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and identify the clear line between expressing your opinion or exercising oppression.

So the next time some sexist or racist or just an overall prejudiced dude tries to tell you that you don’t deserve something that you’re entitled to and then proceeds to hide behind the facade of freedom of expression, make sure that they hear loud and clear that their “expression”  isn’t an opinion if it undermines the existence of someone else.

Attacking Feminism Through Homophobia

Feminism has always been an unnecessarily controversial topic, one that has been attacked through many stances and perspectives. Through my reading of Cynthia Enloe’s book “Bananas, Beaches, and Bases” I have learned that whenever the well-established notions of masculinity and patriarchy are challenged, the people who have thought to benefit from them have always opposed these changes.

I will, perhaps, talk about toxic masculinity and how it has overshadowed the plight of patriarchy in another blog. But right now, I want to talk about a particular lens through which feminism has been attacked since the day it emerged as a movement and even till today.

Homophobia and sexism are an omnipresent aspect of any society, and even though we are moving in a more progressively liberal direction, these issues still continue to plague our political, as well as social, spheres.

Many opponents of the feminist movement called women who identified as feminists as “lesbians” or “dykes.” Whether they were, in fact, homosexuals, is irrelevant. They were called “lesbians” in order to disparage them, it was used as a derogatory term. In the United States, even till the late twentieth century (and even now amongst many homophobic people), there was an unspoken custom to derogate a particular cause by labeling it as “gay.”

This isn’t something that has worn down through the legalization of gay marriage and the gradual acceptance of the LGBT+ community. In fact, today, people have started calling men who reject the notions of toxic masculinity and accept and support feminism as “gay.” Just because they do not portray inherent ideals of “manliness” they are called gay. This is not only a homophobic trend but also one that makes it socially harder for men (and women) to call themselves feminists.

By supporting a movement that advocates for equal rights for all of the sexes and challenges the dangerous notions of patriarchy, one doesn’t lose his “manliness” or her appeal to other men.

It is these very inbred notions that we need to challenge; and that is why feminism remains and will always remain, a very important issue in the political, social, and economic space.

Adoptions vs Abortions

Recently I was asked a question by an acquaintance while we were moldy discussing healthcare reforms: What are other options for women looking for an abortion.

He wanted to know that if a woman who was seeking an abortion could be provided with an alternative choice. He was looking to facilitate the “adoption vs abortion argument.”

But really, I don’t even think of that as an argument. Mainly because there isn’t a choice between abortion and adoption. The two are different decisions to be made by the pregnant person at different times during their pregnancy/post pregnancy.

Other than abortion, the only choice is to carry the pregnancy to full term.

Let me just clear a misconception: adoption is not an alternative to abortion.

The only alternative to abortion is carrying the pregnancy to full term. The alternative to adoption is to keep the child with yourself or with a family memeber.

So, if the pregnant person does not wish to seek an abortion, then the pregnancy is carried to full term. Once the baby is born, it is either given up for adoption or raised by the parent/s.

And there really is nothing that one can “do” about a person’s decision to not have an abortion. That is why pro choice is called what it is called. It is all about respecting the choice and the rights of the individual.

We will respect your decision even if that isn’t something we (or I) would have done personally in that same situation.

Is the Pro Life Label Apt for the Movement

To me, the pro life label seems a little hypocritical. If you care so much about life, then you would recognize the need to make abortion legal, safe, and accessible to everyone.

Hundreds of women die because they cannot access abortion facilities and are this forced to use back alley abortions or self induced abortions which can be very detrimental to the health, if not lethal.

Even women who don’t want an abortion but need it due to medical reasons, like the pregnancy being harmful to their health or that they might be giving birth to a still born child or a child with a terminal disease, are sometimes denied abortions because of the doctors being “pro life.” This happens in many countries and even in the United States. How can you call yourself pro “life” when you can’t even attend to someone who is already sentient?

Also, many pro life proponents are also against comprehensive sex education and birth control, mostly because of their religious or ethical beliefs. Contraception and compressive sexual education plays a heavy role in decreasing unwanted pregananies and abortion rates. So if you really wanted to lower the rate of this medical procedure, you should be supporting the aforementioned causes.

I have increasingly come to realize the pro life is just a propaganda to uphold the beliefs of a particular section of the society and integrate it into politics.

I think the most apt choice to decribe pro life proponents is anti choice, because that is what they are. They are against giving people a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies.

What The Handmaid’s Tale Really Teaches Us

Recently, I had an online conversation with a particularly conservative young woman who was enthusiastically boasting about how her favorite Netflix series, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was inherently pro-life.

I am not exactly unaccustomed to hearing the pro-life proponents dictate their agenda through completely irrational and illogical reasons like, “the Bible says so,” or “but it’s a woman’s duty to give birth,” and even “the baby has feelings.” But this particular woman had absolutely misunderstood an entire series and was using it to advocate for taking away women’s right to chose.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a lot of things, but it is definitely not pro-life.And you don’t need to take my word for it, even the author of the book, Margaret Atwood who is very pro choice, has declared that this story was written as a warning sign for a word in which pro-life and anti-women policies were actually implemented. If you are using this series to propagate your pro life beliefs, your argument is already too flawed to even be an argument. Because then you are saying that the future you believe in is one in which the women are stripped away from any rights at all and are completely and unwillingly controlled by a dominating religious institution. And even the most conservative of people wouldn’t dare advocate publicly for a future as drear and inhuman as that.

In fact, this popular series is actually pro choice and goes to show that taking away women’s reproductive rights goes hand in hand with taking away their fundamental rights. You cannot tell someone what they can and cannot do with their bodies without indirectly treating them as lesser than human. The pro life sentiment promotes nothing else except slavery, because that is what the movement is – women being forced into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, their bodies being treated like it is not their own.

Straw Ban and the Real Perpetrators of the Ocean

Unless you have completely shielded yourself from environmental news or news of any kind, you would know that the #StrawBan is a sentiment that is not only forming itself into a possible policy advocation, but also as an initiation to hold individuals more responsible for the environment.

This new movement advocates for individuals to minimize waste, especially plastic waste. It raises awareness that most, if not all, the plastic that we use goes into the ocean as waste. It is not biodegradable and just floats around like debris in the ocean, poisoning the very thing that gives us life. Many sea creatures as well as birds have been fatally harmed due to the inordinate amount of plastic in our oceans.

But while this trend of using reusable items like metal straws is definitely worth following, it does retract the blame from the real perpetrators who have polluted our oceans.

Big corporations, like the fishing industry or chemical industries, discharge large amounts of waste which is only very minimally treated and this waste almost always ends up in the ocean.

Over forty percent of the plastic content in the ocean comes from fishing nets left by the big fishing corporations. Deformed or malfunctioning plastic paraphernalia is also discarded into the ocean by industries. And even though everyone knows this truth, it has failed to leave a prominent stand on media.

Individuals should definitely leave behind eco friendly footprints and lead a more sustainable lifestyle, but multinational corporations shouldn’t be held any less accountable for the amount of waste that they generate and the method in which they discard it. We need to put more pressure on CEOs and for-profit institutions to follow an eco friendly and less wasteful method of production.