The price of Activism 2

Peter Tatchell is 60, lives in a small council flat, remains as busy as a bee trying to continue the work he has chosen for himself for the last 45 years, and is still single, well … alone. In the interview he gives to Gay Star News, you get the clear impression that Tatchell would do it all again if he could roll back the years.

But, goodness, the price he has paid makes you wonder how he has put up with being an activist for so long. The physical assaults (he counts more than 300), echoing in the wilderness to an unresponsive audience like John the Baptist , the tussles with despotic presidents’ operatives, the never ending campaigning on a shoe-string budget, the enduring loneliness (alone-ness?). Any one of those would have deterred the faint of heart. But Tatchell has kept going, and seems ready to keep going till he keels over.

Peter Tatchell  personifies true activist’s lot in struggles that have succeeded; selfless, bold, determined, controversial and relentless.

On the frontline: Peter Tatchell

Why do they do it? The simple answer to this question is that I don’t know. I wouldn’t do it; I am too worldly, too mindful of the need for circumspection in many things that we do (some might call this cowardice, but there you have it) and too scatterbrained to stay with any cause for 45 years – my attention would wander to something else in about 3 months.

Peter Tatchell makes the excellent case about what activism should not be about. If you are in it for the money, for the fame, for your ego, you likely need to find a different profession. The idea that one should become an activist to get rich exists in some minds of course but money clearly becomes a distraction if it is the driving force.

People like Tatchell can lay claim to the successes they have (see what he sees as his major accomplishments here) because they understood that these kinds of struggles are bigger than the individual. It would of course be foolish to think that Tatchell has not in part been driven by the notoriety the bully pulpit has given him over the years.

There has to be a certain level of ego-tripping else one might never get out of bed on a cold, rainy day to crow about the same message that has been ignored for months if not years. It should thus not be a point of shame if a certain amount of drive is fueled by the attention the activist gets.

Whether it is for totally altruistic intentions, craving for attention, a selfless desire to fight for the dispossessed, notoriety, awards, etc., I wouldn’t do it. And, to me, that is the reason why people like Peter Tatchell deserve to catch a break. At 60 he should at least have someone he calls his own to come home to.