I picked up my first copy of Prufrock magazine this month and so far it has been a great read. Yesterday on my train ride home I read the short piece written by Rosa Lyster about her experiences growing up in a politicised family and the expectations that created for her about what it meant to be an activist.
I loved the pace of her writing, the introspection and the dry humour. It was a well thought through piece that made you want to read and find out if the visiting Egyptian scholar would be as serious as he was built up to be, as well as Lyster’s surprise/delight/enthusiasm when he was, but was also so much more.
The most resounding thing (other than the really lovely pace of the writing and dry humour) was the idea that most people think that activists are ‘not normal’ but have something else wild or revolutionary about them. As an activist for women’s rights I often get frustrated by people who think like this, and really frustrated by people who choose to do nothing because it seems like too much effort. All the activists I know are just normal people, living in the world, doing the best they can to change it for the better. This last bit is usually done after hours (unless they are lucky enough to work as full time activists) and so it really is just normal people committing something. Deciding that to do nothing is (really embarrassing, uncool, the worst) not acceptable.
I also liked the idea of activists as normal because there are a few activists in SA who seem to get a reputation as the ‘super activist’ and they ride on this wave pretty hard. Most of the time they are, as Lyster allows for them to be, doing something important but not necessarily nice. So I thought it was important that given our past of glorifying those that made a difference to the point where they were able to do unspeakable things, and be forgiven, we reflect on how that’s not always the best way to go about it.
So I encourage you to read it, and if you don’t feel like you’re an activist, to think about the ways that you could do something small about something you’re unhappy with in the world, and then to do it.
Rosa is a writer and poet based in Cape Town and you can follow her on twitter at @RosaLyster