It’s 2016, and we’re square in the middle of a season of online activism, also known as #ACTIVISM, also known, pejoratively, as slacktivism. Regardless of your opinion of people taking part in activist protests from the armchair comfort of Twitter, the internet has given rise to more and more attention being paid worldwide to activist movements wherever they sprang up. And 2015 saw no shortage of these movements. From Boston to Portland to Syria, here are the causes that the world came out to support this year. The revolution most certainly will not be televised—to say nothing of its potential for streaming on Netflix—but it will be hashtagged.
1. SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS: The Syrian refugee crisis and the subsequent European protests are the undoubtedly the most historically prescient world of event of 2015 . Being the biggest migration since the Holocaust, the Syrian refugee crisis directly impacts 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and over half of them are children. The prospect of this mass migration, of which Europe is the primary destination, sparked major unrest primarily from the nascent anti-immigration and neo-fascist parties like the National Front in France and the UK Independence Party. One particularly disturbing example was video captured in a Hungarian border town that was seeing a passing of stateless Syrians, which turned into a sprint causing a Hungarian reporter at a far-right television network to repeatedly trip over migrants. Similarly, stateside we have seen contemptible action, with 31 states already rejecting accepting any of the modest 10,000 Syrians Obama proposed taking in. Compared to Germany’s plan to take in 800,000 migrants this year in a country 1/4th the population of ours and far more densely populated, US “aid” is quite paltry. But we’re protected by geography from Syria while Europe is not and they will have to contend with this crisis by assimilating as many Syrians as possible and as equitably as possible to avoid social unrest. The protests could be a bellwether for a future Europe wrought by social crises that are the result of Western imperialism coming home to roost.
2. #PRAYFORPARIS: The protests following the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the November 13th attacks saw an outpour of solidarity for not only the victims, but also the ideal of free expression as an inherent right. Within the first month of 2015, jihadists shot at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed a dozen staff members and police, opening up a dialogue about free speech, immigration, foreign military policy, and economic segregation. But it was later this year when three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafes, restaurants, and the Bataclan theatre concert hall, that the political discourse ramped up in intensity, establishing a ideological battle between a left committed to multicultural inclusion and a right increasingly defined by its nativism. Though #PrayforParis got more notoriety than any other world event this year, it stands in second place due the blatant fact that it’s awareness/outreach was so obviously commercialized, what with the Facebook profile pics, all too-soon clothing, and offensive inherent bias of western society to prioritize tragedy in the first world, whereas that tragedy is commonplace within the rest of the world.
3. #BLACKLIVESMATTER: In the 3 years since their starting in the heat of the Trayvon Martin case, Black Lives Matter has put police brutality back on the political agenda. Following the turmoil of Mizzou, Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, and other states across the U.S., it is fact that over 1,000 people have been killed since the beginning of January, and about 20% completely unarmed. Remembering names such as Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Jeremy McDole, Eric Garner, and countless others heard, the Black Lives Matter movement created a nationwide dialogue about the discriminatory policing in America, advocating for non-violent protests and bringing together people to take part in the fight for constitutional rights in a nation that unconditionally perpetuates racism. Thousands of people demonstrated solidarity across the U.S. as they brought together cities to realize the oppression felt by semantic racism within our police system and questions the consequences, or lack there of, for police terror. Though these crimes continue to be condoned under U.S. Law, and it’s common knowledge that the our criminal justice system has failed us, BLM should not be discounted, as the civil rights struggle has always been a long game, and getting the issue on the table is always the first step. The BLM movement is simply further empowering the American people to question why people of color have such an instilling lack of opportunity in this country, and further reflects on the issues with our education gap, poverty levels, and mass incarceration. “God bless all who have lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today.” (Janelle Monáe on police brutality and the BLM movement)
4. GREENPEACE: The Shell protests in Portland certainly were the most acrobatically impressive political statement of the year. In order to block a icebreaker ship headed for a Shell drill site in the Arctic, thirteen Greenpeace protesters suspended themselves from a bridge over the Willamette river, and at the same time, dozens of protestors in canoes and kayaks blocked off the waterway to help the ship from crossing. The protestors aimed to delay the passage of the boat in order to cause Shell to miss a season of drilling. Although the protest was eventually forcefully dispersed by the Sheriffs department, the environmental movement gained a symbolic victory that was later echoed in President Obama’s concession to halt Keystone XL pipeline plans, which was a oil pipeline system commissioned back in 2010. This brought a lot of public skepticism because the privately financed system imports the least refined oil and would have only created several thousand construction jobs during its formative two years, and only 35 permanent ones. NASA Climate scientist James Hansen said it best on InsideClimate when he stated, “If he chooses the dirty needle it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction. Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer. So if the United States is buying the dirtiest stuff, it also surely will be going after oil in the deepest ocean, the Arctic, and shale deposits; and harvesting coal via mountaintop removal and long-wall mining. Obama will have decided he is a hopeless addict.”
5. REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: The struggle for Planned Parenthood to retain funding amid an extremist Republican Congress wraps up our list for 2015. For the last 42 years since the Roe vs. Wade abortion verdict, the Republicans have been waging a nonstop war to try and deny women fundamental control of their reproductive function. This again reached a critical point in 2015 with a increasingly ideologically extreme GOP that was willing to can Planned Parenthood, and all its other vital services for female public health such as prenatal care, STD testing, and family planning, in order to greatly reduce the availability of abortions. The premise of this newest assault was a botched video instigated by a pro-life group implying that Planned Parenthood was harvesting fetal tissue for quick cash, when in actuality they were donating the parts for scientific research with a nominal fee to cover transportation costs. With the historic levels of political polarization in this country, the Republican party was in lockstep in supporting the measure to defund the organization of its $582 million yearly budget, and the Democrats typically supported maintaining funding. However, the most interesting developments took place not in the halls of Congress, but in the ground level. At the same time as we saw massive outrage from women and people who actually respect civil rights across campuses, workplaces, and social media, in November a gunman shot and killed 3 people in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. This is the consequence of the Republicans fanning the flames within their base with extremist rhetoric – we are seeing a constituency more radicalized and with a deep contempt for democratic values. The defunding is being resisted for the time being, due to having a president sympathetic to a woman’s right to choice, but as states have some degree of autonomy in drafting their budgets, we will continue to see them try and savage PP funding until at least 2018, when the mid-term elections come and America can hopefully flush some of congressional crazies down the toilet back into the backwaters they came from.