I often wonder about what I’m finding to be the biggest taboo in being an activist: the Fear factor. When you’re advocating and struggling for a more egalitarian society, when you’re putting yourself out there in solidarity with people oppressed everywhere, it is inevitable you make some enemies along the way, the first in line of course being the governments you’re criticizing and their supporters.
What baffles me is that very few activists around me seem to show any fear. Is that just me, or is admitting fear a sign of a weakness or of some sort of bourgeois paranoia? Because when I dare to utter that yes, sometimes, I get scared, mostly not for me but for others close to me I’m most often met with very judgmental stares, as in: you’re just a coward.
To which I feel inclined to answer: kindly stop judging, for if I’m a coward, you can very well be considered reckless.
I honestly don’t consider myself a coward (who would anyway), I say loud and clear what I think, but doing so doesn’t prevent me from getting that pang of stress, nurtured with what ifs? What if we get arrested? What if things turn ugly?
I guess this is just something every activist and active citizen in our region needs to take into account and come to terms with because, well, it is part of our life. The issue I find the most difficult to deal with, however, is the anxiety I feel for other people. In a weird twist of my brain (just one more) I get more anxious about what could happen to friends and family than what could happen to me. And that really, does my head in.
The issue there is that I don’t really feel I can be open about fears to other activists, as, given the previous reactions I have received; I always feel I’d be looked down on. Some of them want you to be more radical and see any (and I mean it, any) precautions you take as a felony, and just like that, you’re written off as a traitor to the cause while others seem kind of sorry for you that you’re not that good an activist. I wonder, who ever said all activists should be the same, who ever said that the level of risks you’re willing to take is the measure against which your commitment will be measured?
I find it mind boggling, the pressure that is on us to be SuperWoman and Super Man at all times. Not everyone can be SuperActivist, the person who shows and feels no fear, It takes special qualities and special skills to do that, and I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have them and that yes, sometimes I yearn for a life where I wouldn’t be stressed all the time, where what’s happening around me doesn’t affect me so much, where I’m not anxious and worried and stressed even in the dreams I have (Last one: my husband was showing me a guy, telling me he was a great Tunisian revolutionary, all of this in my sleep). Sometimes, I yearn for a life where there are no knots in my belly, keeping me awake and preventing me to eat. And yes, I know the people we stand in solidarity with are in a much worse place, I have 1st world problems, yes. Don’t worry I have heard the contemptuous comments before, I know them by heart now.
Nevertheless, I still feel afraid sometimes, I’m a human and I have weaknesses. This is one of them. My fears will drive me sometimes to be careful, if only not to put other people on the line.
Nevertheless, I shall never stop saying loud and clear what I think, for despite my fears, I’m fully conscious that playing on fears is an excellent oppressor’s strategy to prevent people from voicing their discontent and anger.
Nevertheless, I shall try and break that taboo: if you’re scared sometimes, It’s normal, and healthy and don’t listen to others who pretend it never happens to them. Let them be superheroes, and carry on with your life.