An activist response to abuse, personal and political

Published on, by Zainab Amadahy, March 10, 2011.

What if you were in a dysfunctional and abusive relationship? How many times would it be effective for you to ask or demand of your partner that s/he stop the abuse? How many times do you put up with situations where you have no choice but to defend yourself as best you can from vicious attacks against you and/or your children? How productive is it to argue or attempt rational discussion with your abuser in the hope s/he’ll see there error of her/his ways? How many times should you appeal to family, friends or authorities to exert influence over your abuser’s actions?

How much of your energy should be spent on trying to get your abuser to change, find supports or grapple with the demons that haunt her/him. At what point do you decide that you have to take care of yourself, draw on available supports and build the life you need and deserve? 

These questions are parallel to ones raised in a process I have gone through as an activist. I started seriously ruminating on such issues back in 2007 when, on the verge of burnout from all my activism work in Indigenous sovereignty and Palestinian solidarity, my body forced me, through illness, to take a year-long “break” … //

… When I reflect on most of the activities I have engaged in for the purposes of promoting social change, I feel as though I’ve sometimes made the worst choices possible in the context of an abusive society.

While it’s clear that many activists maintain a healthy balance of pro-action and reaction, this article is for those like myself, who may have difficulty finding the balance and/or feel pressured by other activists to engage in activities they don’t feel are effective.

The case to establish that capitalist ideology, corporate power and governments are abusive is not a difficult one to make. Stats and stories on poverty, homelessness, racism, homophobia, ableism, police violence and daily assaults on the environment prove that our society is dysfunctional and that those in power get away with heinous crimes every day … (full long text).

(Zainab Amadahy is a mother, writer and activist. Her publications include the novel Moons of Palmares (1998, Sister Vision Press) as well as an essay in the anthology Strong Women’s Stories: Native Vision & Community Activism, (Lawrence & Anderson, 2004, Sumach Press). Most recently Zainab has contributed to In Breach of the Colonial Contract (Arlo Kemp, Ed. 2008) by co-authoring “Indigenous Peoples and Black People in Canada: Settlers or Allies?”).

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