Tori Tsui
Climate Justice Activist, Researcher and Writer

The word activist has become such a term of contention. I see squabbles breaking out over who is an activist, who gets to be an activist and who deserves the term. It’s as though one has to jump through certain hoops and tick a number of boxes before qualifying as one. And I’m not referring to those whose ancestral and cultural roots speak to the power of stewardship. This is a broader statement about the demands of perfectionism in our movements.

I’ve seen how the far right has described it as a woeful and sanctimonious signal for wokeness. I’ve witnessed people distance themselves from the term for fear of being impostors even though what they do by definition constitutes activism. There is no threshold to become an activist or participate in activism.

The amount of energy that gets expended back and forthing about semantics might be better spent elsewhere. My good friend and fellow co-founder of the Bad Activist Collective - a space striving to dismantle the guise of perfectionism in activism - Julia Gentner aptly describes being an activist as ‘low hanging fruit’. I couldn’t agree more, the litmus test of activism has a low threshold. Seriously, anyone can be an activist. An activist is someone who campaigns for social or political change, whatever that means to you.

If we’re to talk about the nuances of activism, we should really be talking about inequalities within activism, the co-opting of activism for capital gain and the fostering of individualism within activist spheres. Not all activists are equally revered, granted the same opportunities, listened to or amplified. Not all activists act on the importance of coalition building and organising. Not all activists believe in nuance and celebrating their comrades. That’s when one might say not all low hanging fruit is given the same resources and attention as other more so-called voluptuous and nutritious counterparts.

Because like most things, this capitalistic system has found a way to seep into the radical woodworkings of activism and dub some activists more valuable than others, fostering individualism over coalition, prioritising the privileged few. I imagine the fruit born from the trees of eurocentricity and performance are prized much more highly in this system than those grown from the foundations of survival and love for the earth and its people.

Pamela EA Activist

A low hanging, early spring morning apple, protected by the leaves in the valley of Orient. Mallorca, Spain, 2021
Photography By Pamela EA