Armchair Activism: Effetes Don’t Fail Me Now


After 9/11, President Bush urged a horrified nation to visit Disneyland. This, he explained, would show terrorists that Americans couldn’t be deterred from their God-given right to pursue happiness.

“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. However, the mice will switch all of your street signs.” Taz Mopula

Since then, consumerism-as-political-statement has gained widespread acceptance. This notion seems uniquely American, an odd kluge of our actual religion, Capitalism, and Christianity, the religion we talk about and pretend to respect.

“The only constant is change; well, that and the resistance to change. So, actually, there are two constants.” Taz Mopula

The old sales incentive of – “the more you shop the more you save” – has been cleverly adjusted to mean – “the more stuff you buy for yourself the more giant pandas you save” – as lovely a bit of self-serving pretzel logic as you will ever find.

“New app enables users to bravely condemn global injustice and insult authority figures without budging from Barcalounger.” Taz Mopula

The idea of making social activism a convenient, spectator sport really hit high gear with the ubiquitous acceptance of so-called social networking websites. Strolling their busy, digital boulevards you are constantly assaulted by the bizarre promise that – all you need to do is “click here” and you will cure [insert social evil]. Though certain that it’s facile, cheap, lazy, and too good to be true; you just do it.

“Humans can repair mechanical problems; but machines cannot repair human problems, only manifest them in new forms.” Taz Mopula

A while back I realized something truly dreadful: people don’t have problems, people are the problem. We fall in love with technology and believe it will cure, or at least compensate for, our faults – at best all it ever does is echo them.

“The main difference between changing a mind and changing a diaper is that changing a diaper is possible.” Taz Mopula

As a rule, real change is almost always frightening, painful, difficult, and exhausting. I never changed because I wanted to, or because I thought it would make me a better person. All my growth was driven by necessity, because the choice was simple – change or die.

Anyone who believes that one nimble mouse click will save the rain forest should probably be made to wear mittens.

“Leave only footprints in the snow; their eloquent silence shows the way.” Taz Mopula

Rather than pretending to remedy the world’s ills, why not work on the tiny corner of it where you can actually make a difference?

Published by Alistair McHarg

Alistair McHarg was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved immediately to Edinburgh, and three years later moved to Amsterdam. At 6 he settled in Philadelphia and for 16 years was confused by Quaker education; Germanton Friends School and Haverford College. A Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Louisville nudged him even closer to unemployability. Convinced at an early age that fate had chosen writing as his calling, Alistair followed a characteristically slow and circuitous path. He has found work as deck hand on a Norwegian tramp freighter touring South America, Bureau of Land Management Emergency Fire Fighter in Alaska, guide at a Canadian wilderness survival camp, truck driver crisscrossing Colorado's continental divide, and inner city cabbie. Alistair has been arranging words on paper for a living since 1983.