Activism and ... Failure

IssueOctober - November 2014

Failure? I don’t like thinking about my failures. I don’t like thinking about when groups fail either, or movements. If I’m honest, I do enjoy thinking about failures by people I don’t like. It’s important that some people fail in what they try to do – certain people!

I’ve failed at a lot of things in activism, and some of them it was right that I didn’t succeed because I was trying to do something stupid or counter-productive. Something that was actually bad for the cause.

I guess it depends quite a lot on what you’re aiming to do. With a court case, for example, I have never been acquitted – I think I have had charges dropped for some technical reason, but actually persuading the court that what we were doing was legally justified, I’ve never had that experience. I know some people have. But were we really trying to get acquitted, was that the point of the whole effort, the whole action? If we were trying to stir people’s consciences and make people think again about the war, or about nuclear weapons, and trying to make whatever policy was being pursued more costly, more difficult for the future, and if we were trying to draw more people more deeply into the struggle, well... on some of those scores, we succeeded... quite often.

I think one of the things about failure is that when I fail, I usually feel like I am a failure, I am a person who cannot get things right – that I am a bad person. That is a terrible feeling. People say you should try not to take it personally, as a reflection on you, but that can be really hard.

Man, 40s

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