By Tim Hardy
For those who are house-bound through illness or disability, there are insurmountable barriers to public protest.
But that does not mean that your voice does not matter.
Technology can empower and amplify the voices of those who are too rarely heard in society, those who risk being the invisible victims of coalition cuts.
Most forms of conventional activism are about getting a message to as many people as possible, about drawing the attention of a notoriously fickle and superficial media industry to causes that have been misrepresented by those with vested interests. Often these are too complex to explain in a soundbite which is fatal in an industry that cares primarily with stopping people from switching channels or reading something else. A dramatic, theatrical protest catches the eye, draws the crowds and the cameras, pins attention long enough for some of the message to get through.
Great writing, great drama, great stories can have the same effect. To dismiss honest, powerful, personal accounts of living with disability as inferior to pounding the pavements, knocking on doors and handing out leaflets is arrogant.
I believe that most people are fundamentally good and that honest speech, discussion, journalism, art and fiction all play a key role in increasing our understanding of one another and developing the empathy needed to build better, more inclusive ways of living.
Nobody would deny that it takes more commitment to write an article for One Month Before Heartbreak than it does to click “Like” or share a story via social networks. If you insist on being scornful, you can regard the writers as showing more commitment than the readers if that really makes you feel superior. But here I would argue that online activism is a valid label to describe the courageous act of sharing through writing; and that the solidarity the act creates with others who read, share and are motivated to write too is as real as the solidarity of the march.
As part of this refusal to remain silent, those who cannot make it to the protests on Monday physically for the National Day of Cuts Against Benefit Claimants on the 24th January 2011, the internet also gives one a chance to make your voices heard via the second troll a Tory day where participants are encouraged to let those behind these savage cuts face the anger of those they would like to pretend do not exist.
Sometimes there is no distinction between online and offline activism.
Dismissing the former out of hand merely reinforces the barriers to protest and makes you part of the problem.