Today's Activism: Spontaneous, Leaderless, but Not Without Aim 沒單一領導人卻迅速聚人潮 社群媒體成現代抗爭最強領袖
文/John Eligon and Kimiko de Fr
In the sea of hundreds of protesters who gathered one evening near the intersection where George Floyd was killed, a lone voice rose from the crowd."Everybody sit down," it urgently ordered.Others chimed in — "Sit down! Sit down!" — scolding those, even journalists, who were slow to comply.
A few minutes later, Tony Clark, wearing a black face mask and an earring with the inscription "Not today Satan," bounded toward the center of the circle of seated bodies and took the megaphone."Everybody stand up," he commanded, contradicting the earlier speaker's instructions.The crowd rose.
"Stop barking orders," said Davi Young, a Marine veteran, twisting his face. "You're not the police."
Welcome to 21st-century activism, where spontaneous and leaderless movements have been defined by their organic births and guided on the fly by people whose preferences, motivations and ideas may not always align.
Leveraging technology that was unavailable to earlier generations, the activists of today have a digital playbook. Often, it begins with an injustice captured on video and posted to social media. Demonstrations are hastily arranged, hashtags are created and before long, thousands have joined the cause.
At the core is an egalitarian spirit, a belief that everyone has a voice, and that everyone's voice matters.
But leaderless movements have their challenges.It can be difficult to keep protests from spilling out of control, and difficult to maintain a clear and focused message. Disputes over the best strategies can easily emerge.
"I think it kind of does make it hard to manage because you don't know who's coming," said Maryan Farasle, a 17-year-old high school senior who lives in the Minneapolis suburbs and is an activist organizer. "You don't know the people showing up and what their intentions are."But at the same time, she added, "I think it is a way to get a lot of people together quickly."
But today's young activists also avoid singular leaders. "We've seen what happens to people in the past when they're the lead of anything," Farasle said, referring to civil rights leaders who have been slain.
Is a Pandemic the Right Time to Start a Business？ It Just Might Be 危機即轉機 疫情催生創業潮
In March, as small businesses across the country were shutting down amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic, Shanel Fields was about to open one up.
For Fields, the timing couldn't have been better. Her company, MD Ally, allows 911 dispatchers and other responders to route nonemergency calls and patients to virtual doctors, to help local governments improve their emergency response systems.
"Downturns or challenging times are seen as good times to start a business for two reasons," said Rashmi Menon, entrepreneur in residence at the University of Michigan's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. "One is, there is less competition for resources. The second reason is that whatever changes we face, positive or negative, bring up new customer needs. And customer needs are at the core of any business."
For Fields, opening now meant greater access to top talent. She hired her fourth employee and said more than 200 qualified applicants had submitted resumes. And being in the health care sector during a pandemic has raised her profile with funders and governments: MD Ally, which is based in Philadelphia, recently signed its first customer and closed its first round of investment worth $1 million.
"There are going to be industries that are winners, and others that are going to be losers," said David Brown, who co-founded the startup accelerator Techstars during the 2008 recession. "I probably wouldn't want to be in a business right now that caters to business travelers, but I'd love to be in a business that helps enable telemedicine."
Determining what customers need now, rather than before the pandemic, is crucial. Menon and Brown see opportunity in offering solutions to the challenges that people now face: educating their children, working from home, managing supply chains, getting a haircut or the house cleaned, seeing doctors and therapists, entertaining themselves. Even new restaurants might be successful if they consider the future of customer service rather than recreate old systems.