Last week, local activists Betty and Norman Eagle and Claire Wilson stopped by our office. They had pamphlets and posters and photocopied sheets of information about an anti-war protest/hunger strike that will be taking place downtown this weekend and through next week(for more on the “Troops Home FAST” see “Hungry for peace” on page 9). They wanted to talk about a story; leaving messages on my overflowing voicemail wasn’t cutting it anymore.
Betty and Norman gave us every bit of information they had on the event and then came back a few days later to answer all of our remaining questions. When we were finished covering the nuts and bolts of the hunger strike, the conversation took a natural detour. We talked for a short while about the state of activism in general and anti-war efforts in Ventura.
Betty and Norman are beyond the age of retirement and spend the vast majority of their time working on one cause or another — social security, health care, the war. According to Betty, for the two of them, activism and working for peace is their way of “playing golf.” They’re involved in a number of different local groups … and therein lies the problem.
In Ventura, the dedicated activist community is a small one and there is a tremendous amount of overlap — the people working for peace are the same people who are working on homelessness, are the same people who are working on social security issues. “It’s the same group of people doing all of the work,” says Betty. Not that she’s complaining; it just makes things more difficult. For instance, there are a lot of local activists who saw An Inconvenient Truth and many of them are now inspired to work on global warming issues — which means fewer people are available to work on the hunger strike.
In other words, the activism community needs fresh meat. And, preferably, young meat. Betty and Norman claim that the age range is pretty balanced in their groups, but watch any march down Main Street or cruise by the government center during a rally and you’ll notice something: There are young people, but the majority of the crowd will be over 40.
Why is this? The younger crowd has been hijacked by consumer culture? The older crowd has a collective memory of Vietnam and understands the effectiveness of public outcry? We’re all too busy futzing with our iPods?
Who knows. But hopefully a few more people will join the ranks this week. Meanwhile, Betty and Norman will just keep playing golf.