Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Praxis Activism and "Fix the Scioto County Problem of Drug Abuse"

For me to tell you that creating public awareness is simple and analogous to drawing a straight line from point A to point B would be a terrible lie. Along the way toward greater awareness, I have encountered various bends leading to destinations that have often been a boon and have sometimes been a boondoggle. I have met people with unbelievable, strong convictions in these meetings, and I have met those who want to self-promote themselves and their various causes over the dignity of our group struggles. Certain qualities, I feel , must be maintained for the proper presentation of intricate involvement in our work.

Applying a simple activist theory to encounters with others, I have preached a method known as praxis activism. Praxis in its most basic form means "theory plus action."  Praxis is the concept that theory and action work together in a cyclical form and that cooperation is needed in the world in order to transform it. Praxis is opposed to passive activism in which people find an outlet such as simple awareness or consciousness of a problem and feel as if they have done their piece for the community and for the world. Essentially, the passive activist forfeits the concept of praxis. The actions taken must include certain qualities such as a commitment to human well being and the search for truth, and respect for others.

True knowledge, Paulo Freire contended, emerges only through restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful, critical inquiry with other people about their relations to the world. (Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education, 2008). He advocates "learners should be allowed to develop praxis, an inventive and interventive way of life that encourages free, creative reflection and thoughtful action in order to change the world, even as the learners are transformed in the process."

It is especially important to give youth the opportunity to respond to community and school problems. This offers opportunities to develop "critical civic praxis" through engagement with ideas, social networks, and experiences that build individual and collective capacity to struggle for social justice. This view of youth acknowledges structural constraints in their communities, but also views young people as active participants in changing debilitative neighborhood conditions.  (Shawn Ginwright and Julio Cammarota, "Youth Activism in the Urban Community," International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, November 2007)

Since praxis activism is critical reflection and action, in the light of one's own faith commitment, it grows out of and seeks to contribute to the transformation of society. It is the creation of a new way of being a community of faith, and the cultivation of a spirituality that is historically grounded in the world. It is through praxis that fundamental and profound change comes.

One explicit goal of praxis activsm is to empower marginalized peoples and help them challenge their oppression. It must focus on working with the poor and uneducated to provide them with the tools to overcome their oppression. Unlike critical theory, praxis is primarily concerned with helping the uneducated emancipate themselves. Upon emancipation, these groups then help the privileged seek emancipation. Though critical theory and praxis share the same general goals, praxis tends to focus on one particular population and provides concrete guidelines on how to achieve emancipation from oppression....

Some Guidelines for Praxis Activism

1. Praxis involves a commitment to challenging the status quo and helping people from marginalized communities understand their oppression. (William G. Tierney and Margaret W. Sallee, "Praxis," The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods, 2008)

2. The transformative power of research resides in the potential for creative ideas and social constructions aimed to reform undesirable but common social practices.

3. One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge human beings' consciousness. Functionally, oppression is domesticating. To no longer be prey to its force, one must emerge from oppression and turn upon it. This can be done only by means of the praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. 

4. Revolutionary praxis is a unity, and the leaders cannot treat the oppressed as their possession

5. Sooner or later, a true revolution of praxis must initiate a courageous dialogue with the people. Its very legitimacy lies in that dialogue. It cannot fear the people, their expression, their effective participation in power. It must be accountable to them, must speak frankly to them of its achievements, its mistakes, its miscalculations, and its difficulties. 

6. Authentic revolution attempts to transform the reality which begets this dehumanizing state of affairs. Those whose interests are served by that reality cannot carry out this transformation; it must be achieved by the tyrannized, with their leaders.

7. To supersede their condition as objects by the status of Subjects – the objective of any true revolution – requires the people to act, as well as reflect, upon the reality to be transformed.

8. Revolutionary leaders cannot think without the people, or for the people, but only with the people. The dominant elites, on the other hand, can - and do - think without the people.

9. Harmony of the oppressed is only possible when its members are engaged in the struggle for liberation.... if their work does not belong to them - people cannot be fulfilled. Work which is not free ceases to be a fulfilling pursuit and becomes an effective means of dehumanization. 

10. A person who does not perceive himself as becoming or having hope cannot have a future to be built in unity with others. Part of the oppressed ‘I’ is located in the reality to which he ‘adheres’; part is located outside himself, in the mysterious forces which he regards as responsible for a reality about which he can do nothing. He is divided between an identical past and present, and a future without hope.

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