The Differences Between Activism in Developed and Developing Countries

By: Catarina Castro - Editor-in-Chief of The Gen Z Times

Addressing issues ranging from performative activism for the genocide in the Xinjiang region of China, activists from all over the world are coming together — albeit virtually — to hopefully bring change to social issues. What is not often acknowledged, however, are the different forms of making change; change can be a new law being introduced, or even an older white person recognizing their privilege. Activists all over the world make different impacts based on what is within their reach. Young aspiring activists, to make a change in their environment, rely on censorship, support, and accessibility. An important outcome of political youngsters in quarantine all around the world is their aptitude to engage in online activism. Before, developed countries (such as the United States and Canada) were protagonists in the online activism scenario; however, developing countries like Brazil are slowly emerging. Different youngsters from disparate backgrounds do not have the same encouragement to be activists, support to keep going, and the same access to information; this reflects on how different the approaches to activism are among nations.

One of the most present nationalities in online and in-person activism is the United States. From protests to Instagram posts, activists in the US are generally encouraged to speak out about issues surrounding their community. Besides, activists in the United States have a pivotal factor to activism almost always available to them: information. It is universally recognized that what happens in the United States takes less time to be globally known than what happens in a developing country; aside from people around the world seeing the US as more important, one of the reasons behind that phenomenon is the Article Processing Charge (APS). Also known as a publication fee, the APS is when journals charge readers a fee for them to access their articles. This is not as prominent of an issue in the US as in developing countries, especially because the US federal government does not rely as much in journalism for their economy. Since young American activists have access to information generally charge-free, they are more aware of what is happening around them, so their action is more directed. Something popular in the American activism community is attending protests. This is a significant part of their history, especially within the rather recent Civil Rights Movement, so protesting can be considered part of their customs. Furthermore, many cities in the United States and other developed countries are safe for young people, so parents are usually less reluctant to not allowing their youth to take their anger to the streets. Also connected to American Civil Rights history, parents tend to support their children since their perception of activism is positive. With important activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, liberal parents see activism as positive change-making, causing them to support their offspring if they choose to engage in it.

Being from a developing country (Brazil), I decided to get involved in activism during quarantine after noticing how I need to get educated in systemic issues, such as racism, sexism, and xenophobia. However, activism also opened my eyes about the issues in my own country, and how helping Brazil is not only what I want to do, but what I need to do. As Brazilians, we were taught to hate our country and see it as a jungle without opportunities and without saving; this makes us reluctant to know about our own issues and call for change. There are only around nine big journalism companies in Brazil, and about four of them have 100% of their articles monetized; Brazilians that cannot pay for a story do not have access to information about our own country. When we recognize the change we need, we are often dissuaded to proceed after one setback. A great part of necessary change revolves around legal input, and a prominent characteristic of Brazilian politics is corruption. Brazilians' minds swarm with past corruption scandals that appear to be in an endless cycle; we, as Brazilian activists, see ourselves as powerless to make a change in consequence. Also, conservative families are predominant in Brazil, and even non-conservatives see activism as aggression and danger to their children. To them, to be an activist is "being penniless and fighting for nothing" (coming from my own parents), so they will naturally dissuade their children to become activists. Protesting is often out of the question to us, especially because of the high violence rates in the streets.

Differences aside, activists from all around the world have proven themselves to be ambitious and passionate about activism, making a change with what they have and what they have access to. During quarantine, protesting all around the world was not feasible, so the political youth got informed and created platforms to inform others. Issues in developing countries have manifested themselves through social media, and often the entire internet community got together to find a solution for it. One example of this is the Yemen Crisis; although this crisis has economic, political, and humanitarian factors involved and young people with no legal experience cannot put an absolute end to it, bringing awareness to the situation in Yemen made people aware that social issues go beyond the United States and developing countries. With conversation and raising awareness between activists, the global community will be aware of many issues that were not addressed before.