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To the ACT UP San Francisco Chapter:
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I welcome the long-awaited recovery of the queer activist network ACT UP and hope that you will manage to redefine the meaning of the most acute social issues, and mobilize your resources to achieve the most pertinent social movement goals. From what I read in Marke (2013), the revival of interest in your social movement crosses the boundaries of conventional nostalgia. At present, you have all chances to become a popular driver of the profound changes and tell the predatory pharmaceutical companies and discriminative organizations that your social change inspiration is limitless (Marke 2013). However, I would like to provide a piece of advice on how your social movement can become even more successful. I sincerely hope that you will consider my recommendations to expand your mobilization and coverage.
First and foremost, social movements cannot be successful without having a collective identity. The present-day philosophy of ACT UP rests on the principles of AIDS activism and non-violent sharing of queer strategies (Marke 2013). Without a collective identity, you risk turning into an affiliated and highly troubled gang that looks potentially dangerous to the society, and does not encourage it to join your ranks (Clay 2012). Today, your collective identity will help you shape a more unified philosophy, and produce a distinct identity amongst other cultural practices and multiple social discourses. What you need is to decide what elements define your collective identity, its center and boundaries. For instance, in 2005, fishermen in Salt Harbor, Canada, joined to decide the future fate of the local fisheries, and develop a collective identity of what meant to be a fisher at that time (Holland, Fox & Daro 2008). They managed to balance their individual requirements with the needs of the community. The biggest challenging facing ACT UP today is creatinga collective identity that incorporates the community interests and does not discriminate against the individual rights of its members. To create this identity, members of the ACT UP should apply to framing and consider post-material values and the potential threats of communism.
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McAdam, McCarthy and Zahn (1996) define framing as “the conscious, strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings of the world and of themselves that legitimate and motivate collective action” (p.6). One of the biggest mistakes made by social movement activists is limiting their frames to recruiting and retaining new members, while failing to engage the sensibilities and grievances of the public and use them for their own benefit. During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King managed to unite the scattered society around the core goal of civil rights protection and non-discrimination by applying to the most essential values of the American public: religion and democracy. Those who did not believe in religion joined the Civil Rights Movement because they sought democracy, and vice versa.
Today, it is imperative that a better understanding of the post-material values governing the society is developed. These post-material values should become the foundation of the new frames for ACT UP. The society has come to the point of affluence, when social movement activists distance themselves from everything materialistic. By relying on queer issues and trying to defend the rights of the marginal groups, ACT UP has already created a perfect ground for developing a distinct collective identity, but you should find the points of contact between the queer identity and that of the rest of the American society, as it happened with feminism and ecological feminism. For example, thousands of people fear the threat of communism. In Japan, it is the threat of communism that became a force binding students to their social movement goals (Steinhoff 2012). Apparently, you have a long way ahead of you, but I sincerelly hope that my recommendations will help you become stronger, as you are fighting to accomplish your social mission.
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The patterns of student activism in Japan and China displayed several essential commonalities. First, the rapid evolution of higher education predetermined the rise in student activism in both countries. According to Wright (2012) and Steinhoff (2012), for many years, higher education in Japan and China has been a privilege of limited elites, but with the growing number of students, demilitarization and democratization, as well as commercialization of higher education students finally managed to develop their collective identity. That identity changed depending on the external political and social circumstances, and in both Japan and China, campuses played a vital role in the development of collective views on the most pertinent social issues (Steinhoff 2012; Wright 2012).
Yet, while Japan was following the path of democratization, China was plunging falling deeper into communism. China was moving towards its communist ideals, while Japan was fighting against the threat of communism (Steinhoff 2012; Wright 2012). Surprisingly, but the effects of these two opposite trends on student activism were virtually the same: student movements were actively suppressed to avoid the rapid spread of the ideas that did not support states' leading ideology. Another essential distinction between student activism in Japan and China was in the way students in the two countries formed external coalitions. Student activism in China did not rely on any networks or nongovernmental organizations; while in Japan, students went far beyond the campus in their collective ideology (Steinhoff 2012; Wright 2012). Because Japanese students protested to resolve the most urgent political and social issues, they had to find actors and supporters in other political and social sectors (Steinhoff 2012). Nonetheless, both social movements eventually managed to achieve their goals.
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