Activists have become highly unpopular and have become the targets of a highly active middle class. It is hard being an activist, although it is a little easier being an intellectual. The activist is always in the middle of conflict while the intellectual is in the middle of the world of ideas and scholarship.
Becoming an intellectual is a very long process and often relies on access to education as well as on various resources. A school student can be considered an activist but not an intellectual. Students can easily join marches, shout slogans and are free to write blogs. The opportunity to be an activist is easily available.
Activist may or may not be a scholar. But what an activist does is far more important than the scholar because any action by them is most fundamentally a moral action. On the other hand, action of an intellectual is most often an epistemic action, which is an action that is concerned with information and knowledge.
An activist acts on behalf of others, and with, others. It involves a sense of giving and giving-up something. While more ‘normal’ individuals in a society act in order to benefit themselves, activists often have to act against their own interests. Often their actions improve the well-being of others, more than that of the activists.
When students go on a protest, they pick up an important skill — that of developing a moral sense, a sense of concern and respect for others. And this sense, is the most important quality of being an activist.
Although some intellectuals have a really deep sense of the moral, but the history of intellectual labour has consistently separated the moral from the accumulation of knowledge. The best example of this is by removal of moral considerations from science and the creation of scientific knowledge.
When the society fails in its moral activities or when its intellectuals ignore moral duty, activists will rise to counter them. When the moral temperature of a society decreases, as it on a global scale in recent times, activists will rise. If this is stopped from happening, the moral force of a society will deplete. It is only the activists who can ensure that the moral skills of a society do not vanish entirely. They give up their personal and material comforts for the larger values of dignity, respect and equality for a society. Activists and intellectuals are crucial to protect the society from two very great dangers — power and profit. Getting rid of them is to compromise the present as well as the future of our society.