Activists Then and Now

Having written about Jim Roy’s activism in the community over decades, and taking a look at what SEED is doing (see previous post) and even thinking about my own activism, I had several thoughts.

It’s possible what we could be seeing in successful activism, a “new breed” of activists that no longer see themselves as “outside” the community, nor do they see themselves as “victims.”

One could see this with the Newburyport Preservation Trust (NPT) as well. The NPT is working with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, and it is also working with the City of Newburyport itself.

The emphasis is not that preservation is a victim of developers, but the emphasis would be that historic preservation would be vital to the local economy.

When we fought MassHighway in 1999, the emphasis was that our small New England city would be a victim of thoughtless bureaucracy.

When Al Decie and CEB fought for the Access Road (among many other things, see previous post), the folks fighting for the environment could be cast as victims of local business and politicians. And local business, it seems, could often complain of being “victimized” by CEB. Lots of drama.

In contrast, SEED has worked with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and has been embraced by the City of Newburyport, MA. They are seen as “non-political.”


Even recently, in the fight for the Override for our schools, last spring, the folks who were fighting for the school system, could be perceived by many as angry “victims,” who in turn could be “victimizing” other folks with their “demands.” And it appeared to not “sit pretty.”

The approach by SEED and the Newburyport Preservation Trust seems to be working. And they appear to be “unifying” instead of “divisive,” activists who are “non-activists,” who are “non-political.”

Activism without the appearance of “blame.” Activism without the appearance of “shame.” Activism without the appearance of a “guilt trip.”

Definitely a new possible prototype.

And it could have something to do with the time of Newburyport, MA. We seem to be through most of the transition (see previous post) from a blue collar, working class town, to a upper, upper-middle class destination, and there doesn’t appear to be as much tension (whether it would be good or bad) that once existed in Newburyport, MA.