Simran Sachdev

Simran Sachdev (Women in Black Network from Serbia): Simran earned her undergraduate degree from New York University in Communication Studies. She then worked in Online Marketing for over three years. At the time of her fellowship, Simran was pursuing a Master’s Degree from New York University in Global Affairs with a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance. After her fellowship, Simran wrote: “The experience has made me more aware of how I live my daily life and how the little actions I take can affect the world at large (such as wasting food, wasting money, taking things for granted, etc.). (But) I have realized that it is really difficult to change the way people think, which can be a large barrier to change.” Before starting her Master’s Program she worked in Online Marketing for over three years.


11 Jun

I attended a session of the Special Court for War Crimes yesterday and definitely want to tell you all about it.  However, some events and conversations took place yesterday that raised many questions in my head about the lifestyles of activists.  I won’t go into detail about what stirred these questions, but I will tell you that I have a lot more questions than answers for this post.

An activist generally has a passion for something and is dedicated to bringing about change, whether that change is about a specific issue or an issue that engages society as a whole.  But unlike many other careers in which you can have a distinct work etiquette and distinct out-of-work lifestyle, the lines are a lot more blurred when you work as an activist.  In other words, at what point does an activists’ personal lifestyle become hypocritical and contradictory towards his or her work. 

For example, it may be obvious that an advocate working for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who conducts demonstrations against animal cruelty probably should not be wearing leather boots to work.  But what about the receptionist at the PETA office?  Is it hypocritical of her to work at PETA and be wearing leather boots over the weekend?  Or to take a better example, what about an activist that is trying to lower the consumption of fast food, and thus obesity, but occasionally indulges in a meal at McDonalds’s?  Or what about an institute dedicated to democracy that does not have a democratic structure with in its own organization?  If you think about it, it’s pretty difficult to have democratic systems at the organizations we work at.  We have been taught over and over again that we need leaders in order to get things done.  And generally, organization leaders are not elected based on an employee vote. 

There’s also the situation in which an activist believes in changing the world on many facets, but only changes his or her lifestyle in a few of the issue areas.  While activists generally want to do all good things for the world, can one person transform his or her life drastically enough to be contributing to all the causes he or she believes in?  Is it necessary to be living in harmony with every single one of one’s beliefs?  Are activists hypocritical when they make choices that are not directly in line with their advocacy and viewpoints, or is everyone allowed to have their vices?  Is this all a matter of personal choice?  At what point do we draw the line? 

As I said, I don’t really have the answers to these questions, but invite you to comment and tell me your thoughts.  I’ll fill you in on the Special Court soon!

Posted By Simran Sachdev

Posted Jun 11th, 2009


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  • Athea Middleton-Detzner

    June 11, 2009



    I love the questions your raise about the lifestyle of activists, and the possibility of a democratically structured organization. While we may not “elect” leaders within an organization, I do believe it is possible, and important, although not necessary, for organizations to structure themselves in a way that runs congruent with their own mission and goals, although harder said than done.

    All the best from Buenos Aires!


  • Laurie Cohen

    June 12, 2009


    Yep, activists in many countries (for example, Bangladesh and Cambodia) work for NGOs to earn a living; they offer many of the best, most stable jobs. A lot of folks do not necessarily take an NGO job for the altruistic purposes that we (speaking from an American pov) do. I heard about this from several folks within the human rights community over the past year through interviews and am now seeing how difficult it is during my time in Chittagong. Very excited to read your blog and to hear about your experiences in Serbia.

    Take good care, be safe, and enjoy!


  • Brian

    June 12, 2009



  • Rosh

    June 15, 2009


    I’ve delved into this topic on many occasions for one reason or another and I believe my conclusion always ends up being the same. No matter who you are, if you are not flawed then I promise you, you are not human. To be flawed is human nature. As a result, respecting our own frailties or tendencies to be a hypocrite should be our ultimate source of sympathy and compassion. Shouldn’t this be enough to allow each of us to live in peace, mutually respecting each other knowing that we all are bound to do or believe the irrational?

    Evidently not.

    It is not uncommon to find that the very faults that are present in each of us also become the very source of adversity and strife in many parts of the world, including the one you visit. But the hope is that individuals like yourself can bring enough strength, hope, and change into the minds of a few, if not to all, so that that one may ultimately balance or mitigate the malice in those we define as cruel.

    Stay strong! People like you bring hope and strength to those in strife, and at the same time, inspiration to the rest of the world.

  • Colby

    July 3, 2009


    This is a very insightful post. My first inclination is to say that yes, an activist is hypocritical if he/she indulges in those vices which are against the principle on which the activist stands. I am one such hypocrite. The more I learn of the great connective-ness of our world’s problems, the more I understand what I should veer from to avoid contributing to those problems. However, as life would have it, we as humans, are too often overwhelmed by our surrounding which we do not completely control. There is no right answer to this question, only a quest towards balance. I think as an activist, the more you know, the more you should strive. And that may be the best most of us can do.

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