Mark Viales

There is a clear distinction between the proactive activism in Gibraltar during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and that of today’s placated society. While the former was focused, activism today seems scatterbrained and disillusioned. Something has clearly shifted, and it is unfortunately impacting the efficacy of activism on the Rock. 

A high standard of living and a seemingly content population has led to a steady decline in people fighting for what they think is right. Criticism is limited to hour-long conversations in coffee shops or, as is increasingly becoming the trend, on social media. But should the lack of real repercussions in a safe jurisdiction such as Gibraltar actually encourage people to hold the government and other powerful entities to account?

Gibraltarians are discontent with the Rock’s impact on the environment, rapid and rushed overdevelopment as well as the lack of information on Brexit. Mental health remains an item of contention while privatisation of land and services continues to cause clamour amongst citizens, but all in silence. In reality, one would think that everything is fine within Gibraltar’s small bubble as people go about their daily business as normal.

A quick glance around the Rock yields a dismal offering of sparse and poorly executed attempts at social and political activism, often with no tangible result. Traditionally students are the ones to take the mantle on progressive social issues, but if they grow up in a mentality of ‘do not rock the boat because you may see your opportunities limited in later life’, then it is easy to see why activism is limited.

To a certain extent this mentality is understandable. Getting arrested is never ideal, especially for younger people who have yet to enter the workforce, a task that is much easier with a clean record. But looking back on some of the most historic and effective protests and rallies of the past, it seems clear that they all involved a kind of unwavering perseverance in the face of danger, a willingness to sacrifice for a cause.


Internet activism is also a key reason for people becoming hesitant to take to the streets with banners and megaphones. It appears that this is the age of keyboard warriors hiding behind their computer screen rather than using social media platforms to rally disgruntled citizens outside and knock on the government’s door.

FULL REPORT in print edition