Why Activism Matters

When political activists engage in discussions with sympathetic non-activists, we often encounter the idea that all the work of protesting injustice, educating the public, and agitating for change is futile in the face of the monolithic weight of social inertia and elite power structures. Indeed, despite being armed with a knowledge of the history of how political activism has shaped the world and brought about progressive changes, we can still find that, when we beats our fists against the imposing wall of power time and time again and our fingers stand bleeding at that effort while not a single damn brick has been dislodged, it can be discouraging to say the least.

Here’s a comment that I ran across today on a post from the excellent Kasama Project:

It is interesting and appropriate, G, that you bring up the Milgram experiments (“The Perils of Obedience” I think, is the title of the paper he wrote about them). Overall, Milgram’s studies found that a huge percentage of the population (at that time)–as he summed it up, it didn’t matter what social strata or country the people came from–would go along, playing their obedient role in helping to electro-shock a stranger beyond the point of rendering them unconscious, even when that victim complained aloud that they had a heart problem, so long as the subject was told clearly by a team of lab coat technicians that 1) the Experiment required that the test-shocking go on, and 2) that the subject (who was asked to press a button, giving the victim a shock each time he or she gives a wrong answer… or no answer at all) will NOT be held responsible for the effects of the experiment; the scientists take “full responsibility.” Something like 90% go all the way to not only torturing, but potentially killing the shocked-subject. Shocking indeed.

Nonetheless, one remarkable finding of Milgram’s studies–he ran the experiment many many times, playing with different variables along the way–has always represented a certain basis for hope. Namely: the fact that when the study was staged so that one of the three lab coat technicians (all played by actors of course) rebelled, verbally protesting and then refusing to continue with the lab experiment, ALL OF THE TEST SUBJECTS (the shock-button pushers) ALSO REFUSED AND STOPPED. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I have always thought of this as a kind of allegory for how the rebellious actions of a minority or even a single person–particularly someone that occupies some position of authority within a particular community–can utterly transform a situation, opening up the possibility of others’ real freedom. That is, we might say that it is the psychic space created by the rebellion amongst the so-called “experts” that enables the “subjects” to act upon their own impulses, which were already present, but were suppressed in service to a up-till-now unified and seemingly monolithic authority.

I take comfort from this in the knowledge that even if it sometimes seems like activists are talking to the air, speaking out about injustice and speaking up for the voiceless and oppressed is never futile. Every voice is like a little light that opens up just a little more space in the darkness allowing some other soul to find his match and light his own candle to join the growing chorus of lights. Eventually, there comes a point where there is sufficient brightness for everyone to locate their own light source if they have one, and then, this flood of lights will banish the darkness to the tiny cracks and crevices.

A Love for Tea

In the last few weeks, I’ve discovered a love for the world of tea, and tea is steadily replacing my former consumption of coffee throughout the day.

It all started when my wife and I attended her company’s Holiday Party where they celebrated the season with a game of Secret Santa. My wife received from one of her colleagues a 16 oz. Teavana Perfect Tea Maker which is a rather handy and simple device for steeping loose leaf tea.

We had always enjoyed a cup of hot tea now and then, but other than when visiting P.F. Chang’s and enjoying the Dragon’s Oolang tea there, we had pretty much only had tea steeped via tea bags – and I must confess I always found the tea bags themselves rather annoying. I had come to really enjoy the Dragon’s Oolang at P.F. Chang’s and so I was immediately interested in trying out Melinda’s new tea maker. Indeed, my enthusiasm for her gift seemed to rival her own! :)

I went online and visited the Teavana website to see what kind of loose leaf teas they offered and then became very eager to try some of them out. I was delighted to find that Teavana had several stores in greater Atlanta – as a matter of fact, the first Teavana store was at Lenox Mall in Buckhead. One quick trip to a Teavana store, and I had some tasty teas to try out with the new tea maker: Earl Grey, Earl Grey White, and My Morning Mate (an awesome combination of yerba mate, roobios, yunnan tea and spices).

I’ve been very pleased with the Perfect Tea Maker and also with my chosen teas. Indeed, I’ve pretty much switched from drinking several cups of coffee during the day to a double cup of coffee in the morning if I’m having breakfast with Melinda and then cups of Earl Grey or My Morning Mate during the rest of the day with an occasional cup of Earl Grey White. I’m looking forward to get some green tea varieties and trying out other white teas.

We’ve looked around and found that there are definitely places where we can find loose leaf tea for better prices, but the Perfect Tea Maker that Teavana sells is wonderful and is fairly inexpensive at $17.99.

During the holidays, we’ve enjoyed many a wonderful cup of hot tea, and I’ve enjoyed reading about the fascinating history and varieties of tea although my poor wife is a little frustrated as I am often repeating facts and stories to her that she has already heard about via a colleague of hers who also recently discovered the world of tea.

And now I think it’s time for me to go make a cup of roobios!

Introducing Peppermint

Peppermint Taking a Nap
Peppermint Taking a Nap

So it has been an eventful Christmas – New Year’s Holiday here at the Weathers household. Things didn’t work out how we planned, but we’re hanging in there, and the ride has ultimately turned out fun after all.

Every year, Melinda and I both take off the week of Christmas and the week of New Year’s Day. This year our vacation started after we both left work on Friday, December 19. Saturday, we enjoyed our first day of the break by taking Doobie to the dog park and then doing some last minute Christmas shopping at Fry’s Electronics store followed by some tasty gluten-free pizza at a Pepperoni’s Pizza in Duluth.

Also, on Saturday, we finally managed to get salt delivered for our house’s water filtering system. It turned out that thanks to a tripped wire, our system had not run through its cycle for several months. So in addition to filling up the salt in the tank, the tech guy set the system to run that night.

Despite being on vacation, we couldn’t quite shake the habit of getting up early for work, so Melinda and I woke up around eight on Sunday. We went downstairs, and I made us some breakfast and coffee at which point it became clear that the initial run of our water filter system after months of disuse had left the water in our pipes tasting funny. In fact, the taste was unpleasant enough that we poured out our coffees.

But Melinda definitely needs her coffee in the morning despite not really drinking the stuff much until I came along. So it fell upon me to run out for some emergency coffee orders. The plan was a quick drive to the Starbucks that sits a few intersections down from our neighborhood on Windy Hill Road. Since they have a drive-thru window, I wouldn’t even have to get dressed! Thus, garbed in a bathrobe and a simple coat, I set off on my short trip – it turned out to be shorter than either of us thought it would be. Continue reading →