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.

Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice

I often read the website ZNet. It is a great daily source of articles coming from a perspective that is critical of the media and the establishment. A lot of the content of the site reflects an anarchist viewpoint and promotes the idea of participatory economics. It’s a good site and I recommend it as a daily news stop along with Antiwar.com (which comes from a Libertarian party perspective but is nevertheless a great source of information).

Today, I was browsing ZNet when an article on abortion from the neo-liberal magazine The New Republic caught my eye. The article by Princeton feminist scholar Christine Stansell was entitled “A Lost History of Abortion”, and despite my better instincts, I clicked on the article and started to read it. That is until Ms. Stansell decided to play her hand and use language manipulation from almost the get-go. In the second paragraph, she refers to those who oppose abortions as “the anti-choice movement”.

And that just irritates me to the extreme. Continue reading →

The Wrathful Dove

Way back in February, my good friend Jason ran across the following quote from Shakespeare:

Thou wilt be as valiant as the wrathful dove or most magnanimous mouse.

-Spoken by Falstaff in Henry IV, part 2

He thought the phrase the wrathful dove fit perfectly for my blog, and I quite agreed!

After many weeks of procrastination, I’ve finally taken the time to update the site with a new logo and its new name. Thanks go out to the authors of the excellent Christian anarchist website Jesus Radicals whose logo featuring the raised fist with a nail through the wrist inspired me when I was designing the blog’s new logo.

I suppose here is as good a place as any for explaining the imagery for those who may not be familiar with all the symbols used in the blog’s logo.

I designed the symbol on the left as a Christian anarcho-communist flag. The color black symbolizes a world without national borders or boundaries that artificially divide the people from one another. The color red symbolizes the blood of comrades and martyrs who have died for humanity and for God. The black flag basis for the design is one of the historical symbols of anarchism. The cross is one of the most recognizable symbols of Christianity and obviously symbolizes Christ’s sacrificial suffering and submission on the cross for all people. The hammer and sickle is a sign of communism. It represents the unity of the workers and common people of the world via overlapping symbols for agricultural workers (sickle) and industrial workers (hammer). Taken altogether, I find it a beautiful symbol of a world of solidarity and unity under the loving Kingdom of Christ.

The symbol on the right combines the raised fist which has been used by various leftist movements over the years as a salute and a symbol of solidarity. The addition of the nail through the wrist brings a Christian dimension to the symbol and for me represents Christ’s unity and suffering with his people as they struggle to live lives that reflect the values and reality of his Kingdom. I added an olive branch clutched in the fist to emphasize the pacifism and non-violence that I embrace and believe an integral part of my faith and politics.