Month: April 2015
On Yesterday’s Riot in Baltimore
Yesterday Baltimore’s Finest’s victims of police discrimination and brutality, namely, the poor African-American population of the city’s West End, took a violent stand against their oppressors. And all I hear from yesterday to today is the condemnation of the violent actions and the damage it has done to the movement’s image and goals.
But what about the emotion? What about the anger and the rage? Should it not be expressed through these actions?
When you hear everyone criticizing the rioters’ actions they assume that they are rational actors with set goals and objectives. But they were not rational yesterday. The ages of discrimination against blacks needed to be released, almost as catharsis, by these enraged masses with earned distrust and hatred for the police. Freddy Gray’s death just brought these emotions to the fore.
And as for the request by the Gray family for protests to be quieted for the day in honor of Gray’s funeral was irrelevant. The issue is bigger than Gray’s death. It’s about police discrimination, not just the tragic death of a single person. Gray’s death was just the spark and it is now a raging wildfire.
To Vote or Not to Vote?
One weekend about a month ago, on MSNBC’s weekend roundtable show “Up with Steve Kornacki”, Mr. Kornacki interviewed former liberal Representative from Massachusetts Barney Frank. They were discussing the difference between the liberal “Occupy” movement vs. the conservative “Tea Party” movement and their affect on Washington. During the discussion Rep. Frank stated something I found profound:
“The Left march, the Right votes.”
This statement shook me because I have never voted. I feel that no politician has yet to earn my vote. Both the Democrats and the GOP offer no real, meaningful solutions to our societal problems. They do not offer serious proposals for change, such as addressing the state of inequality between the rich and poor here in the U.S. and around the globe, or the problem of minority discrimination, or general issues of injustice. They are identical in this problem.
So what to do? The Tea Party has had success in affecting change within the narrow confines of power between two extremely similar ideologies in Washington. But so what? Should we then just take what we can and vote for Democratic candidates?
Today I want to propose the first Sparking The Left poll for our readers to participate in and we would love to read your comments on the issue, too: Should we vote for liberal candidates or not at all until a real voice for change can bare a real chance at winning office?
Social Protest Lit.: Leo Tolstoy “Robbers and Governments”
“Robbers and Governments” from Leo Tolstoy. This piece is an excerpt is from Book V called “Revolt.” This chapter pertains to “The struggle to abolish injustice; the battle cries of the new army which is gathering for the deliverance of humanity.”
The robber generally plundered the rich, the governments generally plunder the poor and protest those rich who assist in their crimes. The robber doing his work risked his life, while the governments risk nothing, but base their whole activity on lies and deception. The robber did not compel anyone to join his band, the government generally enroll their soldiers by force….The robber did not intentionally vitiate people, but the governments, to accomplish their ends, vitiate whole generations from childhood to manhood with false religions and patriotic instruction.
New Work: A Social Movement Theory Primer
Today I am providing the inaugural paper for our “New Work” section here at Sparking The Left: a brief primer on social movement theory from a sociological perspective.
Social movement theory is an important topic, and all those engaged in activism stand to learn a great deal from it. There is a vibrant academic community rigorously analyzing social movements and much is still to be learned. Yet, this is only a primer that will get you thinking about social movements and the dynamics present within and inside of the milieu around them.
It is an academic paper with cited sources from peer-reviewed journals, but do not be intimidated. I made it as accessible as possible.
You will be able to find the piece in its entirety beneath the “New Work” tab at the top of the STL homepage, but you can find the introduction below:
Below you will find a brief introduction to social movement (SM) theory and its main tenets from a sociological perspective. I include the three dynamics that serve as the foundation in the studies of SMs today: resource mobilization theory, political process theory, and framing processes. Hopefully this paper will inspire you to do some of your own research if you plan on engaging in contentious politics. I believe that all actors practicing collective action would be much aided with such a line of research.
All of the referenced material here can either be found in a downloadable .pdf format at Google Scholar or cited for reading at your local university’s library.
New STL Feature: In-Depth Works
Here at Sparking The Left we are proud to announce that we are unveiling a new feature on the STL blog. We will begin today to publish more in-depth works as a supplement to our usual posts to provide our readers with better analyses in an effort to fan the flames of action.
We begin this new feature for many subjects often necessitate more than a short-length post to cover properly. And according to our statistics, our longer posts gain more attention than our short posts. So we will be filling a need.
In terms of these new works, some will be academic and some will not. Many submissions will only need information provided by sources in the media. But some will need references to the academic literature in an effort to better conceptualize a term or phenomenon. It will vary depending on the topic.
You will be able to find these new works under the tab at the top of the STL blog directly below the “match”-picture next to “”Old Work” entitled “New Works”.
Please be patient with us for these new works will take more time and may not be posted as often as some will desire.
Thank you so much for reading our blog and we thank you for your attention. We are very excited about this new endeavor and we hope you are, too!
Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Said ‘Death to America’. So, What?
As the peaceful negotiations over a nuclear deal with Iran happily make their way to a resolution, many opponents of the current deal (or any deal with Iran) raise irrelevant alarm bells over some of the rhetoric that emanates from the Iranian leadership. A recent example was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s agreement with a crowd chanting “Death to America” during one of his public appearances and the ensuing backlash from Western opponents over the situation. While it may not be the most pleasing thing to hear, it should be taken for what it is in the grand scheme of things: empty rhetoric to please his people and nothing more.
In fact, if we were to step back from the situation and look at it objectively, it’s a perfectly rational thing for him to say. It’s what leaders and politicians do. They talk tough and make promises they have no intention or capability of keeping in order to keep their people behind them. What would it look like if he did anything else? What would he be saying? I’m guessing it would go something like:
“People of Iran. This is your Supreme Leader announcing to you that we will be letting the U.S. and Israel run our country however they please. I know. I know. They were directly involved in the military overthrow of our democratically elected leader in 1953 and installed a ruthless dictatorship that we had to overthrow. They were also responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attack, an action one of these countries has officially and hypocritically declared is an act of war. But we can totally trust them now and I’m sure we will be the best run Western colony in the history of the world!”
Yeah, it would be completely ridiculous.
But hey, let’s remember that all spoken rhetoric eventually comes true. Just look at all the things Iranian leaders have said in the past and then carried out that have been 100% prophetic, such as “Death to Russia”, “Death to England”, “Death to France”, “Death to Israel”, and “Death to Saddam” (not Iraq). Oh, the overwhelming nostalgia! Remember France before Iran destroyed it? So much culture and fancy paintings. It was almost like being in modern day Paris!
The point is, rhetoric is just talk and it should be expected to be tough and reflect a self-interest for whoever is speaking. The actions Iran is taking by negotiating with the P5+1 and seeking a peaceful resolution is what truly matters. And just to drive the point home that Khamenei’s rhetoric should not be taken too literally, here are some more examples from history of rhetoric that either never came true or did not match the actions taken by the speaker.
Fidel Castro, former Cuban President
I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. (1992)
Yes, remember the Cuban nuclear missile strike on Florida in the ’90s? The radiation hit some counties so hard they lost the ability to properly count votes in presidential elections.
Nikita Khrushchev, former Soviet Premier
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in. (We will bury you.) (Remark to Western ambassadors, 1956)
It’s really unfortunate Western society was buried by Communist Russia in the 1950s. But look at the bright side, comrades. At least we all got really cool furry hats!
John McCain, former Maverick and current regretter of vice-presidential choices
That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah… (2007)
Really a missed opportunity here, folks. Think of all the money the military industrial complex has missed out on with him losing in ’08. There’s always 2016!
Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela
Let’s save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire. (2006)
Coincidentally, he said this while in Iran. Now we know where they got it from. Peer pressure!
Ronald Reagan, former U.S. president
President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment…I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. (1982)
Uncle Ronny was clearly a great judge of character. Montt was, at the time, in the process of committing genocide in his own country, a crime he would eventually be found guilty for conducting (he is currently awaiting a new trial after the conviction was overturned in what appears to be a scheme to keep him out of prison until he dies). Nicely done, Mr. Reagan!
Kim Jong-Il, former Supreme Leader of North Korea
I’m an Internet expert too. (2007)
No…just, no. Kim was a bit of a recluse, as most know, but the state-run news agency did release direct statements that threatened to “wipe out” the United States while he was in charge. Just another successfully unsuccessful bit of rhetoric.
Mother Nature, current ruler of Pangea
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men… (continues)
The quote is kind of long and is still being spoken. But she’s getting pretty close to the end and I’m assuming what happens when she is done speaking is going to be pretty ugly for her constituents…
Richard Nixon, former U.S. president
I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace (in Vietnam). (1969)
An absolute lie. We now know that Nixon actually sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam in 1968 while still a candidate for the presidency and did so to help his own political campaign at home. Just a disgusting moment in history.
The point of all this is to simply note that rhetoric can frequently mean little while the actions of the speaker can be something very different. This reality should be particularly considered in the case of Iran as they have been logically talking tough against the West at times but, according to U.S. and Israeli intelligence, shut down their nuclear weapons program years ago. We should always remember that the phrase “all politics is local” doesn’t just apply to the United States and it should be no surprise when we hear some foreign leaders score points with their people by taking shots at us. In fact, if you don’t expect that to happen, you should really tone down the hubris a bit.
Bottom line, Iran has come to the negotiating table and is making a deal. If the GOP warfare queens in Congress decide to kill the deal and the situation eventually disintegrates into military actions, the blood of every American and Iranian that dies will be on their hands and history should properly place the blame squarely on each and every politician that turned away from peace.
Social Protest Lit.: Henrik Ibsen “Real Liberty”
Taken from “Real Liberty” by Henrik Ibsen. This piece is an excerpt is from Book V called “Revolt.” This chapter pertains to “The struggle to abolish injustice; the battle cries of the new army which is gathering for the deliverance of humanity.”
Away with the State! I will take part in that revolution. Undermine the whole conception of a state, declare free choice and spiritual kinship to be the only all-important conditions of any union, and you will have the commencement of a liberty that is worth something.