Social Protest Lit.: Three Quotes On Revolt

indexToday I have three short quotes for a social protest literature post.

They all are 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.”

First, Jean Genet, a French playwright and novelist (1910-1986) from “Prisoner of Love”:

The main object of a revolution is the liberation of man…not the interpretation and application of some transcendental ideology.

Second, “The Oath”, an oath taken by thousands of Chinese students occupying Tiananmen Square in June 1989 shortly before the tanks rolled in:

I swear, for the democratic movement and the prosperity of the country, for our motherland not to be overturned by a few conspirators, for our one billion people not to be killed in the white terror, that I am willing to defend Tiananmen Square, defend the republic, with my young life. Our heads can be broken, our blood can be shed, but we will not lose the People’s square. We will fight to the end with the last person.

And lastly, “Moral Persuasion”, by Steven Biko. Biko (1946-1977) was a Black South African political leader who died in police custody:

The power of the movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion.

 

 

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.

Social Protest Lit.: Langston Hughes’ “Scottsboro”

indexA poem by Langston Hughes, Black American poet and writer, entitled “Scottsboro” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

8 BLACK BOYS IN A SOUTHERN JAIL

WORLD TURN PALE!

8 black boys and one white lie.

Is it too much to die?

Is it much to die when immortal feet,

March with down Time’s street,

When beyond steel bars sound the deathless drums

Like a mighty heart-beat as they come?

Who comes?

Christ,

Who fought alone,

John Brown.

That mad mob

That tore the Bastille down

Stone by stone.

Moses

Jeanne d’Arc

Dessalines

Nat Turner

Fighters for the free.

Lenin with the flag blood red.

(Not dead! Not dead! None of these is dead.)

Gandhi

Sandino

Evangelista, too,

To walk with you–

8 BLACK BOYS IN A SOUTHERN JAIL.

WORLD TURN PALE!

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Social Protest Lit.: Albert Camus’ “Reflections on the Guillotine”

indexShort essay by Albert Camus entitled “Reflections on the Guillotine” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

In relation to crime, how can our civilization be defined? The reply is easy: for thirty years now, State crimes have been far more numerous than individual crimes. I am not even speaking of war, general and localized, although bloodshed too is an alcohol that eventually intoxicates like the headiest of wines. But the number of individuals killed directly by the State has assumed astronomical proportions and infinitely outnumbers private murders. There are fewer and fewer condemned by common law and more and more condemned to death, whereas the eventuality would have seemed ridiculous at the beginning of the century. Alphonse Karr’s witty remark, “Let the noble assassins begin” has no meaning now. Those who cause the blood to flow are the same ones who believe they have right, logic, and history on their side.

Hence our society must now defend herself not so much against the individual as against the State. It may be that the proportions will be reversed in another thirty years. But, for the moment, our self-defense must be aimed at the State first and foremost. Justice and expediency command the law to protect the individual against the State given over to the follies of sectarianism or of pride. “Let the State begin and abolish the death penalty” ought to be our rallying cry today.

 

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Social Protest Lit.: Leonid Andreyev from “Savva”

indexPart of a play from Leonid Andreyev’s “Savva” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

(In this strange drama, which might be called a symbolic tragi-comedy, the Russian writer has set forth the plight of the educated people of his country, confronted by the abject superstition of the peasantry. Savva, a fanatical revolutionist, endeavors to wipe out this superstition by blowing up monastery full of drunken monks. But the plot is revealed to the monks, who carry out the ikon, or sacred image, before the explosion, and afterwards carry it back into the ruins. The peasants, arriving on the scene and finding the ikon uninjured, hail a supreme miracle; the whole country is swept by a wave of religious frenzy, in the course of which Savva is trampled to death by a mob.

In the following scene Savva argues with his sister, a religious believer. The tramp of pilgrims is heard outside.)

Savva (smiling): The tramp of death!

Lipa: Remember the each one of these would consider himself happy in killing you, in crushing you like a reptile. Each one of these is your death. Why, they beat a simple thief to death, a  horse thief. What would they not do to you? You who wanted to steal their God!

Savva: Quite true. That’s property too.

Lipa: You still have the brazenness to joke? Who gave you the right to do such a thing? Who gave you the power over people? How dare you meddle with what to them is right? How dare you interfere with their life?

Savva: Who gave me the right? You gave it to me. Who gave me the power? You gave it to me–you with your malice, your ignorance, you stupidity! You with your wretched impotence! Right! Power! They have turned the earth into a sewer, an outrage, an abode of slaves. They worry each other, they torture each other and they ask: “Who dares to take us by the throat?” I! Do you understand? I!

Lipa: But to destroy all! Think of it!

Savva: What could you with them? What would you do? Try to persuade the oxen to turn away from their bovine path? Catch each one by his horn and pull him away? Would you put on a frock-coat and read a lecture? Haven’t they had plenty to teach them? As if words and thought had any significance to them! Thought–pure, unhappy thought! They have perverted it. They have taught it to cheat and defraud. They have made it a salable commodity, to be bought at auction in the market. No, sister, life is short, and I am not going to waste it in arguments with oxen. The way to deal with them is by fire. That’s what they require–fire!

Lipa: But what do you want? What do you want?

Savva: What do I want? To free the earth, to free mankind. Man–the man of today–is wise. He has come to his senses. He is ripe for liberty. But the past eats away at his soul like a canker. It imprisons him within the iron circle of things already accomplished. I want to do away with everything behind man, so that there is nothing to see when he looks back. I want to take him by the scruff of his neck and turn his face toward the future!

 

 

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Social Protest Lit: Lady Wilde’s “Despair”

indexA poem by Lady Wilde entitled “Despair” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

Before us dies our brother, of starvation;

Around are cries of famine and despair!

Where is hope for us, or comfort or salvation–

Where–oh! where?

If the angels ever hearken, downward bending,

They are weeping, we are sure,

At the litanies of human groans ascending,

From the crushed hearts of the poor.

 

We never knew a childhood’s mirth and gladness,

Nor the proud heart of youth free and brave;

Oh, a death-like dream of wretchedness and sadness

Is life’s weary journey to the grave!

Day by day we lower sink, and lower,

Till the God-like soul within

Falls crushed beneath the fearful demon power

Of poverty and sin.

 

So we toil on, on with fever burning

In heart and brain;

So we toil on, on through bitter scorning,

Want, woe, and pain.

We dare not raise our eyes to the blue heavens

Or the toil must cease–

We dare not breathe the fresh air God has given

One hour in peace.

 

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Social Protest Lit: George Bernard Shaw, Preface to “Major Barbara”

indexThe preface to “Major Barbara” from George Bernard Shaw from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

The thoughtless wickedness with which we scatter sentences of imprisonment, torture in the solitary cell and on the plank bed, and flogging, and moral invalids and energetic rebels, is as nothing compared to the stupid levity with which we tolerate poverty as a if it were either a wholesome tonic for lazy people or less a virtue to be embraced as St. Francis embraced it. If a man is indolent, let him be poor. If he is drunken, let him be poor. If he is not a gentleman, let him be poor. If he is addicted to the fine arts or to pure science instead of trade and finance, let him be poor. If he chooses to spend his urban eighteen shillings a week or his agricultural thirteen shillings a week on his beer and his family instead of saving it up for his old age, let him be poor. Serves him right! Also-somewhat inconsistently-blessed are the poor!

Now what does this Let Him Be Poor mean? It means let him be weak. Let him be ignorant. Let him be a nucleus of disease. Let him be a standing exhibition and example of ugliness and dirt. Let him have rickety children. Let him be cheap and let him drag his fellows down to his price by selling himself to do their work. Let his habitations turn our cities into poisonous congeries of slums. Let his daughters infect our young men with the diseases of the streets and his sons revenge him by turning the nation’s manhood into scrofula, cowardice, cruelty, hypocrisy, political imbecility, and all the other fruits of oppression and malnutrition. Let the undeserving become still less deserving; and let the deserving lay up for himself, not treasures in heaven, but horrors in hell upon earth. This being so, is it really wise to let him be poor? Would he not do ten time less harm as a prosperous burglar, incendiary, ravisher, or murderer, to the utmost limits of humanity’s comparatively negligible impulses in these directions? Suppose we were to abolish all penalties for such activities, and decide that poverty is the one thing we will not tolerate-that every adult with less than, say, 365 pounds a year, shall be painlessly but inexorably killed, and every hungry half naked child forcibly fattened and clothed, would not that be and enormous improvement on our existing system, which has already destroyed so many civilizations, and is visibly destroying ours in the same way?

 

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Social Protest Lit: Ruskin, “The Veins of Wealth”

A piece from “Book II: The Chasm” which regards economic/social inequality with an excerpt by John Ruskin from The Veins of Wealth:

Primarily, which is very notable and curious, I observe that men of business rarely know the meaning of the word “rich.” At least if they know, they do no in their reasonings allow for the fact, that it is a relative word, implying its opposite “poor” as positively the word “north” implies its opposite “south.” Men nearly always speak and write as if riches were absolute, and it were possible, by following certain scientific precepts, for everybody to be rich. Whereas riches are a power like that of electricity, acting only through inequalities or negations of itself. The force of the guinea you have in your pocket depends wholly on the default of a guinea in your neighbors pocket. If he did not want it, it would be of no use to you; the degree of power it possesses depends accurately upon the need or desire he has for it, – and the art of making yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist’s sense, is therefor equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbor poor.

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