Tilly Chapter 6 post

April 29, 2009

I do not necessarily believe that social movements are “necessary” step toward the democratization process, as Charles Tilly claims in Chapter 6 of Social Movements, 1768-2004. What I do believe to be necessary, which may be considered an element of social movements, is the right to protest and show public displays of disapproval of the government or government policies. This may be more of an effect rather than a cause of the democratization process but I believe it to be necessary nonetheless.  I do not have a vast knowledge of the historical democratization process and don’t have examples to pull from that prove this claim but it makes logical sense that the democratization process takes many shapes and forms. Granted, social movements have catalyzed democratic processes throughout the history of the world but that does not mean that it is necessary to democracy. It may be an outcome, it may occur simultaneously, or it may not occur at all. The history of Mexico shows us that it was not social movements that brought about its independence or democracy but rather warring liberal and conservative factions. These factions had opposing political views and battled for supremacy during the post-independence age in Mexico.  After a period of turmoil and then the Mexican-American War, Mexico drafted a democratic constitution in 1857. There was no evidence of social movements, as defined by Tilly, in the formation of a democratic mexico.


CANVAS Case Study – Belgrade University

April 29, 2009

From http://www.canvasopedia.org/files/various/Nonviolent_Struggle-50CP.pdf

“During three months of everyday students’ protests in 1996-1997, money accounted for less than 20% of the material resources needed for this huge operation in Belgrade. University buildings served as office space, as did homes of parents of well-off students. Cab drivers provided transportation for free to students, and they got gasoline from anti-regime gas stations for free. Print shops provided over half-a-million flyers and informational material free of charge. Volunteer firefighting brigades provided students with loudspeakers, while a popular music club provided
key communications equipment by allowing the students to use their speakers for student meetings.”

The material resources used in the three months of protest at Belgrade university show a fantastic coalition building system in which the student protesters were able to build support bases and attract resources (non-financial) from those support bases to accomplish their 90 days of protest. I think that money is often an over-valued commodity, meaning that the things that you think you need money for may often be procured without the financial resources. The human and social capital associated with many protest movements allows protesters and their supporters to work their networks and get stuff that they need without paying for it. While money may be a necessary component to buy things, the Belgrade university case study shows that for three months of daily protest, financial resources accounted for only 20% of their total material resources. A fantastic example that clearly depicts how you don’t need a lot of money to host a long-term protest even though you think it might be necessary. Sometimes, partnerships and donations are more productive than money. For example, if the volunteer firefighters donated equipment to the protest, they must have also been present in some capacity to ensure the safety of the participants and their equipment. By building a broad coalition of support, the Belgrade protesters did not only get the things they needed for free, but they expanded their network and grew their base by asking people to participate in ways that were unexpected. A cab driver may not want to rally during a protest but he can participate by offering free rides, brilliant idea.

Boycott Israel

April 15, 2009


With people all over the world becoming  increasingly impatient with Zionism and the racist overtones which rule Israeli government politics, more and more people are advocating for a boycott and divestment from Israel. Boycott and Divestment are interesting tools that use a financial disincentive to promote change by a given government. The link above talks about the Canadian Postal Workers Union, numbering 50,000 postal workers, agreeing to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) israel to stand insolidarity with Palestinian workers. “The union would “call on other Canadian unions to join us in lobbying against the apartheid-like practices of the Israeli state and call for immediate dismantling” of the Zionist apartheid wall.”

The Canadian Postal Workers were the first union to boycott the Apartheid practices of South Africa and they are now the first north american union to boycott the apartheid practices of israel. Building on “more than 100 years of Palestinian resistance to “the Zionist conquest”…and began because “the international official efforts of bringing peace with any measure of justice to Palestine had miserably failed.”

It seems when official pathways to asking governments to impose their own sanctions fall through, large groups of workers like unions can play a big role in boycotting and divesting although a large movement of unions would be neccessary to make a dent in Israel’s mind-set and hurt it financially. Without some pain, israel wont think twice about what its doing, no matter how many people cry out about it. Also, so long as governments, especially the US government, continue supporting and standing hand in hand with the Israeli government, nothing will change.


April 15, 2009

I really enjoyed hearing Lia talk about the history of the Phillipines and the role that political protest and  activism played over the past 30+ years. My stepdad”s family is Filipino and I was raised in a Filipino family so it was really interesting to hear about some of the political turmoil that the country faces because I never really had a chance to talk to my family about it.

It is great to hear a first-hand account of being involved in such a large scale social protest both as a teenager and as an adult and to hear about Lia’s background. Lia is my advisor and it was great hearing another side of her life that I never knew about.

Tipping Point?

April 7, 2009

Iowa, Vermont, and then DC (kind of) just passed gay marriage legislation, also the issue is advancing in New Hampshire, where it passed the state House and is awaiting action by the Senate, as well as in Maine and New Jersey, which are debating same-sex marriage legislation. I find it very interesting that this is all being decided in the courts and not through popular vote like in California (not that constitutional amendments are the norm). While I’m almost embarrassingly unaware of how this stuff does, or should, work, I find it really interesting that these decisions and strides towards civil rights and justice are being made by legislatures and court systems. I mean, that’s what theyre there for, but it seems like it was too easy. I’m sure the gay rights activists in all those places were active, but I found it surprising how quickly these policies changed. There was no loud protests, no legislation that went out to a popular vote, and no large public outcry that caused these laws to change. One of the articles even said that many gay rights activists were surprised by the Vermont decision because they were still celebrating the Iowa decision, and then the DC decision passed too! Let’s see exactly what happened in each case:

Iowa: “The Iowa justices upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman…In its ruling, the Supreme Court upheld an August 2007 decision by a judge who found that a state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman violates the constitutional rights of equal protection…2005, when Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of six gay and lesbian couples in Iowa… We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” the Supreme Court wrote.

Vermont: “The two houses of Vermont’s legislature voted last week for a same-sex marriage bill — four votes short of a veto-overriding majority — and Gov. Jim Douglas (R) vetoed it Monday. But Tuesday, several house members who voted against it last week switched sides to support the override, making gay marriage law. The final vote was 100 to 49 to override the governor’s veto.”

DC: “Lawmakers say Tuesday’s unanimous vote moves the city a step closer to eventually allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the nation’s capital. Gay couples married in other states are currently recognized as domestic partners when they move to Washington.” (this legislation changes it so they are recognized as a married couple)

Pretty interesting…I wonder if the domino theory will hold on this one…


April 7, 2009

I found the media coverage of the g20 protests to be terrible. As you said in class, as soon as they break one window it becomes all the hype and that’s what the media tends to focus on. Now I think people always tend to criticize the media, talking about how they’re run by big corporations or are trying to control society. I dunno if I buy all that. I don’t think they’re wholly perfect, I just think they’re entertainment based, money-making enterprises and so whatever sells is what the news folks give us. And since the American population has been so unfortunately dumbed down, due to our 39% college graduation rate and terrible public school system, I don’t think that heartfelt intellectual discussions about the nature of protest or the claims that these protesters were making would sell very well to this zombie-mass of American media viewers. What does sell is violence, sex, and sensationalism so that’s all we ever get from our mainstream media; oh and fear, don’t forget fear. We can definitely see, however, why a large media corporation like Viacom or others, would try to subvert the claims made by these protesters, and the anti-globalization protesters in Seattle. Media giants are interested in free and unregulated markets, an infinite international market to move into, and money money money mooooonaaaay(!). Rather than reporting, and thus giving credence to, the claims being made, they just paint all protesters as radical annarachists so that they are much easier to ignore by the general population, because heaven forbid that people might actually start questioning the unquestionable capitalist system of western cultural and commercial colonization…


March 31, 2009

As a Native of the former Soviet Union and a speaker of the Russian language I really enjoyed President Gorbachev’s visit and presentation at Mason. He had the candor that reminded me very much of my grandfather, that lovely mix of misogyny and slight senility associated with members of the older generation. The personal highlight of the talk was his reflection on his childhood and the harsh realities his parents, siblings, and grandparents had to face. The story reminded me a lot of the tales my grandfather tells regarding the Famine of the early 1900’s and the communes and farm-work of the time. It was also great to hear “Gorby” talk of the “Bottom Billion” and climate change as the most pressing challenges of our time, and the failure of democracy to provide prosperity around the world. Also, the Q&A following the speech was also very interesting. I was almost shocked by Provost Stearns’ boldness in asking the question “did you ever honestly think you would press ‘the button’ and drop an atomic bomb on the USA,” though was pleasantly surprised by the former President’s response.

In terms of the topic of the speech, reflecting on the state of the world since 1989, I felt as though it wasn’t really adequately addressed but interesting to hear about. The twenty years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has brought many more challenges than must have been anticipated at the time. It must have been a great celebration of the triumph of capitalism over the forces of communism and the return of American international primacy. Unfortunately, the 2 decades since that joyous time have not gone as expected. With 2 iraq wars, a war in Afghanistan, bombing of Bosnia, and other military action by the US in addition to the current economic crisis we find ourselves show that, frankly, America may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The ideals are sound, worthy, and almost holy but unfortunately the actions taken up in the cause of those ideals have not always been as sound.

Additionally, Gorbachev talked of the “positive” direction in which Russia is heading. Growing in a family that despised the Soviet Union, communist ideals, and authoritarian rulers I see the dangerous direction in which Russia is headed, with Vladimir Putin at the wheel. Despite President Medvedyev’s puppetry, it is very clear who is and will be in charge for quite some time. This lopsided “Democracy” is so only in name, and the policies of international relations and domestic economic progress instituted in Russia are far from positive. I was surprised that gorby talked so highly of Russia’s democracy though he did say it was only “50%” there.

Finally, in regards to disarmament and demilitarization of the US, Gorby proposed that we do both, talking about how the Nuclear Club should get together and scale down the world’s supplies of nukes in order to prevent other nations (like N. Korea and Iran) from gaining nuclear technology. Now, Nuclear weapons scare me but I don’t think getting rid of ours is the answer; unfortunately I don’t know what “the” answer is. But so long as we go about keeping our nukes, countries are going to want their own, and unless we’re willing to bomb them to keep them from producing their own nukes, we’re SOL and they’re gonna get them whether we like it or not (read n. korea missile launch etc).

All in all it was great to have such a prominent world figure come to Mason and to hear about some of his personal background and his views on the world, the US, Obama, and the future.

Lysistratic nonaction

March 31, 2009

I picked Lysistratic nonaction because the name itself intrigued me. I had NO idea what this might mean; it was listed as item numbr 57 in Gene Sharp’s list of 198 nonviolent actions under the methods of social noncooperation Ostracism of Persons section.

Here is what a little bit of background research yielded:

Lysistrata was a greek play feauturing an anti-war gooddess of the same name.  She rounds up the women of the village and asks them to withhold sex from their husbands to stop the pelopennesian war. The play also explores the role of women in public policy, despite their low social status during the 4th century BC.

Therefore Lysistratic nonactions means not having  sex in order to further a claim. This is a VERY interesting tactic, as it personalizes the claims and instantly doubles the number of people who would be interested in seeing a claim resolved. This may work best with people  who are the spouses of primary decision makers, but it could also work among ordinary individuals as well. I can imagine angry letters from women writing to their congressman asking them to stop funding the war in Afghanistan so their husband would finally sleep with them again…or maybe not?

Let me share an example in which this form of nonviolent action was successful during the  civil rights movement:

“During the Civil Rights movement, male activists were often male chauvinists and treated female activists as second class citizens. At one point, several of the women from SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) staged such a “sex strike” (they used an earthier term I won’t repeat here!) with their husbands and boyfriends until they obtained better treatment. I am told that after 10 days, all of their demands were met!”

Specifically how could this be used in a movement I know about? I try and think of a common issue in which men and women differ along gender lines. I could see it being used in the gay rights movement, especially in california. Maybe wives of policymakers could put their feet down and close their legs until their husbands or wives passed the necessary constitutional amendment. I could see that this tactic might work very well if employed and stuck to by a large body of individuals across the country. It would be extraordinarily interesting to see how a movement would market this tactic, I could imagine some pretty funny flyers and/or videos.

Opinions on Nonviolence

March 31, 2009

When I think about nonviolence I can’t help but reflect on Jesus’ words “turn the other cheek,” even though I’m not religious. I remember reading a few things regarding nonviolence in a class on Conflict Analysis and Resolution that focused on some of the tactics that people employ when being attacked; covering your head, walking in a line, ignoring your fellow demonstrators who were being beaten by police, etc. I know that there is a difference between nonviolence and nonviolent – Nonviolence is almost an “art” which has rules and regulations regarding how you should act and react whereas nonviolent just means that you do not employ violent tactics. When people go about using nonviolence as their tactic of choice, they are often up against very violent opposition. I believe that nonviolence is more of a way of reacting to violence than an actual tactic in making a claim. When you know you will be up against violent opposition, the employment of nonviolence in your tactics makes a bigger visual spectacle. The pictures depict police officers brutalizing “nonviolent” protesters, which makes them look ugly and the demonstrators sympathetic.

I think the nonviolent tactics employed by those in the Salt Marches and the Civil Rights movements were neccessary forms of demonstration at the time (police were notoriously more violent then) and they fit the claims that were being made. Sometimes nonviolence wouldn’t make sense, its hard to have nonviolence if you’re not being greeted with violence.

These are just my opinions and they may be wrong, but that’s what i think about nonviolence.

Facebook Organized Protests Against Religious Hegemony

March 18, 2009


People in Hong Kong fighting against religious hegemony and internet censorship used twitter and facebook to organize a large protest without the support of any NGO’s or nonprofits. This is an awesome example of how technology can be utilized to launch and sustain social movements, even in countries where the government cracks down on dissident internet sites. Not only did people use twitter to organize and mobilize, but they were also live-tweeting from the rally itself, informing those who could not, or did not want to, make it down, about the happeneings.

” In the history of religion in Hong Kong, the date Feburary 15, 2009 will be remembered.

On that day, several hundred citizens (mostly netizens) marched in the streets to “support the values of civic society and oppose right-wing religious hegemony.””

Now what really makes this a social movement is the framing of the debate. A blogger writes about the fact that internet-based social movement mobilization is only successful if it is fighting AGAINST something. Creating an us vs. them, victim vs. oppressor, framing:

“Such mobilization tendency in “attacking other” has changed social movement structurally. We cannot just mobilize based on our belief but have to wait until someone has done something, or someone becomes a subject for attack in order for the mobilization to be effective. The organizers for the 215 rally position themselves in the civil society, however, the civil society has been there, how do we explain its sudden emerges? Why it can grow so quickly in the facebook, with the speed like more than 200 members per day? Mainly because this group is called “Anti” conservative Christian hegemony.

“Don’t Fok: If we don’t speak up this time, no one else will speak up for us. fuck the hegemonist everyday!!!”