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October 18th, 2011


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08:06 am - Not just you
I like bradhicks' posts. He doesn't post very often, and I don't always agree with him, but he's always thought-provoking. I've really changed my mind about the bronze-to-iron-age transition from some impassioned posts on the subject he made a couple of years ago. He was pretty interesting on the dotcom boom too.

His most recent post is about the causes of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and its international spin-offs. He sketches the progression from Manning to Wikileaks to Anonymous to the Arab Spring. His argument is that people embedded in oppressive systems often feel themselves to be isolated, when really there are lots of other people who feel just as they do.
Despots all over the world have always told their subjects, "Everybody else in the country agrees with us, the despots. You're the only one who has a problem with it. Well, you and (some much hated minority group). Which just goes to show, there's something wrong with you." In places where the despots have control over the media (which is most places there are despots), they get away with this, because for all most people know, the despot-controlled media is telling the truth about that. Maybe they and their friends really are the only ones who have a problem with it; how could they prove otherwise?

The release of diplomatic memos onto the Internet made people in Arabic countries realise that many of their countrymen were as fed up as they were. Thus empowered and encouraged they were more confident about rebelling.

bradhicks does not mention feminism but I think that is another example. Women who were unhappy in the traditional female role were told they were peculiar: 'Nobody else has a problem'. But when all the isolated women, each thinking they were bad or sick, got brave enough to tell each other how unhappy they were, there was a massive cultural impact.

Similarly with anti-capitalism. bradhicks - speaking from an American perspective.
Millions of Americans have been told by the corporate media, ever since the 1980s, that nobody ... but you has a problem with winner-take-all lasseiz fair oligopoly capitalism... You and al Qaeda and the illegal immigrants and the thieving welfare bums and the dirty hippies and the anti-Christian communists. So what's wrong with you that you agree with those people?

His argument is that, just as in the Arabic world, people have started to realise that they are not insane or bad, but that many other perfectly nice ordinary people feel the same as them. The result is the current anti-capitalist protest movement.

It's not a done deal of course. A lot of the gains of feminism have been lost, and young girls are once again being told they are sick and dirty if they don't conform; critics of right wing ideology may be successfully labelled as insane and evil. But feminism and anti-capitalism are movements which will grow again, even if completely expunged. The protest is like the natural fertility of the soil, which renews itself.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:zornhau
Date:October 18th, 2011 08:28 am (UTC)
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In the UK, the expectations set by Feminism have become - for the most part - mainstream. That's not to say that cosy boys clubs don't exist at the top of some organisations.
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From:communicator
Date:October 18th, 2011 08:45 am (UTC)
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I guess I think we have come a long way, but there's a long way to go.
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From:zornhau
Date:October 18th, 2011 09:11 am (UTC)
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There's always a long way to go. However, at least sexism isn't the default culturally approved assumption. Instead it's a kind of emergent phenomena: stories men tell each other to justfy particular sorts of "masculine" behaviour and working culture - didn't see a lot of female faces bandied about when the banks collapsed.

Just the very fact we can use the phrase "sexist" and be taken seriously has to be good.
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From:sheherazahde
Date:October 18th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)

You are right. I agree with you.

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This reminds me something I read in "The Sociology of Religious Movements" by William Sims Bainbridge
Each person doing the same thing for the same reason, but each is doing it alone. This is called parallel behavior. Although it takes place in a social context, it is not socially organized.
People facing a common problem or opportunity tend to communicate informally and influence each other's actions so that they end up doing similar things in a somewhat unified way. Interactions among people reveals to them their common concerns and turns parallel behavior into collective behavior.
Many people are working together toward a specific goal through concerted action. Continued focused interaction has transformed collective behavior into a social movement
Bureaucrats now occupy set positions in a hierarchy, perform standard roles, and work together according to established procedures. Social movement agitation in this crisis has led to the establishment of a social institution.
These four degrees of social organization are really areas of a spectrum rather than separately delineated categories. Parallel behavior blends imperceptibly into collective behavior which shades into social movements which carry over into societal institutions. Social institutions derive their status from the fact that they are recognized by other institutions of the society, a kind of mutual admiration society. But in a very real sense institutions are merely slow movements. In turn, movements are well-organized instances of collective behavior, and collective behavior is simply parallel behavior augmented by communication."

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 18th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)

Re: You are right. I agree with you.

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Thank you, I think your comment is a kind of warning too, about what happens when rebellion becomes institutionalised. In some cases it is necessary - for example the NHS is powerful because it is recognised and supported by other institutions. In other cases - how horrible it would be if student rebellion became institutionalised and bureaucratised.
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From:sheherazahde
Date:October 18th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)

Re: You are right. I agree with you.

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It is a sad fact that social change movements eventually decline as change movements by either disappearing or becoming mainstream.

Many social movements have begun with a strong feminist component that disappeared when they went mainstream: Christianity, Mormonism.

The movement to abolish slavery was unusual in that the free white women who got started trying to end black slavery ended fighting for the rights of women.
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From:mraltariel
Date:October 18th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)

Re: You are right. I agree with you.

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I think student rebellion has become institutionalised and bureaucratised, and yes, it is a shame.

The SOAS one I saw at KingsX earlier in the month had loads of carefully printed SWP posters, along with SWP minders in their 40s hanging around quietly around the edges. That looks pretty corporate to me.
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From:communicator
Date:October 19th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)

Re: You are right. I agree with you.

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The SWP look more influential than they are IMHO. I think it's a fair way from institutionalisation yet.
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From:mraltariel
Date:October 18th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
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Oh - and I meant to say. I unreservedly agree with you on this!
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From:tehomet
Date:November 7th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Great post.

It's not a done deal of course. A lot of the gains of feminism have been lost, and young girls are once again being told they are sick and dirty if they don't conform; critics of right wing ideology may be successfully labelled as insane and evil. But feminism and anti-capitalism are movements which will grow again, even if completely expunged. The protest is like the natural fertility of the soil, which renews itself.

Beautifully put.

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