Lately, I’ve lately been thinking about kinds of public protests: kneeling NFL players, Gandhi and non-violence, the Occupy Wall Street movement, democracy movements in the Middle East, the Women’s March of January 21, 2017, the American Civil Rights movement and black protests, Charlottesville, The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and the First Amendment right to peaceable assembly. All of these examples and more suggest a role that the liberal arts in higher education or a non-profit foundation might play in studying these challenges to political, social, and economic injustices.
So, what might a center for protest studies look like? And how might it include open resource, interdisciplinary, integrative, multicultural, and community-engagement approaches?
Here’s a beginning sketch of a strategic plan, some resources, and a brief list of other centers or research institutes:
Vision: The Center for Protest Studies (CPS) will be recognized as an internationally respected institute and open resource center for the study of public protest.
Mission: To promote the open, interdisciplinary, integrative, multicultural, and community-engaged study of public protest and its peaceful implementation.
Definition: By “protest,” the CPS means the variety of methods whereby an individual or group expresses public opposition to oppressive conditions.
Areas of Interest: The Center for Protest Studies will promote the study of public protest from many perspectives and disciplines, including;
The Center will establish co-directors with course reassignments for the time dedicated to promoting CPS, grant writing, coordinating the annual conference, managing publications, leading selection of visiting scholar, and facilitating outreach efforts.
Faculty will be recruited to develop CPS materials and courses to support certificate and minor programs. Course development grants will promote the integration of CPS learning objectives in protest studies in core and major courses.
Grants will be sought to support year-long visiting scholars appointments in protest studies.
Graduate Research Assistants
Graduate student funding will support graduate research assistants assigned to visiting scholars.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment, The Constitution of the United States
The citizens shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good; and apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.
Section 27, Article 1, Bill of Rights, The Texas Constitution
Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau
But there come occasions, generally rare, when he considers certain laws to be so unjust as to render obedience to them a dishonour. He then openly and civilly breaks them and quietly suffers the penalty for their breach. And in order to register his protest again the action of the law givers, it is open to him to withdraw his cooperation from the State by disobeying such other laws whose breach does not involve moral turpitude.
Non-Violent Resistance (Satyagraha), M. K. Gandhi
This is no time for romantic illusions about freedom and empty philosophical debate. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program which will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far, this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement.
“Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom,” Martin Luther King, Jr.
We are a union and we are strong and we are striking to force the growers to respect our strength!
The Union and The Strike, Cesar Chavez, Director, National Farm Workers Association
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How could you run when you know?
Ohio, Neil Young
In sum, nonviolent campaigns are more likely to succeed in the face of repression than are violent campaigns.
Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,
Maria J. Stephan; Erica Chenoweth. International Security. 33(1):7-44; MIT Press, 2008.
In contrast to, say, a military campaign, the basic resource that nonviolence draws upon is unlimited. When I give you respect, I don’t give away or reduce my own supply. Violence, on the other hand, focuses us on material things that are scarce and impermanent, creating a sense of competition and fear.
The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, Michael N. Nagler
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Some Other Centers
Tonight at 7 pm and as part of homecoming week, the University will be holding a “Ram Remembrance Ceremony” in the C. J. Davidson Center.
A number of years ago when this ceremony was first established, I was asked to find and read a poem that would be appropriate for the occasion. Unable to find something fitting, I composed the poem above and have read it at the ceremony each year since. Tonight, I’ll be reading it again.
More information on the ceremony is at the link below, which includes a list of those faculty, staff, and students who have passed in the last year, including two retired from our own department: Dr. Wallace Bost and Dr. Perry Gragg.
Drawing in class again. It is the same basic whiteboard I used in the presence and mindfulness class a week or so ago, but here for an advanced poetry and poetry writing class at midterm as a reminder of the role of art in humanity; that is, why we are doing what we are doing: practicing the role of art in awakening us to our courage and freedom.
I also shared in class David Whyte’s poem “Everything is Waiting for You” as well as his reading of the poem below because of his line: “Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.”
Also, I shared this brief quote below from Chogyam Trungpa from his book The Myth of Freedom and asked students to replace the word meditation with poetry writing.
Whiteboard from today’s English 2307: Introduction to Literature and Creative Writing class on the small topic of the basis of human suffering (from a Buddhist perspective) and the role art (poetry and short fiction in our case) plays in helping us sort out and understand the emotional worlds that we develop in response to that suffering.
We have been reading Chogyam Trungpa’s Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior about the difference between the rising and setting sun attitudes that represent impermanence-change-courage-imperfection-life-transformation-community and permanence-no-change-fear-perfection-death-cocooning-isolation, more fully elaborated upon in chapters six “The Dawn of the Great Eastern Sun” and seven “The Cocoon.”
At Angelo State, I am teaching a freshman seminar for 25 students under the title “Presence and Mindfulness.” This is a 1-hour 8-week course for new students.
The photo above captures the whiteboard drawings I completed today as I lectured on two ways in which we behave toward ourselves, others, and the world, with consciousness or without.
Today in class, I wanted to contrast these behaviors with their opposites to help my students see the consequences of falling into the dream state of an unconscious life.
Ultimately, I argued, the value of contemplation practice is the development of a wakeful attitude so that we can activate our moral imaginations as we develop our decision-making capabilities, as well as our confidence, to further encourage ourselves to not fall asleep on ourselves, others, and the world.