Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Assignment 12

At the beginning of the class, I have doubts on creating a successful social change, especially with the context we are all in where everyone has different agenda and different interest. The people who want certain change most times are the minority and the people who oppose it can be the majority of the population. Let’s take capitalism as an example, how many people are truly against this system? Not many, the majority of Americans are going to argue for it. You see, many people think capitalism gives them their maximum living potential, and the people who live in a non-capitalist country are poor folks and we Americans need to instill capitalism to their world. The point I am making is that, creating a social change needs the majority’s support, and this is not an easy task because we have been divided by the power holders into different classes and groups.

Now, after almost finish taking this course, I still don’t think a social change can happen without a big uprising against the system. From what I learned from this class, a successful activist movement or revolution needs opportunities, mobilizing structures, frames, and mass support. And we are not having all these four main points in our benefit. We either lack opportunities or mass support. The peace movement corroborates my stance. There is not exactly an external opportunity given to the anti-war activist, the casualties of our soldiers are not high enough for the Americans to worry about their sons and daughters, the lack of evidence that Iraq had mass destruction weapons doesn’t help either because Saddam was a dictator and the invasion could be justified just by that fact, and the speculation of a civil war in Iraq didn’t happen. Mobilizing structures, there are indeed many anti-war organizations in here but these small mobilizing structures are fighting against a humongous mobilizing structure, which is American military. The peace activists also have frames like ‘fighting for oil’ and ‘American imperialism’, but these phrases are counterattacked by the pro-war supporters, saying anti-war activists are ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘soft on Islamic militants (terrorists)’. Although the peace activists have a clear goal and tried various activist methods of forcing the government to draw out of Iraq, they never succeed in drawing the mass population to their anti-war group and this explicitly explains why American troops are still in Iraq. In my opinion, the anti-war activist movement is today’s largest and most popular activist organization in United States and they have successfully toiled to the attention of the mainstream media. If they can’t change anything, who can? In other eras, this massive anti-war protester group could force the government to draw out from this unpopular war, just like what had happened in Vietnam War. But not in our time, a small percentage of the population demanding something won’t threaten the government’s establishment. A majority of the population has to protest vehemently on Iraq War for things to change and that is very unlikely. That’s why I say a social change won’t happen in these days because it’s hard to win the support of the mass population, there’s always an even number of people supporting and opposing on an issue.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Assignment 11

Today we talked about revolutionary methods because we generally agree that weapons of the weak can’t create a large scale change. However, a revolutionary can, it changes the fundamental basis of the society. We were given some examples from Professor Snyder, such as the Russian Revolution, Cuban Revolution, and Chinese Revolution. These revolutions all brought radical changes that contradict with the prior power structures. We also differentiated rebellion with revolutionary movement. The goal of a revolution is to create a permanent change in the society. A rebellion, in contrast, doesn’t create a lasting social change but just replace old people with new people in the same power system.

Weapons of the weak, as most would agree, don’t provoke big social change. But, if we consider the civil war example, the slaves burned Confederate resource and escaped the plantation to join the Yankees. Those methods are weapons of the weak and because of those actions the North had gotten a great advantage over the South. From this example, I see that weapons of the weak can help a revolutionary cause.

The strength of weapons of the weak is its effectiveness and safety. This method is probably 99% effective because no one would stall our effort. Also, it is rather safe to use this method because our enemies can’t revenge our actions since they have no idea that we are secretly against them. The only drawback of this action is the result. The result would most likely be positive but it would be too little for us because we are fighting a small part of the system. If we are fighting for something, that means we are very dissatisfied with the current power system, we want to see something big and good happens to our society. And the only way to do so is through a revolution, either armed struggles or nonviolent movements. The beauty of a revolution is that we can change our society to whatever form we see fit, and without a revolution we can’t completely alter our system to a better one because there would be many restrictions. So, the strength of a revolution is making a huge social change that ideally would benefit the humanity. The disadvantage is that there would be a price to pay for every revolution. And sometimes, the price humans pay for the revolutionary movement exceeds the benefits a successful revolution would bring. Like the French Revolution, I think the price is too heavy for the French to handle after the revolution. So, we should think first if we really want to start a revolution because the consequence sometimes can be very scary.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Assignment 10

Last night, my mom made a beef soup. She won’t allow me to eat it because a fortuneteller had told her that I can’t eat beef in my first twenty years otherwise it would bring me bad luck. She has no idea how much beef I had digested outside the house. So, I was forbid to taste the soup under the vigilance of my mother. Later that night, when my mom was in her room, I sneaked to the kitchen and drank some of the cold soup and hastily ate some of the meat.

I chose this method because in the short term it works well for me. As long as I am not getting caught, my mom won’t reprimand my rebellious act. I didn’t openly resist my mom’s rule because it would be pointless. She is very superstitious and I don’t want to quarrel with her on such a minor issue, I only have to wait another two years and also I will be leaving her in three months for the college.

The technique I had used is very much like the one James Scott talks in his book. It proved successful, the promise of this technique is that it has a higher successful rate than many other techniques. Many other techniques, such as big protest and violence, often don’t draw positive effects. This techniques, however, is 99.9% effective. This secret resisting method is extremely effective because the opponents can’t tackle your resistance due to the fact that you are in the dark and your opponent is in the light. The limitation of this technique is that it would cause some harms to the opponents but it won’t change the opponents’ agenda. This technique is not likely to cause a big social change. If you consider my example, I have not overthrown this already established rule and my mom will continue to forbid me eating beef. This method, I can say, cannot change my mom’s mind on what I can’t eat.

I think this technique can be popularized by teaching the mass how to secretly resist something they don’t like. In a special event like a WalMart coming to New York City, a prominent activist can teach the New Yorkers to shop at small business stores so WalMart can receive the message that another mega store is not welcome in New York City.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Assignment 9

The last step of the action research is evaluation, now I have to use the data I collected previously to grade my actions. First, I want to say what I had done. The only action I took is making a phone call to someone who works for Senator Schumer regarding the minimum wage. My objective of the plan is to get the Senator’s attention so he can work on the issue. This didn’t work well because I have a feeling that the woman I talked to won’t pass on my concern. I do hope she would somehow get the message to the Senator but the likelihood is very small. There are too many issues in the state that urge the Senator’s attention, and in the eyes of middle class and rich Americans, many issues are more important than the issues about poor people. So, I guess my plan is not very effective because the people who have the power won’t listen to the people in the bottom of the social class. It’s not wise for me to rely on the rich people to help the poor people. Back to the topic, I have no way to find out what Senator Schumer feels about the current minimum wage law. I won’t know if my phone calls would make a difference or no difference, but deep in my heart I think the call is futile. There are probably hundreds of calls from the poor people who want the government to regulate the minimum wage to a higher, more humane salary. An additional call won’t change anything, unless the luck is on my side. Now, the situation stays as it is before, I haven’t heard any news from any legislators about a law that can give workers higher minimum wages. From this action, I learned that things are more sophisticated than what I previously thought. The government and the business owners are most likely cooperating in giving the workers the least amount of money that can shut their complaints. In order for the workers to earn better and fair wages, the workers have to join together and use this unified force to demand what they want. Base on this insight, the best strategy for an activist to change the current situation is to get as many workers as he or she can so they can together express their yearnings for higher wages and better work conditions. The more followers an activist attracted, the more effective he or she has been carrying out the action plan. If I had continued working on this project, I would’ve changed my target audience from power holders to powerless workers. Because if the base created a large unrest, the power holders will feel the pressure and give in to the base’s demand in exchange for keeping the power. The goal of the plan would have also changed from attracting the attention of one power holder to attracting the attention of the general population. This way I could add more voice to this issue.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Assignment 8

I was first planning to write letters to our Senators about the minimum wage issue. But after knowing that my family is out of stamps, my incentive to write a letter waned. I didn’t want to go out and spent one hour in the postal office just to buy some stamps. The problem with my local postal office is that there are only 2 clerks serving the patrons and the most pissed part is that the machine that sells stamps is always broke. So, people who want to buy stamps in the postal office have to wait at a long line. The last time I had been in the postal office I spent one hour or maybe even more just to buy the new .39 stamps. I know the excuse I have for not carry not my original plan is weak, but that’s how I felt at the time. Since I had to at least do something about my issue, I chose to call Senator Schumer’s office. I first asked the woman who pick up my phone “Do you think Senator Schumer will press the Congress for a new federal minimum wage law?” She told me no for now because there are many other more important issues the Senator is currently working on. She assured me that this issue is one of Schumer’s concerns and he had helped to pass the current minimum wage that is in effect since last year. I then asked her “what is Senator Schumer’s stance on the minimum wage issue?”. She told me that the Senator is satisfied with the current minimum wage law but he would like to see the workers get fair pays from the employers. I said to her that employers are unwilling to pay fair salaries to their workers because their profits will shrink if they do so. I told her that I want the Senator to introduce a new minimum wage bill in the Senate that can benefit millions of workers. These are basically the main points of the conversation. The woman I talked to was very polite at my questions and requests but I don’t think my idea will pass to the Senator. The politeness I received from the other end is a method the woman uses to soothe the ‘potential constituents’. Anyway, this is a good experience and I wholeheartedly hope the best for the workers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Assignment 7

My goal for this action research project is to spark attentions among the state lawmakers on my issue. The issue I am working on is minimum wage. This is an important issue because many people are earning minimum wages in their jobs. The current minimum wage in New York State is $6.75 an hour and I feel this is not enough for the minimum wage earners. The idea of setting up a minimum wage law is to make sure everyone can afford to live. And currently, most minimum wage earners are having a hard time to make ends need because rent is rising to a record high and the cost of food and other necessities also peak. So, I suggest we set the minimum wage to $8.00 to $10.00 so many workers can afford to have a better living quality. The key stakeholders in this issue are the lawmakers and that’s why persuading them to raise the minimum wage is the best method. The lawmakers are the ones who get to vote whether to increase the minimum wage or maintain the current one. It’s a sad thing to mention that many of them have received funding from business employers and so they are prone to make decisions that will benefit the rich people. But if workers press them hard on this issue and threaten them with votes, the lawmakers will feel the enormous pressure on their back and give way to the worker’s demand.

The problem for today’s worker is that they are willing to suffer at their jobs and compliant about their low paychecks. They fear that they will loss their jobs if they demand salary raise. Also, the minimum wage earners don’t want to unionize themselves because they dread about losing their jobs. The last thing these mostly uneducated workers want to see is their boss firing them. The fear of losing the jobs are so great to these workers that they normally agrees to their boss’s every unreasonable request. They don’t realize that they can help themselves out of the slum by actively participating in poor people’s movement. Until they start to realize that, their lives will always lie on the hand of the rich people.

The opponents of a higher minimum wage are rich people. Though they are outnumbered at a ridiculous ratio by the poor people, they share more power in the society. The lawmakers at the state capital favor them because they are the key donors to election campaigns. Their monetary support seems invincible, and the workers’ chance at beating them is thin. The only chance for the workers to get what they want is using their voting rights as a tool to command the lawmakers. If enough people have threatened the legislators, the legislators have to leave the rich people and help the poor people in order to retain those precious votes. Therefore, my action plan includes advising the minimum wage earners to call the elected officials and express what they want. My other plan is to write an e-mail to our senators on this issue. Hopefully, a new minimum wage law will pass soon.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Assignment 6

Action Research is a method of analyzing the effect of a repertoire. First, we find an arena to work on. Then, we do some background researches on the topic. After that, we set our goal and component goals. When this is done, we plan our action. This is the preparations need to be done for a typical activist project, nothing unusual thus far. The next step is performing the action planned beforehand. We go out the street and show the world that we are activists. We’ve seen too much of this happening in our days, and this convention is not quite effective. And Action Research suggests that activists analyze and evaluate their performance after the action. We would collect notes like how people react to our presence, how many people engage in a deep conversation with us on the topic, and what kind of people are getting our messages (high school teenagers, old people, or people who wear business attire). Then we would go back to our workshop and do an evaluation on this project. We would ask questions to ourselves like ‘Did we accomplish our goal?’, ‘How effective was our action?’, and ‘How would we do it the next time?’.

The issue I want to do for the Action Research project is minimum wage. I think we need to set a higher minimum wage standard. It’s not fair for some people to earn six dollars an hour when other people is earning thirty dollars an hour. This issue is important because many people are earning the minimum wage and they rely on the welfare system when it is the employers’ job to ensure their workers’ basic needs. If the government rise the minimum wage in our country to $10 dollars an hour (I think that’s a fair amount), many people would be off the welfare care and consequently saving the government billions of dollars. The people who are working for minimum wages would also benefit tremendously because they would finally earn enough money from the labor to buy the basic necessities for their families. Generally, most people would benefit from a rise in the minimum wage, the only ones that are not benefiting are the crooked capitalists. This issue is doable and can get a lot of agreements from the community. It’s even better if I could do it in a poor neighborhood because people there know what I am talking about and they are aching for a pay rise.

At first, I also considered doing organic food promotion and persuading MTA not to have another fare hike in 2007 and 2008. But I ruled out against them because they are just my pike dreams. I can’t promote the benefits of eating organic food when most supermarkets don’t even sell them. It’s like talking something out of the blue and people are like ‘What?’. The fare hike thing is also not doable because MTA needs those extra revenues the fare hike contributes to pay off their huge debt. Plus, MTA doesn’t care about their commuters otherwise they wouldn’t maintain their subway stations so badly and make people feel like it’s a cheap thing to do to ride MTA operated trains. They shouldn’t have piled all their garbage on a corner of the station. We pay them money and we aren’t supposed to see all those garbage and suffer the atrocious smell when we are waiting on the platform for the next train. This is just one of many issues MTA have with its commuters. So, I would rather do the minimum wage than the later two issues.

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