Tag: what is a revolution

What Does It Take to be Revolutionary?

Marcos Perez’s, Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Colby, talk On Being a Revolutionary was a wonderful way to end the series of lectures as it can speak to the many people at Colby who are activist or trying to be activist and/or care about making change.

During my four years at Colby people have protested, organized with other students, spoken out about their beliefs in different ways, all to bring about awareness and also social change. One example of this was when the Yik Yak fiasco occurred, in which a protest took place all over campus to bring awareness to what is happening to Black lives and people of color outside of our Colby bubble. People put tremendous effort into organizing this and thought about their risk but the cause proved to be more important to them, something Marco Perez spoke about in his talk. Another thing Marco Perez mentioned was the other side, “the enemy,” sure enough the anonymous people from Colby’s community responded in a not so surprisingly way, in discontent with the harmless protest. As Marco Perez mentions a revolution involves high risks and it takes a person or a group of people a lot of courage and preparation to assemble and enable revolutions. But this also brings up the question of what is the right way to protest is there a right way to protest? At the “closure” of the hectic, emotional week people were left wondering who’s voice was going to be heard, the protestors – the Colby students who are not comfortable on campus no matter what, or the underlying racist, sexist, etc.—people who are able to hide their face but share their ideas?

Professor Perez also discusses: Why be a revolutionary? What is it like? How are revolutions organized? He focused on the elements of revolutions, although much larger than that of what happens at Colby, for example with his example of the of the Soviet Union, he still shares important insight into revolutions. The message behind revolutions are that they are essential but imprecise and complicated, and hard to notice in the moment that it is happening. He also brings up good questions about the ability to start a revolution: is there human agency? what is the role of individuals in the outcome of revolutions? To connect this idea to the example above, professors and faculty stood up to speak on the issue and so did other students but nothing else was said, what more could and can be done at Colby, that could make it a revolution?

Finally, though I have applied Marco Peres’s talk to a small place like Colby he speaks of much more worldly perspectives on revolution: What (and where) is the best context for revolutionary change? In more or less developed societies? In urban or rural areas? In the global south or north? Third world countries with there unstable circumstances would be likely to have a revolution maybe also because they are at greater tipping point where their well being really would depend on revolution. All in all I really enjoyed this talk and the questions raised.

 

Rethinking Modernity

Keith Peterson, an Assistant Professor of Philosophy from Colby gave his talk on How We Have Never Been Revolutionary. He focuses his talk on Latour, Bruno’s book We have Never Been Modern, a book that comments on science and modernity. Latour tries to relink the social and natural by arguing that modernist differentiate between nature and society which separates us from our primitive, pre modern ancestors who don’t make the same differentiation.

In our ST215 climate weather and society course we have spoken about not separating humanity from nature, its amazing to try to think if that wasn’t the case at all…its unimaginable. Humanity is a part of nature and not apart from nature. Many of who study climate change know and share the importance of how climate change shaped the new world. Thus, the history between humanity and nature is very valuable because it shines light on humanities dependence on nature making people aware that it is our atmosphere and without it, there would be no us. However, today, every day individuals, from urban areas, as an example, do not have to worry about climate shaping our lives. These individuals can live in doors with an AC if its too hot or indoors with the heat on if its too cold. Nonetheless, slowly but surely and not obviously climate affects us all.

In relation to what is happening with our climate its crazy to think that we can separate humanity from nature. The ozone debate, global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes shows the connection between one and the other. The prospect of keeping nature and culture separate is all mental. Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions and rethink the definition and composition of modernity itself, the nature/culture contrast is no longer possible.

Keith Peterson brings up another point of discussion that involves theorist Bruno Latour’s opinion on people thinking of ourselves as “revolutionary” and how this can actually be a central myth of Modernity. Latour hopes to prove that we in fact “have never been Modern,” which would support that people have not been revolutionary. The first section of Peterson’s talk addresses the revolutionary miracle. He went on to explain that westerners definition of revolutionary depends on the relationship between nature and society, and how we interpret time, which only concerns matter and mind. He also mentions how Westerners is not a culture and the aims of the revolutions that existed are for political interest.

In all, what I have taken away from his talk is that we need to see nature and society as products of a bigger picture (human and no human actions). Everything is hybrid of nature and society.

 

 

New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution and the Origins of Modern Democracy was presented by Jeremy D. Popkin is the William T. Bryan Chair of History at the University of Kentucky. He focused on the years 1776, 1789, 1804. The events he described are over two hundred years ago yet the term “Haitian Revolution” has been used only in the past few decades.  From the Haitian revolution we learn that how significant the Haitian Revolution is and how we consider revolutions when comparing it to American and French revolutions. What truly stood out to me throughout the lecture was Bryan’s ability to relate the events discussed to today’s classrooms.

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How are we not revolutionary?

On November 29th, I had the opportunity to listen to Keith Peterson, who discussed in length about Bruno Latour’s highly controversial philosophies, the major one being whether we have actually been revolutionary at all. Bruno Latour argues that we have never been revolutionary, asserting the fact that we actually have never been modern. While this is an interesting approach to defining revolutions, I believe that it is not comprehensive. Firstly, I think that it is highly subjective. How would person A define modernity? How would person B define modernity? Will they find any parallels?

Bruno Latour also finds faults in society’s current system of distinguishing everything between nature and society. He believes that this is something our ancestors never did. For instance, take a look at alchemy, or even astrology. To strengthen his argument, he identifies certain aspects where the distinction between nature and society simply becomes overwhelming. Think about ozone depletion. This is a classic case where nature, science, politics all converge. So, what about the distinction?

While I attempted to follow Bruno Latour’s line of thought in that span of one hour, I was left wondering about the arguments presented. The audience was presented with a whole lot of new concepts beforehand without any background context whatsoever, such as anti-modernism, postmodernism and others. His is a refreshing approach questioning how humans have differentiated between nature and society; however at times I was puzzled at his methodology. While I do approach philosophical subjects with curiosity, the technicality of the discussed sometimes got the better of me. So while I believe that Bruno Latour must have very strong reasons to suggest that we have never been revolutionary, I do not think he was successful in convincing me, which of course says nothing about his arguments.

Was “The Scientific Revolution” actually the, scientific or revolutionary?

The first lecture of the Continuing Revolutions seminar was about “The Scientific Revolution”, by Dan Cohen. The main idea of the lecture was actually proof-checking whether that event that we so proudly call the scientific revolution was that special after all. In order to answer this question we primarily have to actually be sure we know what do we mean by the term revolution. Revolution represents a sudden radical change in absolutely new direction that affects an enormous number of people who are not interconnected. Now, what Cohen successfully explains in his lecture is that we should not take things we hear for granted, but question them, not for the sake of the argument or just to spite the others, but in order to check if a certain statement is true or not. Even John Stuart Mill has come to this conclusion in his book “On Liberty”. He states that if something that is taken as a truth is not questioned or is protected from questioning, it becomes a dead dogma where the truth actually loses its strength because the ones who believe in it, believe in it without actually understanding why they think that is truth. It is important to notice that here we do not talk about the revolutions that might exist on the personal level and whether they can actually be called revolutions, as that is a completely different discussion.

So, was “The scientific revolution” the, scientific or revolutionary?

As it was shown during the lecture, many scientific parts of this revolution were not exactly that scientific. The scientists of that time had many bigot perspectives and have actually not made any experiments (something essential to any scientific process), but just tried to support the hypothesis they had in any possible way. They actually even ridiculed the scientist who, as we can see now, were right the whole time. That was the time when it was more important who you were and who supports than what you were saying. Continuing further, we can see that there were many different events in our history that can be seen as more important for the scientific community than the one we call “The one”. The difference does exist between them: Only The revolution took place in the western world, while when the major mathematic discoveries were created together with incredible advances in medicine much before this revolution in Arabic world, for example, nobody even thought of calling that “The one”. Following this argument, one can say that The scientific revolution was not even that revolutionary, as some of the things were only rediscovered by the western scientists – in other parts of the world knowledgable people knew about those things long time before that.

Nevertheless, The scientific revolution was definitely an important time in the history of mankind, but was not necessarily the only time when changes of that kind were made, or when the changes of that size were made. The truth is, however, that the history is written by the winners and we all know who colonized the rest of the world – white male christian western European. Thus, what these people have considered to be the most important remained written in the history books that we read now as the most important, even though it did not have to be. Hopefully, we learned from that and are ready now to appreciate revolutions wherever they are, just for the sake of their utility and impact.

Darwin’s a Revolution?

Janet Browne from Harvard University came to Colby to speak on the Darwinian Revolution. Two points Browne elaborated on was how Darwin is not the only one to speak on Evolution and that the Darwinian Revolution is not really a revolution. Her talk spoke a lot on Darwin’s life and what we have made of it; she spoke of his upbringing, his death and how he’s remembered today. After listening to her expertise on Darwin, I think Darwin was a smart guy who was simply lucky to be recognized as greatly as he is today. So what was it that made Darwin so well recognized, and considered revolutionary?

Of course Darwin is well recognized for his evolution theory. A theory that has greatly contributed to the sciences and has been studied internationally and will continue to be studied for years. Darwin should be well recognized for his work, however, according to Janet Browne there were also other great people who contributed to the evolution theory but are not as greatly publicized – Herbert spencer, Robert chambers, Russell Wallace, etc. Thus, Darwin is brilliant for his work but he was not the only one contributing to such a great theory.

Through Browne’s talk we saw what an ordinary guy Darwin was. Other than being super intelligent, Darwin was a family guy, he married Emma Wedge Wood, who was also wealthy, and they had a bunch of kids. It is also worth mentioning Darwin was an ordinary, privileged* guy. He was privileged to have the money from his parents to move to the rural, Kent ,UK , in a house with servants as of a young age. He had the resources to become educated and have the time to pursue his studies without worrying about working for money. In addition, he was able to use his own back yard to do his studies.

A final point I would like to make about Darwin is how we have come to know Darwin as the great scientist. Today there exist memes, quotes, and sayings said to be stated by him but were actually not, and rather, just inspired by his work. For example, a famous quote that was incorrectly cited as Darwin’s is “Species most responsive to change will survive.” The picture of the apes evolving into humans was also not Darwin’s creation. Apparently, at Darwin’s funeral he was treated like a saint, today, there is a statue of him in the natural history museum in London and his sons even made an effort to incorporate Darwinism into genetics, to continue to branch out his name in the sciences.

I think Darwins’ story is so interesting because this was considered a revolution and is so highly thought of by the people who are very passionate about him, his work and what he represents – the UK. I feel that there is a lot of hype around Darwin and passion for him not only because of his work but because he represents the UK. From this talk we see how he was indeed smart, but he was a normal guy who received a lot of attention. He had the resources to do what he did and was lucky to get the publicity that he got. The people are what keep Darwin so relevant. What does this have to say about revolutions? Well, this shows how powerful those are who get to report history and also have the money and power to make landmarks to commemorate someone in history.

 

 

How are Revolutions Remembered

 

What constitutes a revolution? This was the main argument presented in Professor Cohen’s lecture on the Scientific Revolution. In the lecture he talked about the two main theories of a revolution. In the lecture Professor Cohen brought forward two main ideas about a revolution. One being the classical and more straightforward revolution that is an object going around another object. The one that was more important to the point we are talking about is a revolution that changes the present state of think or how people will act. However, in the lecture it was left out a major factor in determining a revolution.

When looking at revolutions in these two types of context we can throw away the first thought about rotations around an object, obviously the scientific revolution is more in the discussion of a change of thought or action. Based on the lecture of Professor Cohen, even though it might contradict what he was trying to say the scientific revolution in fact was a revolution. One main point about revolutions that was left out was there legacy, or how they are remembered as time goes on. When we look at most revolutions not only did they cause change, but they were remembered. In US history the American Revolution is our most famous behind the Civil War. While the Civil War is not remembered as a revolution it sparked the slow moving civil rights movement that is very well remembered as one. Even more recently we have experienced the technological revolution across the world. It has increased the ability for people to be able to connect, but will also be marked by more people finding seclusion within our devices.

With both of these ideas in mind looking back at the Scientific Revolution presents it to me as more of a revolution before. The simplest example of this is current high school students’ psychic books. Within every single one of these books discusses Newton’s three laws and how they will be extremely important for the majority of the course. While Newton’s laws were in today’s context simple compared to the laws and theories currently developed it does point out the lasting presence that the Scientific Revolution had on today’s society. Without the work done by the scientist of the Scientific Revolution then our discoveries of today might have been delayed.

It is important to note that like many Revolutions, without them the presence might not be far from where it is now but it would not be exactly similar. Eventually America would have broken away from the British Empire like every country eventually did. Civil Rights would have become the main front fight for equality like they had. Without the Scientific Revolution it would have taken other thinkers in the future time to blaze the path that previous thinkers had already done. For this the Scientific Revolution was a revolution for the work it laid for future thinkers. It created work that is still talked about today.