Tag: revolutionary

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.


Who wants to be a Revolutionary?

Who wants to be a Revolutionary? That’s pretty much the question that Marcos Perez was trying to answer from the perspective of a sociologist. And yes, it is an incredibly interesting question to look at, especially to know the different sociological theories and how they have evolved over the 20th century. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, prominent thinking included Durkheim’s “Collective Effervescence” and also the ideas of “crowd mentality” – how individuality is lost when you enter a crowd. I personally haven’t spent much time in large crowds since I normally try to avoid them, but I think anyone could attest to the difference in energy that a crowd can have—an energy that no single person can have on their own, or obvious hope to generate without a crowd. A random example would be seeing a movie in the theater. Sometimes it’s nice to have the whole place to yourself and a few friends and then it feels like a private showing. But when I went to see Star Wars last year and the theater was totally packed with big fans, there was an electrifying feel in the air with all the excitement emanating off the crowd. This may not be an apt analogy for something like a protest or insurgency movement, but both contexts share the heightened emotions that come with being in a crowd of people sharing a common moment. I don’t think I can answer why exactly I, or anyone else, would participate in a protest, especially since sociologists have been struggling to answer that question for hundreds of years. I can’t imagine the high costs and personal sacrifice that comes to those who lead the revolutions. Then for those who join a revolution as a revolutionary, Perez mentioned how there isn’t really an incentive for one person, who can’t make much of an additional difference. This leads to a collective action dilemma.  

In the question and answer period after the lecture, the conflict between “global” and “local” was identified as a driver in these recent movements. We could look to what some describe as revolutionary movements in the United States, with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, then around the world with far-right movements and decisions like the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union. The shocks of globalization have improved many lives, but has also left a lot of people behind. President-elect Donald Trump saw this and used the “local card” politically, and clearly it was a popular move and sentiment that rewarded him. 2016 seems to have been a wakeup call for globalization. Another big topic in the aftermath of the US election has been fake news. How does something like the ability of any individual or organization to post any opinion or fabrication as fact shift the balance of agency vs social structure in revolution? But now I wonder how revolution happens. Perez noted that one train of thought is that the third world will play an important part as a rising actor in global revolution.



I am a Revolutionary!

In series, whether of sports games, movies, or lectures, the final piece should tie the previous sections together by bringing together old ideas and proposing new questions to walk away with. Professor Marcos Perez, a Professor in Sociology here at Colby, did just that. Professor Perez’s lecture brought us back to our first lecture, from Colby Philosophy Professor Dan Cohen who attacked some very similar questions – what is a revolution? What is a revolution defined? What are the necessary components of a revolution? Stemming even further from Professor Cohen’s lecture, Professor Perez turned his lecture onto the audience – what defines a revolutionary? Perez’s words particularly hit home for myself, and as I imagine with a number of other students, given the current state of political affairs in our own homes, at Colby, and ultimately, in our shared country. Placed in positions of extreme disagreement and emotional unrest, us Colby students must understand this question and know how to properly answer it in order to respond appropriately. Perez explored potential downfalls of becoming part of a revolution – financial, physical, and emotional, thus explaining the difficulties associated with identifying as a revolutionary. It is likely more students would identify as “revolutionaries” than the number of those actually taking part in making difference on a revolutionary level. While this may be the case, I do not write this condescendingly, as I am likely one of those vocal yet inactive students. Professor Perez does not necessarily condemn those not involved, but rather urged us to truly understand, what is a social revolution? In part with the difficulties he addressed, he also mentioned the difficulty of even finding a revolution to be a part of. Being a revolutionary involves a mental understanding and awareness, however it is not as easy as simply claiming “I am a revolutionary!” Nevertheless, revolutions are so powerful because they can occur at any level. Like the American Revolution, they can occur on a global level with impact to many countries worldwide. However, revolutions can also occur on an interpersonal level, or even within one’s own mind. Revolutions do not require thousands of slain men nor ships across seas, but “simply” great change. This term’s revolutionary lectures all provided a new perspective on revolution, and how they occur, throughout history, biology, and into the future. Professor Perez did a phenomenal job of wrapping up this series but prompting us to go forward with our new knowledge and serve as revolutionaries in some capacity or another, acting as catalysts of change. A revolution is impossible without revolutionaries behind it, and with the past 12 weeks behind us, I hope I am able to take my knowledge and become an effective revolutionary!

Why be a Revolutionary?

Before hearing Marcos Perez’s lecture, I don’t think that I had ever considered why someone would become a revolutionary, other than because of the default answer “to create change”. While anyone can aspire to be a revolutionary, it is an extremely temperamental and dangerous title to hold. Many revolutionaries, such as Martin Luther King, were lost too young, becoming martyrs for their revolution. So, why would anyone do it?

One reason that someone might take on the role of a revolutionary, stems for the very essence of what a revolution is. Revolutions are complicated, but also crucial and nebulous to our society. There needs to be someone to act as a shepherd to the sheep in order to maintain order within the group. Also, while the amount of change a revolution brings about can always be up for debate, it is clear that certain revolutions affects some more than others. For example, the Civil Right Movement was meant to guarantee the freedoms and rights of People of Color in America. If there were no revolutionaries leading this movement, this group would have continued to be ignored and stepped on by the law.

While being a revolutionary entails high cost (literal, physical, mental, and spiritual) and considerable collective action dilemmas, many keep on their path because their is to mobilize other towards their goal. Everyone knows that  working with a large group of different types of people can be extremely difficult, however revolutionaries navigate the boundary of group desire and selfish want in order to galvanize a group toward rapid social change. After inciting change, the group will move towards understanding social norms (and possibly fighting to change them), while moving towards mobilizing people to take control and become revolutionaries of their own.

People also become revolutionaries because there are so many issues in the world that need someone to address them; there is no shortage. Issues can range from cultural, to emotional dynamics, to identity politics. However, even though is a never-ending list of issues to tackle, there is another issue with revolutions. A revolution in the 1800s might have had a profound then, but cease to have much importance at a later date. Revolutions are in some case time-sensitive, and this is a key factor to what revolutionaries are involved at that time. For example, in the 1920’s suffragettes such as Emily Davis fought for women to have the right to vote; this was a major development for the time, with millions of women exercising their right to vote. However now, almost 100 years later, many women now voluntarily choose not to vote, possibly because they have lost sight of how important the right is, or that they might have forgotten how many people fought and died for this right, or even simply voting may not be considered that most important thing that women are fighting for. Either way, it can be seen that many revolutions lose their following and importance after a certain amount of time.

From the example that I’ve laid out, it is clear to see why someone would want to become a revolutionary, despite that possible and danger and diffuculty involved.  I don’t know if I have the stamina to become a large-scale revolutionary, but I definitely respect that people that choose to do so.