“To create is to resist. To resist is to create.”
Stéphane Hessel (1917-2013)
I learned this morning of the passing of Stéphane Hessel, World War II French Resistance fighter who authored Indignez-Vous! (Time for Outrage!), a manifesto to outraged, to act in face of often overwhelming injustices.
Hessel was interviewed by Democracy Now! (aired October 10, 2011) on Time for Outrage! and Occupy Wall Street:
Hessel, like other public intellectuals of his generation, gave voice to a sense of hope rooted in the horrific experiences of war and its aftermath. His writing, as well as the trajectory of his life embodied a sense of urgency to action in light of global crisis, be it war, attacks on human rights, man-made ecological disaster.
The standard by which we judge what is social responsibility is lowering. Social services, such as Medicare and social security benefits, should not be framed as “entitlements.” As Hessel so eloquently states, we all do better when we chose as societies to protect the rights of minorities, provide basic social and health services for everyone, when we think about economic development in terms of long-term environmental sustainability. Continue reading
From Madison to Occupy Wall Street, the economy led as the most covered news story in U.S. news coverage for 2011, according to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Much of that attention was driven by protests against growing income inequality here in the United States, as well as globally.
For an international communication seminar project last semester, I wanted to examine how social movements use information communication technologies to challenge the dominant economic order. To do so, I chose to compare Occupy Wall Street with the Spanish 15M, or Indignados movement, which may be less familiar to a U.S. audience.
On May 15, 2011, one week before municipal elections, thousands took to the streets in 50 Spanish cities to protest corruption and demand “real democracy,” calling for crisis management by “the people and not the banks” (see Periodismo Humano). Forty demonstrators gathered in Madrid’s main square, Puerta del Sol, into evening of May 15 talking about the country’s future decided to stay. In the early morning hours of May 16, those in the plaza made a key tactical decision to negotiate with police over their presence, who allowed them to stay the night. And they camped, sparking what is now know as the 15M movement, for the date of its commencement, or #SpanishRevolution after one of the movement’s main Twitter hashtags.
As events of the past year illustrate, while the social problems associated with economic globalization are correspondingly globalized, protest actions such as Occupy and 15M are place-based.
As the semester has ended, I’ve had the occasion to read for pleasure. I picked-up a copy of Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness, which had sat on my bookshelf unread for quite some time. Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in the 1930s and before that a journalist in the radical New York press during the 1920s, writes of journalism, labor rights and community. The first two of which provide useful lessons to movements against income inequality and for workers rights in 2011, nearly a hundred years after she started out as a reporter for the New York Call, a Socialist daily newspaper.
Day can be remembered today as a journalist who lived what she wrote of—feeding the hungry, walking picket lines with strikers, challenging Church hierarchy to embody its principles in the mist of the Great Depression and opposing all wars, no matter their genesis.
On journalism, she provides a picture of the importance of the press in its heyday:
We started publishing The Catholic Worker at 436 East Fifteenth Street in May 1933, with a first issue of 2,500 copies. Within three or four months the circulation bounded to 25,000, and it was cheaper to bring it out as an eight-page tabloid on newsprint rather than the smaller-sized edition on better paper we had started with. By the end of the year we had a circulation of 100,000 and by 1936 it was 150,000. It was certainly a mushroom growth. It was not only that some parishes subscribed for the paper all over the country in bundles of 500 or more. Zealous young people took the paper out in the streets and sold it, and when they could not sell it even at one cent a copy, they gave free copies and left them in streetcar, bus, barber shop and dentist’s office. We got letters from all parts of the country from people who said they had picked up the paper on trains, in rooming houses. (p. 182)