Chris' Social Change

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Final Reflection

A Reflection on the Class
Well this class has come to a close and I have posted up the final assignment. I felt that the assignment was a bit restraining with the topics (only your mental map of society and the self), so I would like to reflect on the class and its effectiveness as a college rehearsal. This class taught me many methods at creating social change though I highly doubt I’ll ever use any of them again. But it’s a good thing to know that your have options should particular cases present themselves. It can also provide me with a base in order to hold a conversation with others pertaining to social change. It’s basically helped me become a more well-rounded person.
The primary thing (as I stated in class) that I will leave this class with is the “Andy moments”. Those moments where he got out of the professor role and told us exactly how the professor would react to a certain situation. It’s those comments that I really took into account and stored in my memory for later use. To be honest, I didn’t really have a genuine interest in social change; I sort of ended up here. So anything that was more universal (the Andy moments) caught my interest. They were facts that someone could really carry with them into college; social change may not become vital for your college education. Some of them were already in my mind, but to hear them from an adult who’s been through college (and who is extremely likely to know more about college than us) confirmed my thoughts and so I have basically set a blueprint for the way I will attempt to act during college. Chances are that I will succumb to the pressures of parties and not doing work as efficiently as possible, but setting out this ideal blueprint helps comfort me for the time being. Of course we’ll never know until we actually get to college, but this was a fair rehearsal (though for the record, I was and am still against it).
As for something for Professor Schnieder to read and learn from (a student’s perspective on effective techniques, etc.), I will now reflect on the activities, assignments, and topics, and what I feel he should repeat or delete. I think the random acts of kindness made for a very good first assignment. It’s a very easy action and not terribly effective in terms of social change, but a good introduction to the unit because it’s universal. The volunteering and philanthropy was a good topic to cover though I feel less emphasis should have been put on it. I felt the topics were basic and dedicating a class to trying out volunteering wasn’t necessary. People know how to volunteer and if they want to they will and if they don’t dedicating a class to it was simply a waste of a class. The action research was also very effective because it’s a very good social change method and seemed essential for our curriculum. I think that it was very effective in teaching us and getting us to create (or at least attempt to create) our own change. Then came several historic examples, which I enjoyed. It showed how extreme society was (though it’s just as extreme, just less obvious about it). It helped put the rest of the course into perspective and give us examples to work off of. For the weapons of the weak, I also liked that unit. Considering many students (if not all) were already in the position of the weak in society, this probably hit a note very close to home. If I were to use any of these techniques in the future, I’d probably heavily base it off our weapons of the weak unit. But there’s something I think this course should have included (though I’m aware of the heavy time constraints from the college schedule): weapons of the strong and planning alternatives. I think that you should analyze weapons of the strong as to figure out counters and teach it to the class since it’s often what we have to deal with. For planning alternatives, I think you should teach the students how to plan alternatives if they manage to change the issue as to not simply dismantle something and have a missing part in society. You should teach them how to make alternatives that aren’t simply the same thing but with them in the power position, teach them how to create change and actually make a change, not a role switch.
I’d like to say that though I wasn’t always genuinely interested in this class (which is probably heavily due to senioritis) I appreciate the experience and will hopefully utilize my newly acquired knowledge in the future.

Assignment #12

Mental Map of the Self & Society
I decided to skip assignment #11 because I was absent for the two classes that could have possibly pertained to the assignment.
My mental map prior to this college course was largely based off our studies in humanities earlier in the year. My mental map of society is that it’s primarily responsible for developing the self and that the self wasn’t really anything unique, just a combination of different aspects of society. Our exploration of the self in class is what helped me develop my own conclusion about the self. Prior to the class itself, I think that my mental map was basically non-existent because I never really gave it any thought until prompted to. Basically my mental map of society and the self are closely related.
I still have that same mental map and perspective on the issue, though my particular perspective of society has declined. Looking at society and the way it has been in the past, society isn’t quite as grand as I assumed it to be. I never imagined that society was perfect or even on the better side of the moral spectrum (for lack of a better word), but this class has placed it even further on the bad side of the spectrum. I have now been exposed to all the issues that are in deep need of changing through this class. Not only the larger issues like racism and capitalism (as we have it now); but also the smaller things like the general populace’s negative attitude (as was revealed through our first assignment revolving around random acts of kindness). As for the self, I now view the self as sort of a negative entity because so many “selves” are so self-centered that everyone (except the elite) ends up losing in the end. Of course, this can be related back to our society’s broken system of capitalism that we insist on maintaining because the elite are so effective at brain washing the masses into thinking otherwise. Basically my mental map of the self and society after this course is a very negative one. Though with the newly found skills I have been taught through this course at creating change, my mental map isn’t set in stone and seems more like clay: still moldable but with a time limit before it can no longer be changed. There will be a point when the system is so broken, it will be beyond repair. It’s highly doubtful that I’ll be the one to create change within that time or that the change will even happen before time is up. They’re brain washing people at younger and younger ages making it harder to resist the system. But if this society becomes permanent, it’s only a matter of time before something (peak oil perhaps?) comes along and forces everyone to reconstruct society again (hopefully learning from their mistakes).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Weak Weapons"

Weapons of the Weak
The weak are often the only ones in search of weapons as they’re the only ones who want change to occur. Those on top already have access to an arsenal of weapons to help maintain the current order of things (or at the very least, them remaining at the top or close to it). The weapons available to the weak are very limited and difficult to attain, but they exist. As we discussed in class, any open revolt will be easily noticed by the power holders and will be quickly stopped. So all available weapons must be secretive and covert as to not be noticed and stopped before a chance to gain momentum is presented. First off, it should be noted that none of these weapons are truly effective at creating change if it doesn’t have numbers as support. In fact, attempting to create any change always requires numbers. One man with a revolutionary idea can do nothing; it doesn’t matter if he has ideas if nobody believes him. He can do nothing more than feel better about himself. Another point about these weapons of the weak is that they must remain hidden until enough support is rallied to present a moderate challenge to the system.
The particular weapons present vary based on the situation. For example, attempting to resist parents at home is difficult. Make the opposition open and obvious, they have the power to remove any resources they deem necessary to get you back into a position where you’re under their control again. So the consequences are potentially severe, so one must be careful with the resistance method. You can choose not to do what they say and insist that you’re busy “doing homework”. They can’t reasonably discipline you for not doing your homework quickly because people work at their own pace. And they can’t say to forget the homework because a vast majority of parents in this society highly value their child’s education. So to avoid chores you feel are unfair or unnecessarily tolling take your homework out and take your time with it. Many use a similar technique in work situations. When one doesn’t work as efficiently as possible, it’s hard for the power holder to discipline them, particularly when it isn’t a professional work environment (where a boss has the ability to fire you) like within a household or at school. Weapons of the weak are also easily accessible when the system works “off the books” (many actions, etc. aren’t documented in any way other than memory). That way, when a case is presented against you, they don’t have any hard evidence to back up any claims, just one person’s word against another.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Assignment #10

Experiences With Covert Resistance

The closest I ever came to participating in a covert form of resistance was this past summer. When I discovered that my brother had been unfairly fired from his job, I was initially distressed with ethical issues. I didn’t feel proper continuing to work for an authority that fired a worker simply because of a pair of spoiled children. But I wanted to continue to work at the same worksite because many of my friends were there as well and I had been working there for the past three years (but been there for the past nine years). If I decided to quit in protest, I would also have to find a new occupation to pass my time after school and during the summer. So I ultimately decided to continue working at the place, but provided my brother with moral support if necessary. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue to act the way I did around the authority because I simply wouldn’t feel right. So I decided to change my relationship with the authority to strictly professional. That means I only interacted with him when it pertained to something work-related and if it wasn’t, I only answered questions, not continued conversations beyond necessary. I basically limited my interactions with him and took out the fun social aspect. It’s not like he would be able to yell at me and force me to spend time socializing with him. It’s not part of the job so he has no leverage over me outside of it.
I wouldn’t change anything about this method of covert resistance as I’m currently continuing this exact method today. I can’t think of any effective way to make this method more effective without making it obvious and vulnerable to attack. This method may not be terribly efficient or make a huge impact, but there’s nothing that can be done to stop it without my consent. I don’t think that this has any promises for creating social change by our definition because it can be easily ignored. This method in particular shouldn’t really be popularized for anything else, but covert methods of resistance should be popularized. They’re not as effective as open resistance, but they’re extremely hard to counter or stop, so they’re good at getting a slow start and develop at least a small following. Once you acquire the necessary numbers, you can then try open methods of social change. I see this as more of a stepping stone in the greater goal.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Assignment #9

Action Research (Evaluation)

Now that I’ve done a quick run-through of my plan, I think I’ve done enough to be able to analyze the effects and effectiveness of my actions. My first action of increasing my workload had a positive effect on the overall family dynamic (I would hope so anyway). My brother spent more time playing video games and seemed to be in a much better mood toward the end of the night. When my mom asked him to take his shower (which he usually waits a while to take), he went within ten minutes without an attitude, as opposed to his usual hour wait with an attitude every time my mom reminds him. He just didn’t seem as hostile that day because he had more time than usual to blow off any steam through the video games (since I took care of the dishwashing that day). Both my parents had more time to relax and watch television than they usually do. Especially since the season finales for their shows were on that night, they enjoyed the extra realizing time provided. They still had to do work (I only helped my dad with the cooking and my mom with the laundry since I don’t do either enough to be able to complete them on my own), but it was considerably less than they usually do. My second day’s action (to do less than my usual workload) didn’t seem to have much of an effect. Since I told them that I couldn’t get to my chores because of homework, my family viewed it as a plausible reason and simply took up my workload for the day. They didn’t seem particularly more on edge or anything; it was exactly the same as it usually is (probably because I’ve done this before when I did have a large amount of homework to complete). Based off the results of both days, it’s clear that when I do more than usual, my family is more relaxed (exactly what I would expect) and if I don’t meet my own standard of work, there’s a bit more tension, though the amount is minimal. Looking at the result, I’m glad to know that when I’m off in college, the tension level in the house without me won’t increase much.
I think that my action the first day brought me on step closer to my goal. My family was more relaxed at home and that’s exactly what I feel a home should be, a relaxing place to retire after a hard-day’s work. I’ve slowly begun to make the transition and increase my workload to help my family become more relaxed at home. Something that I have realized about my family and the environment at home is what little impact I had on the issue as a whole. My handful of chores takes little to no effort and a minimal amount of time. My family would be able to easily function without my presence. Even after I increased my workload, I still didn’t have as much of an impact as I wanted to think I did. Sure the overall environment was more relaxed, but it was minimal compared to other options that could have made much more of an impact.
If I were to continue this action research, in order to make the process more efficient, I would probably take on other tasks rather than just the standard household chores. I would bother to get my permit and learn to drive so my parents can be more relaxed in the morning, as well as go to work more often to help the family financially (though that would also make a very minor impact). I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I would definitely expand beyond the standard chores. I do plan on becoming more helpful and supportive for my family in the future, I just plan to truly do so when I have access to greater resources (money, time, etc.). But in the immediate future, I’ll stick to increasing my share of the household chores.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Assignment #8

Action Research (Action)

The action that I took spanned a two-day period. Yesterday, I did more chores than I usually do. Rather than just bring out the garbage and wash the dishes, I also offered to do some of the cooking (since I’m really no good at it) and take an attempt at laundry (which I’m also not too good at). Both my parents were confused as to why I offered to do more than I usually do without either of them asking me. I wasn’t seen as a particularly lazy son, but I definitely wasn’t always as active or efficient as I could be. They were surprised but in a pleasant way. I insisted that I was doing this to “ready myself for college” (which is actually partly true). I didn’t want my family to find out about my plan you, in fear that they may act different, making the change artificial and temporary. While taking this extra workload upon myself, I felt better about myself, not like I was wasting away my life showing no appreciation for my parents’ constant hard work. Of course I felt more tired than I usually do, but that’s because it wasn’t really natural. I’d assume that if I got more used to it, it wouldn’t seem as tiring. In the future, I plan to begin to volunteer to take a bigger workload to give my life more meaning (at least from my perspective). I feel like my entire life, I haven’t pulled my weight and yesterday made me feel one significant step closer to pulling an appropriate amount. I did this to see if a stress-free home environment would have an effect on my family (which it didn’t really). One day doesn’t offer much of a timeframe to observe effects.
For today, I did no chores at all. It was to play the other end of the spectrum. When my parents asked me to do my standard chores, I insisted that I was busy with homework and they simply took up the chores. I felt really bad today during this action because I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing, but I had to stick to my plan. I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t on the top of my family’s favorite list. I chose to do this as a way of increasing the stress level as mere observation to see what the current situation can potentially raise to. Of course one day isn’t nearly enough to see the effects, but it can give me a rough idea.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Assignment #7

Action Research (Analysis)

The issue I have chosen to focus on is the disharmony within my family in my house. I plan to help everyone get along better because I’m leaving for college soon. I’m shooting for creating a harmonious environment, but I’m expecting to lessen the level of disharmony. The primary people involved are my family (both parents and my brother) and myself. I think my primary targets will be my mother and brother because they’re the two who seem to get into arguments the most since my dad plays a role similar to my own (mediator). But my primary opponent will probably be my brother. I don’t imagine my parents listening to me easily because I’m their child and they’re not used to listening to me and doing what I say. But my brother will undoubtedly be more difficult because he always does his best to keep up a tough façade. Maintaining that façade means not listening to your bother as well as doing your best to be seen as a rebel. I think that at first, my entire family will be caught off guard by my attempt to bring us closer together because I tend to be a very passive person when concerning serious issues. A sudden change in personality will catch them off guard, but eventually I think they’ll come to accept it and slowly make the transition. I’m sure I’ll be off in college before I see a noticeable difference but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually, especially as my brother matures and hopefully becomes more of an individual. This issue can easily connect to any other issue in any of our lives. If we were all to get along better at home, we would have a more positive state of mind and take a more active role in life. For example, my mom may enjoy going to work more often because our home provided a stress-free environment. Some things that I do have going for me though is the fact that I’m going to college. That way, I might be able to get some sympathy points (much like a final wish-type thing). I’ve also played the role of a mediator in the past, so I’m coming in with a generally neutral perspective on any arguments and issues that may arise during the process. Hopefully this will all work out in due time and my family will be one step closer to the ideal I’ve envisioned.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Assignment #6

Action Research (Arena & Goal)

Action research is the process in which a person or group of people pick an issue they feel needs changing. They decide on the issue and the goal they want to accomplish. They then do background research (via websites, interviews, etc.) to get a deeper, but not complete, understanding of the issue. Then they figure out component goals, which serve as steps to reach the bigger goal they set for themselves. The next step would be developing the action plan, in which they figure out a plan to carry out (giving out flyers, forming rallies, starting riots, etc.). Then comes the actual action where they actually carry out the plan. This is where “95% of activists will stop.” But in action research, during the action, they make observations and take notes of the process, which they then evaluate. They use the evaluation to better polish their action plan and repeat the process. After this action, they observe, analyze, and evaluate their new action and repeat the process. Each time it’s repeated, their action becomes more polished and efficient, making for effective action toward creating change. The issue I decided to focus on was my family. I’m going to try and have them get along better, creating a more harmonious environment at home.
I chose to focus on this issue because I’m going to be leaving for college soon and I won’t be home nearly as much as I used to (I’d assume about once a month), so I want to rest easy knowing everybody at home is doing fine. Currently, things are going fairly well, but some are quick to anger, escalating otherwise minor disagreements. I want to try and minimize that, since it often comes down to my dad or myself to play the role of mediator. I find it interesting because I realized that I’ve never done any projects based off of my family (other than family trees in elementary school, though they leave little impact). Family plays such a large role in my life, but I never acknowledge the fact or do anything to help them out as a whole. It’s important to me because family is one of the things I prioritize, even though I rarely display it. I don’t want to constantly be worrying about my home situation when I’m studying for finals, etc. But I think the primary factor that drove my decision was our timeframe. We’re given one week for this action research and doing anything large scale would be unreasonable, considering you only have a week and chances are that you’ll primarily be working alone, which makes many of our discussed methods hard to utilize. So working on an issue close to home (literally), makes it easily possible to create significant change within our given timeframe. Another issue that I decided against was to improve the work ethic of my current workplace. This issue is important to me as well, but I mainly decided against it because I knew I was heading off for college. Since I was off to college, I only had the remainder of this year and the summer at my workplace. So if I’m not going to be there for much longer, there isn’t much of a point in dedicating that much time and effort into it. I’ll still work on it, but it won’t be the focus of my action research. Working on my family at home was also a lot easier of a job as well, requiring less effort and a more comfortable environment to work in. I think that my decision-making process was a common one; most people tend to go with the choice that requires less effort and resources. I think my focus is one that many people think about, but few people decide to take action on.