Thursday, June 01, 2006

Demonstrating and the Art of Changing Society

Dear Robert Moses,

While reading through the trilogy of the civil rights movement during the King years by Taylor Branch I became a Bob Moses fan. Your thoughts and actions helped form a movement and likewise a new way of thinking and being in the United States. More recently, I checked out one of your books from the library about the Algebra project. So now you teach math to the children of Mississippi? I would call it a strange contrast if it didn't make perfect sense in respect to the stuff that goes on in one's heart and mind while struggling to find meaning in relation to political action, social justice, and the desire to be involved with real societal change.

One of my "blog reads" has entered into a little discussion about the experiences of demonstrating [Defn: establishing a physical presence to express a socio/political position.] There is frustration and embarrassment in carrying placards and walking or standing. But most of all the difficulty is in becoming part of a group, some of whom you agree with, some of whom you don't, some of which are cool, some not, some with whom you would bare your very soul, some to whom you would give the time only to get them to the march promptly. Yet in this act of demonstrating you become one, you marry on a theme, and this wedding, for better or worse, seems, almost immediately, worse.

This marriage would be worth it, if only we could realize social change. But all of our standing, marching, chanting or silence, placards, persistence, and so forth seem to fade like a chimera into the din of, not rifle response, water hoses, and paddy wagons, but normal traffic, a Spring shower, and the tipped cap of the Tuesday patrolman.

So we come back to the math classroom, don't we. And we find, there, the front lines of demonstration. And there, maybe, without folderol or display, is the core of social improvement, our last best hope for engaging-ment [thanks gbs] and changing the way we live.

With deepest respect,

Betsy DeGeorge


Anne G G said...

I read a book recently called "It's the Little Things" by Lena Williams, about relations between the races. It's not really about equal rights per se -- mainly just about the persistence of misunderstanding between the races to such an extent that it creates a continuing barrier even to basic communication. Maybe I bring it up because it dealt with the dynamics of being part of a group, or NOT being part of a group. A very angry book, but I found it quite eye-opening.

brd said...

I found Toni Morrison's book Paradise to be an interesting exploration of the dynamics of grouping and whether you can create a safe space by controlling the group.

Williams' book sound interesting and angry is ok I think.