20 February 2015

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate activism a waste of time? + NEWS

Dear friends,

This weekend we are discussing: Is moderate activism a waste of time?

I am in no doubt that this question only makes sense in our modern
context. Our concept of human rights introduces the idea of activism to
protect and exercise these rights. In my short essay I try to identify
who would be a "moderate activist" and what is the difference between a
moderate activist and a violent activist? I also explain why I use the
term violent activist.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:

Hi Lawrence,
Here's the link to the essay I wrote on Sunday's topic:

See you then.
All the best,

Now for something that I should have tackled a long time ago. From time
to time I receive messages of events that happen during the week but
before I send out my Thursday email. This happens very often with news
from Miguel. So, the thing is that I don't want to send out many emails
to the list, about 350 addresses, that might be of interest to only a
handful. What I propose is those people who are interested in receiving
this local information letting me know that they want it ASAP so I can
prepare a separate list just for this purpose.

Alternatively, I can send a message to my twitter account @lolang or my
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lawmoment or just post it on the blog
and hope for the best. Let me know if you are interested. And of course
if you have any news to share!!!

-----ITMT news from Miguel
Estimado tertuliano,

Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima conferencia y tertulia de
Matemáticas el próximo Martes 24 de Febrero a las 19:00h en El Centro
Segoviano de Madrid: Matemáticas en la Matemática (
https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/24-2-2015 )

Aprovechamos para informarte también de la conferencia el próximo Jueves
19 de Febrero a las 19:00h en la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas,
Físicas y Naturales: De Números y Rectas

Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Matemáticas

Is moderate activism a waste of time?

Presumably extreme activism would involve violence against people such
as the murders in the US of doctors who work in abortion clinics;
violence against researchers in the UK who use animal testing. And we
can add violence justified in the name of some religion or worse, some
crack pot religious sect.

However, violence, need not be aimed at the targets of the activists,
but rather the risks some activists put themselves in may result into
violence against them; challenging the Japanese whalers on the high
seas, scaling some steam stack of a nuclear power station or maybe
running in front of a huntsman during the fox hunting season.

Violence certainly attracts people's attention and certainly focuses
minds – violence is a headlines grabber without any doubt. The question
we have to ask ourselves is whether violence is the only option we have
to bring about the radical change activists desire? Could there have
been a quiet transition from monarchical France to republican France,
from a Tsarists Russia to Communist Russia? Or to ask our question in a
modern setting, can we achieve a prosperous economy without the
political violence being caused by the austerity measures in the EU?

I am using the term violence on purpose so not to get mixed up with
civil disobedience which is the common term used in political philosophy
and political science. For me there is a very clear difference between
civil disobedience, which may or may not be violent, and violent
activism. Furthermore, civil disobedience is usually activism not to
obey certain laws or dictates of those in power. Violence against
people, or their property, is a human biological activity; attacking
people because we disagree with them and hence it is an attack on the
person. Murdering a doctor because they perform abortions is personal
violence against that doctor. However, blocking the highway to protest
against abortion is by all accounts civil disobedience.

But civil disobedience interpreted as refusing to follow the prevailing
law challenges the power of the state rather than any particular person.
Whilst it is never justified to attack an individual for doing something
lawful, refusing to follow the law may sometimes be justified because
the law itself may be illegal, immoral, or discriminatory. A law that
discriminates against a section of the population by forcing them to sit
at the back of the bus is clearly illegal, immoral and discriminatory.

But what about a law that prohibits photojournalist from taking and
publishing images of police officers at work? There is no doubt that
members of the security forces need special protection because of their
job protecting society. And it is unacceptable that mainstream media do
not hold governments to account when they fail to protect members of the
security forces. But should a legitimate law that seeks to protect the
security forces be used to hide acts by members of the security forces
that are clearly illegal and ultra vires? Would it be civil disobedience
if the press published images of individuals who the press in good faith
thought these individuals were acting beyond their power? We mustn't
forget that in our society we hold the press as independent and
objective observers of those responsible to exercise power and to be the
instrument for society to make those who exercise power accountable.
Indeed the press is part of checks and balances of the exercise of power
by the state.

Indeed, would a photojournalist, determined to exercise their right of
free speech and their right to gather information, be a moderate
activist if they did publish images of people abusing their powers even
if the law prohibits such publication? Or would this be civil
disobedience on a par with the activities of Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or
Martin Luther King?

Let's make the issue a bit harder; what is the status of a conscious
objector who leaks state secrets that might reveal the dastardly acts of
a government? Are they moderate activists, whistle blowers, or
practicing civil disobedience? Indeed are whistle blowers activists,
spies, or morally principled people?

Back to our topic, is moderate activism a waste of time? Indeed,
moderate activism does suggest that the activist does pursue some
activity with vigour to achieve their goals. I would understand moderate
activism to be well beyond the couch potato revolutionist.

The key issue for the moderate activists is to attract the attention of
the people. It has taken the green party over twenty years to get people
to notice that there is an environment out there and that trees and
clean water-ways are really useful. It took the Bolsheviks only a few
years to change the political landscape of imperialist feudal Europe to
a self imposed feudal political system.

So the biggest challenge for the activist is to get support, people need
to know about one's cause to be able to offer support. Hence,
communication is a key tool for the moderate activists, but once again
this means good visual appeal and access to the opinion leaders in the
media industry. An NGO in Spain that is active against animal cruelty,
regularly hold public protests by painting themselves in red paint to
signify blood sports or hold dead animals during protests to signify
cruelty to animals. Recently they have introduced an equally fun
activity to replace the running of the bulls. Even with their well
organised PR programme these moderate activists still have a long way to
go before society fully respects animals, a least enough not to cause
unnecessary pain or harm.

Activism is also a social inter action, it is about changing behaviours,
beliefs, tolerances, customs and traditions, hence the need to persuade
others through communication. We can, however, communicate by shocking
or we can communicate by persuasion. Although violence can bring some
immediate change, e.g. the Russian revolution, history tells us that
such success come at a very high price for individuals and society in

On the other hand, it has taken more than eight years of moderate
activists against austerity measures in Europe, mostly by conducting
peaceful protest, social media campaigns, etc, for a party to be elected
to government in Greece who promises to address the inequities of the
recession and the violence caused by the austerity measures imposed on
the Greek people. Persuasion, it might be said, is a very cumbersome and
slow process, but how effective are the changes?

As I have said, violence attracts people's attention sometimes even the
most lethargic people working in the high echelons of government and
power. But how easy is it to attract the attention of people for causes
that are not good candidates that can benefit from the shock of
violence? The primary problem for moderate activists is probably the
fact that people just do not care about the cause, a cause that
sometimes might be very obscure for them. Or they are too busy with
their lives to go beyond the couch revolutionary stage.

The relevance of the cause of the moderate activist also seems to
dictate the amount of attention they get from the population and the
support they obtain for the cause. Nuts in food, salt in popcorn sold in
cinemas, no absurd photoshopping of film starts are hardly causes that
will set the passions of people on fire. Even given the fact that we
know that nuts can kill some people allergic to them, salt is bad for
people who suffer from high blood pressure (which is very common these
days) and excessive photoshopping is basically dishonest.

But I want to argue that the enemy of the moderate activist is not the
media, nor the obscure nature of the cause, and not even oppressive laws
passed by governments, but rather the indifference of people at large.
In this respect, a moderate activist is no different from any young
artist: indifference kills art and it also kills activism.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
From: January 15 at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Is moderate
activism a waste of time? + NEWS

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