Death of a social movement

Thisanjali Gangoda

This summer was like any other summer, filled with endless days of picnicking in the park, biking around town, stargazing at night and swimming by day. Unless, that is, you live in Sri Lanka, Columbia, Iran, Burma, China, Uganda, Afghanistan, Palestine or North Korea. For the people of these and countless other countries, every day is an endless battle to attain freedom, justice and truth from oppressive and mismanaged governments.

The current political and cultural states regulated by these governments are ones of coercion, in which individual freedoms are sparse. Any organization that is viewed as a threat to the state is immediately marked and then disbanded. Any person or persons who assemble in supposed opposition is at risk of “disappearing.”

We hear about it from time to time, particular accounts of crimes against humanity occurring worldwide. In the aftermath of such events like ethnic warfare, political oppression, genocide, intense racial discrimination and slews of other general human rights violations, the news media shows people working together to rebuild their country. We then see the “common people” rise up and demand liberty and justice from their oppressors.

We are left aghast as we watch social movements of epic proportions build and take strength. This summer in Iran, people took to the streets in protest over suspicions of voter fraud. In Sri Lanka, a victorious government wiped out the rebels in the north. In China, ethnic Uighurs confronted issues of racial tensions between Han Chinese. This summer, like any other summer, the news media gave the appearance that those events that unfolded were singular instances where governments and people collided in a glorious revolution of some sort.

However, the truth of the matter is that every day is a constant battle for people to live their lives without fear of persecution – or worse. The news reels through the constant turmoil of events like the massacres of indigenous people in Columbia, widespread police brutality in Burma and the unlivable conditions of refugee camps in the Gaza Strip; but, if ever there is a sign of a social movement taking hold and succeeding, only then do we hear about the difficulties of living under a totalitarian regime or having little to no water in a town.

To support any kind of social movement in any place or setting, you must be prepared to hear all sides of the situation at any given time. By reading and listening to a multitude of different sources, you can gain perspectives you would never have heard had you only listened to what Bill O’Reilly or Keith Olbermann had to say.

As entertaining (and self-centered, if you will) as Bill and Keith are, they don’t tell you the news for what it’s worth, with all its reality. Social movements are constant forces that change with the tides of cultural awareness, group identity, modernization and the history of man.

We can’t let them die on account of our unwillingness to keep up with their ups and downs, the twists and turns they take to achieve their goals. The ranges of social movements are infinite, from political, cultural, social movements to environmental and animal rights movements. We all have our causes and our beliefs; it is only a matter of time for us to spread the word, take action, and enact real change.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]