A Generation of Change

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  1. The article from the New York times I chose was called “The Global Face of Democracy”. It was focused specifically on black youth activism in South Africa, and their mission to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Johannesburg (pictured above). The author of the article points to the activism among South Africa’s college age students as a trend paralleling America’s own developing protest movements. It suggests that protest, and the activist, grassroots spirit is not endemic to America, but global in scope and affect. Protesters in the Netherlands, Brazil, and South Africa are pushing for rights and changes that go beyond the original goals of the civil rights protests. Rather than seeking to share spaces, protesters are speaking out for those who believe they should have a part in ownership. The changes being pushed for in South Africa are not simple adjustments in comfort; they reflect what the author believes to be a “second revolution”, which will remove the legacy of apartheid (such as the pressure for young black professionals to speak with a “twang”, or a more western accent, or the many architects of apartheid whose lives are venerated in statues and displays in public areas). And though the process can be joyless, even painful, it can also be a story of rediscovery, of redefinition, and re invigoration. To examine the foundations and recreate them can make the air feel more distant and free.
  2. While reading about witches and democracy in the course text, I was particularly struck by a line at the beginning of chapter eight, in which it is noted that “women are the most frequent targets when accused of sorcery” (174). I’ve read of the burning of witches in England, and of course the Salem witch trials and their dramatization in “The Crucible” have left an impression in my mind. It certainly seems true, to me, that the prevalence of “witches” and their ostracization¬†in societies points to some discomfiting caveat to civilization itself. The text notes that youths visiting villages with the offer “to exterminate witches” coincided with a transition in leadership and economic stability (175). A similar thing happened in Europe during the Black Plague, in which literally thousands of women, completely innocent of the charges, were burned at the stake for witchcraft. Furthermore, retrospective studies on the Salem Witch trial have correlated the fervid persecution with a decline in harvests. This all points to some very negative intuitive truths about the ways in which these societies are structured. First, it suggests that in a patriarchal society, women–especially those who have reached the end of their “utility” in child-rearing–are perceived as the weakest links, without power or voices, or representation or rights. Second, and more insidiously, it suggests that when difficult times affect a society, its natural reaction seems to be to scapegoat these elements and persecute for a general feeling of security, or control. This is all very negative, and suggests that a society’s treatment of “witches” says a lot about its attitudes towards the world, and itself.

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