...as in the imperative (i.e. you, youth, progress). This blog is updated by politically active young people. Issues that will be discussed are those which concern young voters and are of concern to young voters.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Two-Pronged Social Movement

The two-pronged social movement is an effective way for creating mass societal change. It consists of two figureheads, one liberal and one radical, or one conservative and one reactionary. Both figureheads campaign on behalf of the same group, the same issue, or for the same liberty. Before any social change can happen, it must appear that the more extreme figure is gaining a foothold with a sizeable section of general society. The opposition to the group or issue will thus feel overwhelmed: "If there are X number of people supporting the opposing, extreme solution, how many more people support the opposing, moderate solution?" When the opposition is convinced that more people support the social change than oppose it, they will opt for the more moderate social change.

The clearest historical example of the Two-Pronged Social Movement that I can think of is the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The radical figurehead was Malcolm X, a converted Muslim who overtly used racial slurs when referring to white people and advocated for immediate equalization of white and black society (economic and social) through the use of force. The more moderate figure was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a non-violent, Christian pastor who advocated for equal social rights for black people via a society of togetherness.

King's vision falls short of our modern understanding of racial equality. Like President Lyndon Johnson who signed into law both the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, King did not press for liberal, social institutions that would attempt to equalize the vast economic differences between white and black society that still exist today. Though white America teems with pride about how it is now best buddies with black America, it ignores the obvious, unjust, economic truth. In short, America's pride of its diversity has allowed it to ignore its rampant, racial inequality*. Though we are currently in a reactionary period of American politics, I believe the long-term trends are still in our favor. This means that hopefully some day, we will be able to see a more economically just society.

America's current racial understanding lies somewhere between King and X. Most African-Americans reject the notion of converting to Islam or other religions because Christianity was forced upon their ancestors by white people, for example, or legally changing their last names for similar reasons. I do not expect America to arrive at the point of X for a very, very long time, if ever. But America did a lot to get here, to this point of furthered racial equality. How? The Two-Pronged Social Movement.

So, I ask American progressives today, who is our Malcolm X? Who is our converted Muslim who will gain popularity among the believers and scare the white, Christian, racist South into accepting a more progressive position, albeit more conservative than that of our Mr. X? Dean, Feingold, nobody? For that matter, who is our more moderate prong, Clinton, Warner, nobody? I would say nobody to both, because the culture of American politics prevents the two-pronged social movement. If you recall your history lessons, the civil rights movement happened during the 60's, when grassroots movements enjoyed the ability to be simultaneously inside and outside of the political machine. Thus, the Civil Rights movement started in the Church, and moved to the polls. Could anything like it really happen today? Could any political movement enjoy that much attention and organization without encountering a life-ending barrage of conservative spin and punditry? Let's not forget the media. The media is more concerned about staying politically moderate than politically neutral. Thus, it fails to properly report, for example, the truth about the US Missile Defense Shield, which by standards of the truth is a joke, because it would be considered liberal to in this case tell the truth. In this "up is down" political climate, it would not surprise me if the media became cowardly enough to stop using the word "inequality" when it came to race relations, and substitute it for "financially and socially different," or something of the like.

And so, how do we mount a Two-Pronged Social Movement in America? I'm anxiously waiting for an answer...

*This line comes from the title of this book, which I saw on C-SPAN. I cannot recommend this book because I have no idea what it says.


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8:48 PM


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