Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lit Review: Vol 1, Issue # 1

  • In an effort to promote literacy, this segment will feature brief overviews of literature publications - books, journals, magazines, etc. I find the decry of "print is dead" to be extremely pessimistic; it undermines the gravity of physical media. Newsstands have fused people together from all different political and socioeconomic backgrounds for decades, arguing and debating their viewpoints while perusing through the latest news over coffee or breakfast.
  • I feel that print is not dead, it merely has a companion, a supplemental medium in the digital format. With a plethora of available sources in this age of information, I encourage reading online publications hand-in-hand with physical literature.
The purpose of this segment will be to illustrate the significance and relevance of the publication. In the near future this segment will feature reviews by guest students, graduates, colleagues, scholars, etc.

Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures
1971, Edited by Harry M. Clor

"Crime reflects the character of a people. This is the painful fact we do not want to face. Other premises are easier to accept, other causes easier to control. There is no simple reform for defective character. It is stubborn, durable and strong as ourselves. It is ourselves."

- Ramsey Clark "Crime in America"

While conducting research for an informative speech on labor movements in the U.S., I began taking note of the violence associated with organized marches, strikes, and protests. These organized movements have a history tainted by violence in this country and I sought out to discover the core of the conflict. How do nonviolent political protests and labor strikes turn into violent affairs?
When asked by Swedish journalists about achieving a revolution through means of violence, an interview conducted during her incarceration in 1972, scholar-activist Angela Davis became frustrated with such a question being imposed, discrediting her methods for social progress. She then recanted the violence in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama instigated by white supremacists and segregationists - the 16th st Baptist Church bombing, commonplace and socially accepted police brutality, etc. See The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975.

The essays in the book, arranged by Harry M. Clor of Kenyon College, investigate concepts such as "law and order", "public safety", among other topics. Political scientist Edward C. Banfield in his essay How Many, and Who, Should be Set at Liberty? gives a thorough examination of the exclamation, "Robberies, murders, rapes, are the sports of men set at liberty from punishment and censure" by John Locke. 

In the excerpt from The Politics of Protest, criminologist Jerome Skolnick states the violence associated with social and political protest is not planned, it "arises out of an interaction between protesters and the reaction of authorities," and that mass protest itself stems from the prevailing social, political, and economic conditions affecting a community.

In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned an 11-member committee to investigate the causes of the turbulent social protests of the late '60s known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders aka the Kerner Commission, named for the chair of the commission - Otto Kerner Jr. The book begins with the introduction to the final report. Origins of social unrest, the committee concluded, were in part due to the "concentration on 'national' and international problems at the expense of 'local' and domestic concerns", leaving the U.S. with an "enormous deficit of unmet social needs and deeply-felt social injustices."

Though the findings of the Kerner Report were ultimately disregarded by President Johnson, these pressing issues of civil discontent continue to affect our communities some 40 years later. We must go to necessary lengths of recognizing the legitimacy of voiced concerns taking the form of civil protest, no matter the results of the immediate outcome. If we take the time to probe the fundamental causality of the detriments to our society, we may be able to set aside preconceived notions by agreeing to confront the most unappealing aspects of the evolution of our human nature.