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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Assignment: Political activism and violence

With Gurr we find that people's discontent needs scope and breadth and justification to turn into violence. But how does engaging in political activism (which is not violence in it self) shape your outlook on the justifications on using violence? Perhaps we could use Torsdagsdemonstrationen (in English) to reflect on that.

Give one reflexion on or example of how experiences with political activism does influence normative and utilitarian justifications for political violence.

Length: 1 or 2 paragraphs.

Who? The groups will be published on the DIS forum if you can't remember. Only one comment per group.

How? Comment on this post.


The Green Group said...

The green group observed a few things during today's field trip to the demonstration. One of the first things that we noticed was the actual atmosphere of the demonstration. Although we presume that there were important messages being sent out by the principle speaker and the songs blasted shortly after (they were in Danish so we cannot be sure), the feeling of being there did not cause any of us to feel like we were in danger of being caught in the crossfire of some violent outburst of passion. It seemed to us that the goal of the demonstration was utilitarian in that it worked towards a singular goal (in this case, persuading the government to bring back the Youth House). We believed that it was more utilitarian in its essence because it was meant to bring back something that was, essentially, for the people.

Another thing that the green group noticed while standing around was that most of the demonstrators and watchers were very young. It was the passionate student body that came out (and most likely comes out every Thursday) to support this cause.

Although we still do not know whether the demonstrations will actually make a difference in bringing the Youth House back, we do know that the local Police are having trouble dealing with these weekly gatherings in the square. With that in mind, the non-violent activist demonstration might make more of a difference in the long run than any violent action may have had.

-Green Group

Jeremy Golan said...

We asked an anarchist who was pushing a large cart what she was doing. She said that she was giving tea out to everyone, so that her fellow anarchists could stay warm to continue the protest. She also mentioned that the anarchists had a meeting with the mayor. So, her actions were utilitarian because she was working to attain her political goals.
However, our experience also showed how quickly utilitarian goals can turn into normative goals. She said that if they did not get their house back before it snowed, they would riot. This represents the fine line between working toward one’s goals in a utilitarian manner and reacting to political frustration with violence.
- the red group

The Blue Group (Aru, Ariana etc.) said...

Our group's first reaction to the demonstration was that it did not seem very serious. It seemed more like a jovial Thursday evening for teenagers with little or no political understanding (a train of thought that was corroborated by us talking to a couple of kids present there). The speaker and a couple of his close allies were probably trying to send a serious message across, but very few people were actually listening to him (maybe because of inclement weather). Also, it is worth mentioning that none of us felt unsafe at any point, which is to be expected in a routine, announced demonstration at a public place in one of the safest cities in the Western world.

The goal of the demonstration was largely utilitarian because the group was persuing a fairly clear goal (persuading the government to bring back the Youth House). We believed that it was more utilitarian in its essence because it was meant to bring back something that was, for better or worse, for the people. It did not seem like the demonstration would further any normative justification for violence because intuitively in a developed, liberal, modern, Western city like Copenhagen hardly anyone will take up violence just because of a demonstration, which we must add was superbly policed and controlled.

Our group did notice that the demonstrators were really young (most of them looked like they were in mid-teens). Without doubting their intelligence, I think it furthers the argument that a lot of them view the demonstration as anything more than a generic Thursday evening activity. The political nuances and motivations of the occasion seemed to be largely beyond their naive understanding our the world.

Although it is obviously speculative what the outcome of this ritual will be (whether the group will get the Youth House back), our group did agree that the demonstration is unlikely to escalate into any serious violent conflict in the near future.

Light Orange team said...

Similar to other groups, our primary observations are centered around the atmosphere of the rally, and the relative ages of those involved. While the rally was organized and had an obvious intention of raising political awareness and the distress of losing the Youth House, those involved seemed to be using the cause as a venue for their aggression towards the broader Danish culture. While the government was the target, the people involved were, in a way, replacing the Youth House with the rallies, and making their statements in public rather than in the shelter of a "house". If the Danish Government wants to avoid the nuisance of the rallies they have to provide them with a venue for their socialization. From this standpoint they are a success. If however, the government does not give in, there could be reason for political violence. In this case, any violent acts would be utilitarian in nature because of the social mentality of the group.

Anonymous said...

The White Group

Political activism can incite both utilitarian and normative justifications for violence. Propaganda, for example, is used to propose rationales for specific causes. A utilitarian justification for violence gained from propaganda causes individuals who support the ideas to want to get involved in the movement. The propaganda portrays the given situation in a biased way. The normative justification is formed by the skewed moral message stemming from the propaganda.

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