The media has portrayed current Asian demonstrations, such as the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan, as unsuccessful because the protesters’ requests have not been met. By another measurement, the awareness of issues and recognition of the power possible by targeted and collective peaceful action, they have been very effective.
The long-term residual effectiveness of the Asian movements and other protests across the globe authentically can be measured only in small increments with some of the most significant and basic results at this point not always visible but rather felt at a deeper level of understanding. Protests are influencing people to change their beliefs, mindsets, and attitudes which are psychologically the most difficult elements to modify, but which ultimately are the most potent factors in creating authentic social change. The evidence is that more and more people in increasing numbers of nations are expressing dissenting opinions and demonstrating their right to be heard regarding issues affecting their lives.
Nov. 1, 2014 – Lennon Wall Hong Kong
While the Umbrella Movement may ultimately prove lacking in results, it certainly has not lacked in drama. Part of that drama comes from the attempt to locate the Hong Kong protests into a broader legacy of social movements. The image of young Hong Kong students calling for expanded democratic rights drew immediate comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the “Occupy Central” part of the movement seemed a clear nod to the Occupy Movement in the United States. Both of these links reflect the transferable nature of protest legacies and the importance of legacy mobility for contemporary protests in China (and beyond). Yet protest legacies can mean very different things to activists and their targets, giving shape to how a movement is understood culturally and structurally, as well as how activists and state agents act. To illustrate this point, I will consider four movement legacies that serve as significant sources for the Umbrella Revolution and their implications for how the Hong Kong protests have unfolded. Continue reading
Karl Marx’s famous saying that great historical events happen twice, first as tragedy and later as farce, originated from an observation of the futile attempt of French leftwing revolutionaries of 1848 to ape their predecessors in the revolution of 1789. Marx apparently considered it a paradox that a history-making intention involved borrowing “names, battle slogans, and costumes” from the past. Thus he implied a truly successful revolution would have to proceed without the nostalgic attachment to the previous protest script. Continue reading