the psychology of dissent

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Tue Jan 06 2004 - 18:55:45 PST

XMCA friends,

I have a little problem in my current investigations, to do with the
psychological conditions corresponding to progressive social change.

Vygotsky can't help me, because so far as I can see, while he saw youthful
rebellion and dissent as a healthy thing, he had no experience of
successful dissent and social movements other than the great Russian
Revolution itself, something he and millions of others would have
experienced as a fact, which you could either join or oppose.

What are the psychological processes involved in the situation where
conditions which have been borne for centuries become unendurable and
rebellion becomes the order of the day?

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given
by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed ... We have waited
for more than 300 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The
nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining
political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace towards
gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those
who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait". But
when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and
drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled
policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when
you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering
in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when
you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you
seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cant go to the public
amusement park ... There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over,
and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair ...
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom
eventually manifests itself and that is what has happened to the American
Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright and freedom, and
something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or
unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black
brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of the Asia, South
America and Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of
great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice." [Martin Luther
King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, May 1963]

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