"do protests make a difference?"

I am very interested in studies of effective resistance, especially when they apply to India. Seemed like quite a godsend, then, to stumble upon a PhD thesis by Katrin Uba titled "“Do Protests Make a Difference?: The impact of anti-privatisation mobilisation in India and Peru”. While the study is quite specific to the protests by public sector trade unions to the privatisation drives starting in 1991, I dug in with the goal (i admit) of finding generalisations I could use.

Katrin's primary questions in the research are:

1) Which strategies or protest characteristics are most effective in order for a group to achieve its goals?
2) In which social and political environments do protests make a difference?
3) Which mechanisms can be used to explain the success and failure of protest mobilisation?

The (general) answers seem to be:

1) Protests are more likely to get public opinion on their side if they are moderate, and not looking to “overthrow a regime”.
2) Protests that are large or more economically disruptive are more likely to succeed.
3) Direct/threatening protests are more effective than those that try to use persuasive tactics, such as ‘influential people’ inside or close to the system.
4) General public opinion is powerful when elections are near/involved, but not necessarily so otherwise.
5) Protests work better in democratic setups, and are less likely to be met with violence.

A coupla caveats:

1) The “protest” Katrin studies are not single acts of protests, but sustained struggles/movements.
2) In this specific, postponement of privatisation is seen as ‘success’, even though the rhetoric of abandonment of privatisation is the ‘ultimate’ goal. I connect this to what Che’ says in Guerrilla Warfare-only pick battles you can win. Maybe re-defining goals will help win more battles!

All in all a very engaging (as research papers go) read, strongly recommended. Katrin has some fascinating bits of data right through, including, for example, a table of the strategies used by Indian and Peruvian protesters, in percentages!

PLEASE let me know if you think my understanding is faulty, I am willing to be corrected. Post discussion, of course! [grin]

Go here for another summary of this paper.

people's histories

i've been thinking of writing a review/summary of howard zinn’s “a people’s history of the united states”, then realised the wikipedia wiki does a much better job than i could.

what i really like about the book is the perspective-that one need not swallow the ‘dominant’ reading of history (or anything), especially when it is primarily concerned with legitimising, romanticising and reinforcing systems and structures of power. dr. zinn, by his own admission, is not impartial, and looks at american history through the lenses of class conflict. a very fascinating, if often depressing read; though in a speech about the book, zinn says that rather than wasting anger on the past, the point of the book is to throw light on what is happening now, and to draw strength from other people's stories of resistance.

among other iconoclasms, the book tears at wars one still tends to see as "good"-the american war of independence, the american civil war and world war II. his critique of the motives behind these (and other) wars is a potent background for our critiques of wars today. a rather enlightening read, and strangely (for a history book) one that gives you hope for the future.

the most powerful thing i take away from this book, however, is an attitude; best summed in this quote, “Behind every fact presented to the world-by a teacher, a writer, anyone-is a judgment. The judgment that has been made is that this fact is important, and that other facts, omitted, are not important” (Zinn, 2001, p. 658). hmm. now that is worth a think.

here are some reader reviews/opinions of the book and some additional resources, including torrent downloads. (apologies, mr. zinn, what you are saying is way too important for HarperCollins to hold sole rights.)

here is a preview of "Voices of a people's history of the United States", a companion, of sorts, to the main book. this acts like a reference to the main book, and is organised parallel to the people's history.

heroes who will not fight

(the title is a bad remix of dean parker's "the heroes who did not fight")

it's ANZAC day and the TV is full of heroes. i woke up *bloody early to catch a programme about conscientious objectors, only to (finally) be told by dee that i had the AM and PM mixed up. which circumstance, of course led me to google it. 

the image of “pacifists” as cowards of some sort takes quite a beating when you look at history. according to an article by dean parker, there were 4 kinds of objectors: “Christians who took the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" at its word; socialists prepared to fight in a war against capitalism but not one between imperialists; Irish who, understandably, would fight for anyone provided it was against England; Waikato Maori, who found it ironic to be asked to fight for King and country as they had once fought for their own King and lost their country.” the punishment for objection was harsh- “As a consequence of their actions, 2600 conscientious objectors lost their civil rights, including being denied voting rights for 10 years and being barred from working for government or local bodies.” the trailers for the programme suggest some even died of the torture they were put through.

india has never forced people to join the military-there are enough people willing to sign up, often because there are few alternatives. if it ever does come to that, i pray i have the courage and strength to resist, whatever the personal cost may be.

how to bottlebroke

some of you have asked how i do the bottlebroke lamps. well, here you are. i have heard of other ways to do this, and am beginning to try process variations to see what happens. if you're interested, let me know-i'll publish the results of me experiments. remember bottlebroke is copy left-you can use these ideas to make piles of money, as LONG as you let other people use your ideas too. 


the philosophy:

reduce, reuse, recycle. a streak of '80s punk rock DIY, *with the sharp edges. a love of re-creation.

the principle:

glass is highly cooled liquid, and can be cut (theoretically) in any way you like. in my experience, i have only been able to encourage a break, not insist on it. the break lines are not always what i wanted-each bottle reacts differently. the cutter makes a cut, which is then treated to sudden temperature differences, forcing the glass to separate. 

the stuff you need:

1. a bottle you want t break [indian wine and beer bottles tend to shatter, i prefer bubblies or liquor]

2. a candle

3. a glass cutter [i use the ones with a diamond(?) tip, not the oil filled ones. i get them for rs.140-160 from hardware stores]

4. sandpaper/emery paper [something mid range-not too many grains nor too little]

5. a tub of water

6. a clean piece of cloth

7. a comfortable, well lit place to work

the process:

1. score the bottle with the glass cutter. this can be done either by fixing the cutter to a board and pushing the bottle against it to get a (more or less) good circle. i prefer to freehand now, though. fixing it to a board also makes it hard to work with any bottle that is not round. make sure the score mark is connected all around. i prefer to do it twice to make a deepish cut. 

2. heat the score mark over a candle flame, constantly turning the bottle. you may not want one part to become much hotter than another, as it may break even less evenly than you wanted. then again, your vision. comfortable seating is *critical for this part. i tend to spend about 10 minutes (depending on thickness of bottle) on each. don't worry about the black carbon deposits. they can be cleaned off. do NOT over do this-the bottom may suddenly fall off and shatter.

3. after about 5-7 minutes, dip the bottle in the tub of water. you will hear the sizzling, and maybe a pop-very likely the bottom will fall off. if it doesn't, you could reach into the water and try pull it off. if you cut yourself, don't blame me. other ways of knowing that the bottle is ready for the water are 1) the entire bottle gets a little warm(er) and 2) you will hear small crackling sounds as you turn the bottle over the candle. if the water treatment+pulling does not separate the glass, dry it and heat it over the flame again. be *very careful when doing this, the bottom has often fallen off when i had to do it. 

4. after the bottom has come off, rub the edges with sandpaper. this will make sure it doesn't cut, while retaining its twisted edgy look. same treatment on the broken off bottom. 

5. check very carefully for cracks that run through the bottle. if there are any, you do NOT want to put a light bulb in them, as heat could break the glass when you least expect. i prefer to use "pygmy" bulbs, also known as "fridge" bulbs. typically about 15W, they provide just about enough light to read. i've given away most of the bottoms as ash trays and stuff. 

i would LOVE to see examples of bottles that you have broken, and put up pictures of them here. fool around with various ways of decorating/using the broken bottles. cheers!

hiawatha's other song

i saw
a colour today.

it was;

like the skin
between your fingers
with funny wrinkles
when stretched.

or a tree
april autumn tv
taunted us with news
of summers far away.

i saw
a colour today.

it was;

like the skin
between your fingers
with funny wrinkles
when stretched.

but the trees aren't white yet.
will they, too, soon be?

[published in blackmail press 26]


i love the sardonic but gentle tone of this piece. from a yezdi brother, this is also proof that being a machine head doesn't mean you can't write! hoping for more, dax!


Oh so you just dropped in from a plane, eh?
And put your foot in it.
Got ripped off by public transport.
Bewildered by the sea of brown.
Stoked up in the mountains.
Beached out on a rave.
Flew by Everest or sighed at the Taj.

Wanna tell me about it?

Just curious.

-by Arunesh Dogra


the battles are different here,
i think.

no easy anger
at a development gone wrong
or saviour cars to be sacrificed
at the crossroads of perspective.

but changes come
with endings and beginnings
and beginnings and endings
till you stand
by the banks
of a strangely named river

and hold your bitter goodbyes
like a weapon.