Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Standing Guard Over Saraswati: The Freedom of Dissent

"In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor, and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People."
                                                                       -Eugene V. Debs, 1918
"My mother said I broke her heart...but it was my integrity that was important. Is that so selfish? It sells for so little, but it's all we have left in this place.  It is the very last inch of us...but within that inch we are free"
                                                                       -Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

  Today Egypt was drowned in violence.  It's army turned on it's civilians with arms and slaughtered hundreds of Morsi supporters simply because they wanted to be heard.  Alternately, when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power, they willfully ignored violence inflicted on the Coptic minority because they are different and are seen as a threat to power.
  In every age, in every part of the world, there are underground movements that seek the opportunity to climb out of the trenches and stand with their voices heard, without fear of ruin.  Enterprise and government (large and small) throughout history have made attempts to curb, stifle and snuff out those voices.  With righteous rage, ideas turn into movements and with collective action comes power.  Humans really aren't so different when faced with a wall of dissent. Whether in 17th century France, early 20th century Russia, or in 21st century America, people in power have supported corrupt government policies that continue to alienate and intimidate minority opinion and minority rights.  Governments, however democratically elected, do not act alone but with the silent approval of the masses who keep their hands on the wheel, eyes forward.
  Not unlike governments, corporations have the capacity and will to stifle any opinion or threat to their bottom line.  During the height of European expansion, large businesses expanded to the New and parts of the Old World to obtain goods not previously available to the masses of the Continent.  Whether in the Americas, India, the South Pacific or Africa, these new industries toppled local governments and often installed puppet institutions to continue to feed the expanding empires. More recently in parts of the developing world; gas, coffee, water and the like drive conglomerates to continue to suppress dissent in countries who's annual GDP are fractions of their annual profits.  Not unlike the factory conditions during the early 20th century, farm and factory workers are forced to slave from sun up to sun down for less than $1 per day so that we in the developed world can spend less on the items we desire.  In Bangladesh for example, textile exports continue to surge despite over 1,000 deaths in a factory collapse in April.  Calls for reform have trumpeted from all corners of the globe and yet tangible change in the country to protect it's workers have stalled as some corporations like Walmart and Gap refuse to allow collective bargaining agreements with their workers thus disallowing real progress.
  In the US and in many democratic nations, we hold virtuous principles in our hearts and lack the integrity to follow through with them because they interfere with our ends.  Dissent in any form outside of violence must be tolerated and at best celebrated because it demonstrates a truly free society.
  As a Social Worker, wherever you are in the world, whatever you do to change your part of the world. We are the voice for the voiceless and we are the embodiment of dissent.  We are the call to justice and the rallying cry of freedom.  Where we see opinions and beliefs stifled, even if we disagree with them, we must stand with their right to say it.  That is how we maintain our integrity within our profession.  

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