It is an interesting time to be a student of higher education, or perhaps an individual wanting to be a student of higher education. Across the world, universities are aligning themselves with conservative political entities as they raise student tuition and cut student support. In this post, David Mayeda reports on a recent student protest in Aotearoa/New Zealand, illustrating how state police continue to act in violent ways when faced with peaceful protests, and asks further, what future lies ahead for those who will not be able to afford a university education.
In Chile, hundreds of thousands of students and concerned citizens have been protesting for nearly a year, upset with the country’s highly privatized education system. As in many other regions, in Chile, if one lives in economic stress, securing a university education is highly unlikely. Likewise, the past few weeks in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hundreds of thousands of protestors have been speaking out against proposed tuition hikes and newly imposed laws that restrict fundamental freedoms of assembly.
And as covered here in SociologyInFocus last year, University of California students were pepper sprayed by an officer while sitting peacefully in protest of tuition hikes at the system’s Davis campus, while a week before, Berkeley students were struck by police with batons. Below is some of the more benign footage I took on Friday 1 June at a University of Auckland student protest before being told to put away my iPad by police, or be arrested myself. With all these student protests and conflicts with police happening across the globe, what is going on?
When we think about other people’s behavior why are we so quick to think they are ignorant, irrational, or idiotic? Many of us are quick to call other people names and judge their behaviors, but we are far more understanding of our own behavior. In this post Nathan Palmer argues that the fundamental attribution error is to blame for our gross misunderstandings of others.
When was the last time you completely changed your mind because someone screamed at you and made you feel like an idiot? I’m guessing… never? Then why do so many people “unleash the fury” with the CAPS LOCK key on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube comments?
The sociologist inside of all of us should be asking, “If yelling at ‘idiots’ isn’t effective why do so many of us do it?” Why do we think our yelling will be effective when we do it? The answer can be found in understanding the fundamental attribution error (a concept borrowed from social psychology). Put simply, the reason you do things is because of your circumstances, but the reason other people do things is because of who they are fundamentally as a person.
For example, think back to the last time you sped. You probably did it because you “had to” get somewhere important. But now think back to the last time a speeding driver cut you off. I doubt you rolled your window down, stuck your head out, threw your fist in the air and shouted, “I completely understand your seemingly reckless behavior is due to the set of circumstances you find yourself in and I empathize with you my brother!” No, you probably thought, “That guy’s a maniac and he needs to be stopped!” He is a maniac at his core. You are simply a person speeding because of your circumstances.
Remember that KONY 2012 thing? Yeah, it was pretty big for a while, but it’s lost a little steam. Among many reasons, one of the reasons KONY 2012 lost momentum is because in working to address Ugandan concerns, the movement’s leaders appeared unusually focused on themselves. The reality is, if social movements are going to be successful, movement must come from within. In this post, David Mayeda reviews a two-part video titled “Sari Stories,” where former child brides from India use video technology to critique this age-old patriarchal practice that undermines women’s and girls’ development.
One of the tough parts about doing sociology is that we are constantly dealing with social problems. It can take a toll on one’s personal psyche. At the same time, dealing ethically with social problems means also identifying the most effective social solutions. Aljazeera recently produced an inspiring two-part documentary titled “Sari Stories,” where we see social solutions happening in real life.
Sari Stories, Part 1
The last few weeks, an organization called “Invisible Children” made waves across the internet, attempting to raise global consciousness of the long-term and horrific violence that has plagued Uganda for decades. Specifically, the organization encourages citizens from high-income countries to take a global responsibility in capturing Lord’s Resistance Army leader, Joseph Kony. However, critics have argued the effort lacks a true Ugandan viewpoint. In this post, David Mayeda asks if Invisible Children’s efforts reflect privileged ethnocentrism.
At the time of writing, Invisible Children’s slick 30-minute YouTube video, “KONY 2012,” has been watched over 100 million times, taking only 6 days to reach that threshold. In this video gone viral, the charity’s leader, Jason Russell, helps to expose the conflict that ravaged Ugandan communities for decades, while privileged citizens from high-income countries went about their daily lives with little awareness of the extreme violence. In fact, the conflicts that cut across Uganda are indicative of a much broader and complex web of collective violence that has long ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjacent countries, termed by scholar Virgil Hawkins as stealth conflicts:
A good man is hard to find, as Alexa Megna finds out in this piece. In recruitment for her thesis about heterosexual men in LGBTQ activism programs, Alexa struggles to understand reactions and reasons why heterosexual men in these programs are so hard to find.
I’m desperately seeking allies. I’m on the verge of sitting outside the mall with a cardboard sign that reads, “Sociologist seeks heterosexual males who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community.” I am just looking for straight dudes who support sexual equlity for everyone.
Being in my last year of my Master’s program I get the privilege (or horror) to conduct my own research and write a thesis. I decided I would conduct a qualitative study on heterosexual men who participate in LGBTQ activism programs, like Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) and other pro-LGBTQ programs. Interesting, right? Sounds simple, no?…
From the Arab Spring to the international “Occupy Movement,” we have recently witnessed how state govenments clash with disgruntled citizens who are fed up with their lack of life chances for upward social mobility. In this post, David Mayeda examines how Max Weber’s theoretical positions on authority, power, and violence apply to the recent disturbances in and around London, England, and Davis, California.
Have you ever felt unfairly treated by a parent, boss, coach, or another authority figure? After being mistreated, did you feel like that authority figure shouldn’t be granted so much power over you? No doubt this is a situation most, if not all of us, have probably experienced a number of times in our lives. We can expand this social dynamic beyond the interpersonal level to understand broader social movements.
Max Weber, a founding figure in sociology, argued that authority is the use of power that is perceived as legitimate by the rest of society. Weber said that authority could be divided into three types: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational. Previously my colleague discussed charismatic authority, but in this post I will focus on legal-rational authority, where authority is formally institutionalized.
This may occur in workplaces (a superior has authority over a subordinate), on sports teams (a coach has authority over athletes), in state governments (a politician can vote on laws impacting citizens), and in state roles (a police officer has authority over the average citizen). Legal-rational authority is accepted by the greater society (or at least the majority of it) because it has been formally built into the society’s political system.
On Friday police on the campus of University of California Davis were video taped using pepper spray at point blank range on protestors who were sitting on the ground. (see video, below):
About three months ago I moved from Honolulu, Hawai’i to Auckland, New Zealand. Moving to a new country made me keenly aware of my American-centered sports interests. While in the United States gridiron football is king, across the Pacific and Australasia, the sport of choice is rugby. For the past six weeks, New Zealand has been hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC), with the home team’s “All Blacks” just defeating France 8-7 in the finals. During this time, the RWC had to share its stage with global movements for social equity.
In downtown Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city), the landscape transformed from a typical big city central business district (CBD) inundated with glitzy stores, to one that shared commercialized space with increasingly ubiquitous RWC advertising and merchandise….
“What’s the deal with this Occupy Wall Street thing?,” a friend asked me. “What do they mean ‘We are the 99%’?” A lot of people seem to be wondering this same thing (without much insight from the mainstream media). Saying “We are the 99%” aims to illuminate the vast inequalities in wealth in the U.S., mainly that the top 1% of the population owns 43% of the nation’s financial wealth. To make the math really easy, let’s say we have 100 people and 100 bucks. One person – that 1% – has $43. Now there’s 57 bucks to split between 99 people – 80 of whom need to find a way to share a measly $7. If you don’t believe me, see this. [1. You might be tempted to defend the 1% saying they’ve worked hard, and that they earned their place at the top. You wouldn’t be alone. This is what sociologists call the achievement ideology – the belief that financial success can be had by anyone who works hard enough, regardless of where they start. I can assure you that those in the 1% do not have rags to riches stories; the facts of economic success simply do not fit this belief. The achievement ideology is, perhaps, a topic for another day.]
So, the 99% is fed up with the corruption and greed of the 1%, especially because people are suffering in ways U.S. citizens have not seen (on a large scale anyway) since the Great Depression. “Okay, so we’re unequal,” you might be thinking. “But all those numbers don’t help me understand why people are camping out in a park in New York City. They didn’t see a pie chart and take to the streets, right?” No. They didn’t. Not exactly. The distribution of wealth as it is today is not a brand new reality. Yet the rich are getting richer, even in a time when the economy hasn’t been this bad since the 1930s. To understand the varied kinds of suffering I mean, hear it from the people themselves….