Rightful resistance

By Lexi Rowland

Rightful resistance in rural China, as presented by O'Brien in his paper on the movement, has been extremely successful in creating a degree of democracy in a country where the communist party has so long been the rule of law. The type and success rate of the resistance practiced by China's rural population, as well as the many other examples of such a resistance in other countries, poses the question for whether this resistance would not be a non-violent way of creating meaningful change in all countries. Are revolutions and rightful resistance movements mutually exclusive?

Rightful resistance, in the form that it is practiced in rural China, is based on a few factors which O'Brien claims to be fundamental to its creation. Among these, the use of the existing institutional framework, allegiance of the resistors with political elites and the disavowal of violent protest are the most important for creating grass roots support for the movement. The use of an existing framework has been especially useful to the resistance movement because it leaves no room for political elites to claim that the resistors are illegitimate. This fact as well as the use of non-violence often creates the widespread support of both political elites and the community as a whole. In trying to make such a framework work for movements against the system however, this fact becomes problematic. 

The toss up lies in the fact that a revolution arguably cannot be simultaneously legitimate and revolutionary. The absence of violence may be achieved, and support at a grass roots level may be easily obtained, but working within the system of institutions in order to change such a system is something that is not easily achieved. Perhaps a movement may start this way but generally, in order to change the system it would need to discard of the system or become violent. Thus, this would not fall within O'Brien's analysis of what a rightful resistance should be.

Other definitions, which may offer more room for a movement to be defined as both revolutionary and rightful, are described in the Qu'ran. Here, the rightful resistance movement is one in which those who are resisting should be in a state of oppression. As an addition, violence should not be used without violence first being used by the aggressor. Due to the fact that an oppressed community is often the case with revolutionary environments, many of these revolutions could then be deemed rightful.

The use of violence would not be the deciding factor as to whether a movement should be deemed rightful or not. The decision lays with the political elites which are opposing such a resistance and therefore it would seem that rightful resistance and revolutionary resistance would remain mutually exclusive. 

How to go viral

By Lexi Rowland

The Law of the Few, explained in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, is the notion that certain types of people can cause a social epidemic due to the certain skills or connections these people have with their peers. These types of people are called the Connector, the Maven or the Salesman. Each type of person has a specific role in creating a social epidemic which in the past has caused fashion trends, the spread of sensational stories or a successful marketing campaign for a certain type of product. How then could any one blogger use this framework to go viral?

Not everyone falls into one of the categories described by Gladwell and in the past perhaps one person could not be solely responsible for the spread of an idea or trend. Social media however, has made the spread of ideas much easier for those who are not naturally part of the Few.

The Connector: In the past, the Connector has been someone who is influential in any given community and can easily talk to the right people in order to get a message out to the community. For example, a politician is highly influential in their communities as they have many friends, allies or acquaintances who are highly receptive to their ideas. Today, such a position need not be held by an individual in order to spread an idea. Many social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow easy connection to a community who are receptive to the thoughts or ideas of the person they are following. 

The Maven: A person recognized as a Maven is someone who has deep knowledge of a subject and is willing to share such knowledge with people who are willing to listen. Indeed, a Maven has been aided by the rise in social media as it provides a platform from which one can share such knowledge. The fashion industry is an extremely pertinent example of the reach a Maven might have in a community. In the context of today, a Maven is aided by social media as people who are interested in a certain topic may follow a perceived Maven's platform and therefore be highly receptive to said Maven's ideas.

The Salesman: Almost quite obviously, the Salesman is a persuasive individual who is able to successfully engage a community and sell an idea convincingly. This can be done in a variety of ways however, the most common way may be seen in the many successful marketing campaigns of big companies around the world. Again, social media makes persuasion much easier as the idea or campaign is much easily spread; all the Salesman needs to do be a clever marketer. 

Therefore, should someone want to go viral on a social media platform today, he needs to be a combination of the above people. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others make connections a lot easier to forge between people within a virtual community. The Maven still needs to be knowledgeable about his subject, but spreading his ideas need not be as difficult as in the past. The Salesman still needs to be persuasive however, he needs not to persuade every person he meets. Creating a receptive following, a legitimate idea and social media will do the rest.

Should Rhodes have fallen?

By Lexi Rowland

A recent student movement at the University of Cape Town resulted in the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, one of the main contributors to UCT’s founding, to be unceremoniously removed from its pedestal on the campus. Among the reasons for such a removal, Rhodes’ legacy of racial discrimination and arguably influential role in the formation of Apartheid are cited as the most important.

Acemoglu and Robinson, in their 2001 paper 'The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation', present a model for the analysis of institutional change in colonial countries from the time of colonization to today. Such a model aims to find a development in history that cannot be affected by any omitted variables and therefore be afforded a direct causal relationship with a current institution. Arguably, in the case of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement where Rhodes is depicted as a solely racist reminder, such a relationship with Apartheid has been afforded to Rhodes' himself. 

Yes, Rhodes' was undoubtedly racist however many other factors, as well as persons, were similarly if not more influential to the formation of Apartheid decades later. The importance of such omitted variables, or people, in the history of a country such as South Africa would mean that in order to remove all racist symbols or institutional reminders of its history, the history of the country would have to be restarted. 

Rhodes, just like many politicians today, had both good and bad qualities and therefore he should not be remembered as a simple racist. Although he was undeniably involved in the formation of Apartheid, Rhodes was also influential in mending relations between the British and the Afrikaners as well as creating infrastructure valuable to today's South Africa; thus making his legacy a double edged sword. Shouldn't he stand therefore, not in commemoration, but in remembrance of the recklessness of colonizers toward race relations in Africa as a whole?