Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Stubborn Ounces of History

A thought...though by no means a new one...

no turning point in history occurs or significant historical personality makes their impact in a vacuum. Indeed, each is necessarily supported by many intentional and unintentional acts of other people; people who seem insignificant in the shadow of the event or the historical actor.

This is, of course, a very general and simple idea, but nonetheless warrants expression. In a moment of clarity while enjoying the sunshine on my campus this thought occurred to me while I was reading. In Tom Warner's book "Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada" he writes about the evolution of gay and lesbian/feminist (closely linked during the gay liberation movement of the 1970's-1980's)in that a good number of small liberation organizations and publications were started and failed within a few years or less. These initiatives were constantly failing and yet more would be formed, fail, and more would be formed after those. Finally, in the late 1970's and onward gay liberation groups generally gained a more permanent status as circumstances changed. They would go on to have serious legislative, legal and social impacts upon Canada and Canadians. But, these impacts would not have occurred if it were not for what I'm going to label as stubborn ounces. These early groups and publications, now largely forgotten, paved the way for the stability of gay and lesbian political and social activist groups and publications that we see today. Each one added more weight to a movement which eventually would tip the scales of Canadian society. No matter how many failures the groups and publications continued to be formed...again...again...and again.

The gay and lesbian liberation movement is just one example of many that fits this historical pattern. It could easily be applied to any movement or occurrence, past or present. But perhaps I could nuance this common sense thought with a quotation from the late Tommy Douglas, former leader of the Saskatchewan and federal CCF/NDP parties between the 1940's and the 1960's...

"You say the little efforts that I make will do no good; they never will prevail to tip the hovering scale where justice hangs in balance. I don't think I ever thought they would, but I am prejudiced beyond debate in favour of my right to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight"

The acts of many INDIVIDUALS and SMALL groups working towards a goal are the "stubborn ounces" which far outweigh the importance of the significant events or historical actors as it is these stubborn ounces that provide the weight and thus the the power to create the inertia that is inherently present in the evolution of every epoc of human society.

Every vote counts, every e-mail, every petition signature, every Fscebook status, every link passed along etc. etc. are the stubborn ounces which tip the scale of justice and social evolution.

And here's some union and civil rights songs to complement. Also a video of the farewell speech of Tommy Douglas upon his resignation as leader of the NDP in 1971...I find it inspiring :)I do wish the NDP would its roots again as a movement rather than a party, but this may impossible, and is of course terribly idealistic.

Solidarity Forever:

We Shall Overcome:

Douglas steps down:


Random Uni Student