Monthly Archives: September 2016


Believing in primary sources, I asked a college-bound high school class in Chico, California, about increase in anxiety and depression among their generation. They vehemently agreed, with a show of hands, because they are so stressed. Most of them get around six or seven hours of sleep on an average weeknight because of homework, about a quarter of them also do paid work, plus school sports and other activities, and doing chores at home. By the time they take a shower and go to bed it’s midnight or later and they’re worried about all the tests and work they face the next day so they’re not relaxed. It’s hard to find time to hang out with friends and relax. They feel pressured by their parents to do well in school and go to college, but they know that they’ll probably graduate with student loans and may have trouble finding a good job. Like SpeakOut students around the world, despite the fact that their parents were once teenagers, things have changed with school work more intense and with more rules like having to wear seat belts or not being able to leave campus for lunch. As usual, they also feel their access to technology has changed them. They would like their parents to really listen to them, treat them with respect, realize they’re not children anymore and not complain if they don’t get an A on a test.

Women Soldiers in the PKK

The PKK was known for its women leaders from the beginning; the most famous was Sakine Cansiz who survived years of torture in Turkish prisons but was assassinated. By 1993, about one-third of new PKK recruits were women, leading to the organization of women’s guerilla units called YJA_Star. Part of the motivation was to create equality and mutual respect between men and women soldiers. Unlike short-term expedient use of women guerillas in other revolutionary struggles, the intent of PKK was to permanently change sex roles in contrast to the use of women soldiers in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal; in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Angola, Eritrea, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Unlike the PKK, women in these other countries were rarely commanders and were expected to be subordinate to men and certainly not share in the cooking and cleaning. The unusual Zapatistas are similar to the PKK in aiming for permanent gender equality among women and men soldiers.


Meredith Tax. A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State. Belleview Literary Publishers, 2016.

The New Revolutionary View: Oscar ten Houten

Oscar ten Houten (born 1978) participated and wrote about the 2011 uprisings in Europe; “For one whole year living in a tent on a hundred different squares.”[i] He observed that the old school view of revolution was that it’s a serious matter with accusations of others not being revolutionary enough.[ii] The new view of youthful revolutionaries is that it brings joy, unity and fun because satire is a powerful weapon against authorities. The new revolutionaries go beyond political theories and isms to the deeper issue of sustainability and have a shared belief in equality. He thinks there’s nothing wrong with supporting a political party if it helps reach an objective and that there are always leaders who get things done, but they should step back when their task is completed. Another new characteristic is the revolution will be televised live. He changed his mind about nonviolence while he participated in the Gezi Occupation in Turkey, realizing that police aggression must be challenged to empower the people, as it was in Istanbul with Molotov cocktails, burning buses and burning sofas, guarding barricades, and shining lasers on police drivers. He realized, “Not many authorities will allow a peaceful revolution to happen.”[iii]

[i] Oscar ten Houten, “First Wave: A Year of Revolution,” Kindle Edition, 2012.

[ii] Oscar ten Houten. #Occupy Gezi. @postvirtual, 2013, pp. 102-4.

[iii] Ibid, p. 105.

How to organize a social movement–the Red Squares of Montreal

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (born 1990) was a student leader in CLASSE, the Quebec student union that organized successful strikes in 2013. He said in a video that a key component of student success was the strong culture of hard work.[i] Some said students organized in decentralized totally autonomous groups, but that wasn’t accurate. They’re not like a soldier answering to a general, but a certain amount of centralization was required to make sure the strike would begin and grow. Using a structured process of decision-making, organization power and democracy worked. The student movement has ongoing successes because of extensive organizing through the province, with elected representatives to student unions and centralized decision-making. They also make alliances with workers’ unions (union-led strikes also helped oust presidents in Tunisia and Egypt).

In his book translated as In Defiance (2013), Nadeau-Dubois discussed his role as media spokesperson (along with Jeanne Reynolds) who could only comment on what CLASSE had decided on by voting at weekly meetings representing the various student associations, which he described as soldiers without a commander: “a large portion of the social movement was simply unwilling to be guided by leaders.”[ii] Ungovernable, the movement dealt with long hours of debate and with growing numbers of strikers; on March 22, 2012, more than 300,000 students out of 420,000 enrolled were on strike and many of them marched in Montreal.[iii] Their issues expanded from the 75% tuition increase to condemnation of capitalism and its destruction of the environment. Writing a year after the strike, although they succeed in ousting the Liberal government in elections and getting the tuition increase cancelled plus a moratorium on shale gas exploration, on the surface it looked like little had changed in Quebec. But, he realized “social battles rarely end with victories.”[iv] As in all the other uprisings, many of the participants continued their political interests. A young activist with Idle No More told him that mobilizations are like a wave; it seems to withdraw from the shore but it is always followed by a new wave.


[ii] Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. In Defiance. Between the Lines, Toronto, 2013, p. 73.

[iii] Ibid., p. 75.

[iv] Ibid., p. 1223-124.