Dialectic Tensions

As I was reading “Organizing for Social Change (p. 53-63) I couldn’t help thinking back to a special that I watched on the History Channel last night. This History Channel special was about surviving the zombie apocalypse and was entitled Zombies: A Living History. Now I know this sounds silly but hear me out. On the show several authors, historians, and anthropologists discussed how the idea of a “zombie” has developed throughout the course of history and the way that we depict zombies in books and films (performances) as the greatest threat that we could ever face as a human race. The show explores our underlying fear of losing civilization and having to rebuild from scratch. The groups discussed in “Organizing for Social Change” have in many ways lost their civilization and are being forced to rebuild through actions that promote social change.
First in Organizing for social change (or rebuilding after civilization/our humanity) is lost we must look at the dialectic tension of control and emancipation. The reading discusses the idea that without control, structure, and rules the oppressed cannot truly become emancipated from their situation. This is also true in the case of a zombie apocalypse. If we are going to rebuild after the zombies attack we must have structure in order to rebuild a society otherwise we will be forever on the run trapped by our fear of being consumed by zombies and our inability to coexist peacefully with our fellow survivors. In the same way victims of oppression, such as the homeless Appalachian people discussed in the reading, are trapped, without structure and rules, by their primal need to survive by whatever means necessary.

Second, the reading discusses the tension between oppression and empowerment. In organizing for social change we must acknowledge that some things exist that can be both empowering and oppressing and we must look at these things in an empowering light. The reading discusses women veiling their faces and how this is a historically oppressive symbol but also makes women feel respected and honorable. Some similar scenarios exist when discussing the zombie apocalypse. Being a farmer, care taker, or skilled worker in a post-apocalyptic society places a person low on the totem pole of the new society that is forming which is oppressive to them but can also be empowering because one, they are providing services that are allowing the group to survive and two, they still beat the zombies by staying alive.

Third, the reading discusses the tension between dissemination and dialogue and how these two things can coexist beautifully. A group working to escape their oppression must discuss how to do this and their vision of social change amongst themselves in order to develop a plan of action that satisfies all members of the group. However, it is not necessary that all of their ideas be dreamed up independently of the oppressor. The oppressed may take an idea of the oppressor’s and change it to fit their needs. In a zombie apocalypse we may want to rebuild a society that is similar to what we had before but it is important that, since they have the opportunity, the survivors discuss among themselves ways to change what we had before and rebuild a better, more fair society in the post-apocalyptic world.

Last, the reading discusses the the tension between fragmentation and unity and how they both may exist within a community of the oppressed. Fragmentation will always exist to some degree because people will always have their own beliefs and opinions. However, this does not mean that unity cannot also exist. In the example of Bill in the reading Bill feels connected to the overall community but does not feel like one part of the community understands him. This is acceptable in any group. In an post-apocalyptic situation people will, for the most part, feel unified under the desire to survive while they may still feel separated from individual survivors that they may not agree with. This is completely acceptable as long as the unifying goal (whether it be liberation or not being eaten) is held at a higher importance than any fragmenting opinions.


“Zombies: A Living History” mentions a group that exists now in real life called Zombie Squad that goes around training people to survive a disaster (zombies or otherwise). This group emphasizes the importance of skills needed for rebuilding a society, which often times are the skills needed to liberate the oppressed. I have included a link to their website her as my media link.



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