On dissent

May 11, 2012 § 4 Comments

Revolutionary times: and while we look on from the littered margins, some thoughts on dissent…

Dissenters were nonconformist religious (including Protestants, Quakers and Jews) who disagreed with the doctrines of the established Church.  As a result, they were unable to take degrees at Oxford and Cambridge.  Dissenting Academies were set up, particularly in the north of England, as a result.  There was one at Attercliffe near Sheffield whose alumni included archbishops and scientists.

Dissent  di-sent’, v.i. to think differently: to disagree in opinion: to differ (with from). – n. the act of dissenting: difference of opinion: a protest by a minority.  (Chambers)

The Blakes were Dissenters.  As was Marvell.  And Defoe.

dissentious (Shak.) disposed to discord, contentious.

Poetry being an antagonistic form (working in tension with the structures that serve to define it), any modern Dissenting Academy (whatever that may be) should accommodate it.  Are there such things – physically or virtually?  Might there be?  What would the aims and principles of such a thing be?

My own initial thoughts:

It would be free and non-selective;

It would be anti-discriminatory;

It would, directly or indirectly, dissent from / protest against the dominance of ‘the centre’ (politically, culturally, socially);

It wouldn’t offer pathways, or qualifications of any kind; and would attack the notion that creativity’s contribution to the economy contributes significantly to its value.

Any thoughts?


§ 4 Responses to On dissent

  • mark goodwin . gone ground says:

    Over the years I’ve come to believe that dissent has to begin and remain with ‘thinking differently’, but also with ‘feeling’ differently. The political, cultural and social are all driven by a complex of thought and emotion. Perhaps ‘true’ dissent focuses only on the psyche, or the psychological (or spiritual to use but another label). The shared ‘belief’ in a single ‘reality’ is the most dangerous; and to work against that is to try to empower people to imagine their own ways of being, beyond what is imposed upon them. The notion of ‘reality’ is not to be trusted. I’m certain of so very little, but I find myself (or a self) becoming ever more confident that perception and imagination have to be continually changing; especially if we are to dissent against our own habits, and the constructs that are our selves. Is it too much to say that actual dissent can only happen where a mind, a body and a world meet, and when that meeting takes place there is a desire for and commitment to continual transformation, even if, and perhaps especially if, one is fearful or even terrified?

    • Rob Hindle says:

      I like this notion of dissent occuring through/during such moments (epiphanies?): and this suggests to me that the dissenting ‘academy’ of the 21st century would be a mechanism which encourages this kind of engagement. Hopefully, this blog (and many others like it, some of them on the blogroll) forms a small part of this…

  • actofdrawing says:

    I’d like to emphasise the importance of the later comments made by Mark Goodwin. I wonder if it is enough to merely ‘think dissent’, surely dissent is expressed or materialises at a ‘lived’ point of conflict or disagreement. Does indulging in a subjective sense of difference lead to complacency, and maybe defeat at a practical level ? Is it evasive? A Dissenting Academy is one such way out of this (potential) problem by encouraging the shared critique of dominant ideas/ ideologies/practices, and to open out a space in which those ‘different ways of being’ might be able to exist and find support.

    • mark goodwin . gone ground says:

      Yes, I think I need to correct my first sentence to:

      Over the years I’ve come to believe that dissent has to begin and remain with ‘thinking differently’, but also with ‘feeling’ differently, and ‘acting’ differently.

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