- A scientist publishes a research paper questioning the dominant view on global warming.
- A minister gives a sermon suggesting the Holy Ghost is irrelevant to Christian belief.
- A company accountant meets with the boss to query the boss's favored tax write-off scheme.
- Protesters join rallies against corporate globalization.
- A doctor in China sends e-mails alleging corruption in the Communist Party.
Each of these might be considered a form of dissent. What they have in common is questioning or challenging a dominant belief system, dominant either via widespread acceptance or via the power of those in charge.
Dissent is both lauded and loathed. It is lauded when it is in the glorious, unthreatening past. Famous dissenters include Socrates, Galileo, and Martin Luther. Dissent is especially lauded when dissenters emerge victorious, such as the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is also lauded when it is geographically distant. Aung San Suu Kyi, the charismatic leader of the opposition to Burma's repressive regime, is an example. But closer to home, dissent is less attractive - at least to those whose power or position is threatened by it.