Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

I Don’t Think We Can Dismiss OWS Easily

Posted by Yorkshire on 2011/11/18

From The Copenhagen Post – Danmark

How mischief can topple dictatorships
Monday, 14 November 2011 22:57 Peter Stanners News

Human rights activist Steve Crawshaw tells us how walking your TV in a pram and listening to rap on the radio can end authoritarian regimes

Upset with what’s on the news? Just take your TV for a walk.
How do you topple a repressive government when they’ve got all the guns, tanks and secret police? With courage, tenacity and Ingenuity. That is the messages in Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson’s book, Small Acts of Resistance, a compilation of stories recounting the clever ways people have subverted oppressive regimes.

Crawshaw, international advocacy director at Amnesty International, was recently in Copenhagen to attend a conference for Humanity in Action but found the time to drop by Books and Company in Hellerup to discuss the book. The cosy English bookshop was packed to capacity for the talk in which Crawshaw demonstrated that no matter how dangerous the stakes, people have an incredible capacity to undermine their oppressors.

“The spirit of the book is the importance of courage and mischief and how that can create amazing change around the world,” Crawshaw told us.

Crawshaw opens with a story from Poland where he worked as a journalist for the Independent newspaper in the late 80s. Resistance to the Soviet sponsored regime had been rising for many years, culminating with the formation of the trade union Solidarity in 1980. Solidarity quickly gathered strength across the country, posing a clear threat to the power of the authoritarian government.

18 months later the government imposed martial law in an attempt to regain control. Tanks and soldiers rolled into the street, several dozen people were killed, thousands of were arrested and strict curfews were enforced.

While the crack down reminded the people who was in charge, it didn’t kill of the will for change. But with troops on the streets, protesting was a dangerous option. So they devised inventive ways to show their contempt for the authority.

One of their targets was state sponsored media. The evening news bulletin was so filled with lies and propaganda that many decided to boycott it. But while that may be well and good, how was anyone going to know? So they started placing their TV sets in their windows facing out onto the street when the news was on.

Slowly they stepped up the protest. They began going for walks while the news was on, some taking their TVs with them in prams. The authorities were powerless to stop a protest that had no chants and wove no banners. Moving the curfew two hours earlier had no effect, people simply walked the streets at the earlier bulletin.

“So while the regime had the guns and the tanks, they were the ones who ended up on the back foot,” Crawshaw explained.

While this clever act of dissent did not in itself bring the end of the regime, it helped keep the spirit of resistance alive. It cheered the people in knowing that despite a ban on free media, there were ways of voicing their disapproval. The state too was reminded that its people were not simply going to accept the status quo.

“Through that sense of the mockery you get a weakened regime, that you laugh at someone while you are being beaten. This sense of humour, while it doesn’t defend you, gives strength to society to achieve amazing things.”

The Poles were not alone in finding clever ways to subvert an oppressive regime. When Slobodan Milosevic cracked down on free media in Serbia in the 90s, he dictated that the radio only play state certified news bulletins. But with the station free to play whatever music they liked, songs such as Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ and the Clash’s ‘White Riot’ were played on heavy rotation. Serbia’s young people understood the message but Milosevic and his cronies didn’t, they simply didn’t understand the music.

Crawshaw came across these stories after spending almost two decades working with human rights organisations, first at Human Rights Watch then Amnesty International. After discussing it over dinner one evening, Crawshaw and his co-author Jackson realised there was a common theme to many of the stories.

“We argue in the book that you can make a connection between all these events, that mischief was a singular and important part of the process of change,” Crawshaw explained.

As the talk wound down, heated debates broke out between Crawshaw and members of the audience. When is military intervention called for? Why are violent protests less successful? What does the Occupy movement really represent? And what about the Arab Spring uprisings, what does their future hold for the Middle East?

Well no one knows. But Crawshaw believes we should leave it up to the people to find their own ways to slowly undermine their regimes.

“Before Mubarak fell, people thought he would be there forever. But he fell.”

The question is, who’s next?

9 Responses to “I Don’t Think We Can Dismiss OWS Easily”

  1. Yorkshire said

    If you want to blow this off, go ahead. But in 1776 it took FIFTY-SIX signers of the Declaration of Independence to launch the Revolutionary War. I know, others helped, but these 56 really set it in motion. At least they had the Marines to help. A few thousand Libyans knocked off Kadaffi. Riots in the Square in Cairo got rid of Mubarak. An anarchist in Serbia sparked WW1. It was Karl Marx’s book to inspire the Russians. It was a little former corporal named Hitler to spark the takeover Germany. And history is full of these Davids knocking off Goliathes.


  2. Dana Pico said

    Yorkshire wrote:

    But in 1776 it took FIFTY-SIX signers of the Declaration of Independence to launch the Revolutionary War. I know, others helped, but these 56 really set it in motion.

    By the Fourth of July, the Revolutionary War had been going onb for over a year. Paul Revere’s famous night ride began on April 18, 1775, with the Battles at Lexington and Concord the next day. Fort Ticonderoga is captured on May 10, 1775, and the Battle of Bunker Hill occurred on June 17, 1775. The Declaration of Independence took the formal step of declaring our separation, but the war had been going on for over a year.


  3. Dana Pico said

    And how are these brave Occupiers behaving?

    Story here


  4. Hube said

    It’ll never happen. No way, with this idiotic crew of “occupiers.” The FFs had a goal in mind, specific ideas about government, and we’re quite intelligent. Just the opposite of OWS.


  5. Hoagie said

    As Edwin Starr sang: War…hoomph…good god ya’ll …what is good for? Absolutely nothing…sing it again.

    But in my Nam experience, one well placed shot CAN make a difference. I have no adversity to war. Sometimes in order to be free blood must flow. Also in my experience, it’s not whether one is willing to die for his cause, it’s whether he’s able to kill for it. War is the history of mankind and that history has produced good as well as evil. Perhaps it is time for a Great Civil War. As the Iron Lady once said: “This is no time to get wobbley”. And perhaps that “Tree of Freedom” needs a little watering now.


  6. Dana Pico said

    Hoagie’s right: real revolutionaries are clever, are smart, have thought-out plans, have guns, and have to be able to kill in cold blood, often indiscriminately.


  7. Yorkshire said

    I figure the background operators are people like Bill Ayres who conducted lessons to the Occupy Chicago group. We remember the MSM’s in depth profile of Bill Ayres when BO ran in 2008, NOT. And fellow Marxist Van Jones who was the Green Energy CZAR until his Communist Oakland roots were exposed. And lets not forget the number far left people in BO’s circle. All waiting to activate useful idiots like OWS.


  8. AOTC said

    was in erie today. there were 5-6 ows (actually, ops, occupy peach street, lol)protesters by the mall intersection with signs and chants. its cold here so everyone’s car windows are closed so most of the chants were inaudible. these people seem kinda pathetic more than anything.

    i kind of think that the people who are out on the streets are probably not the ones who drive the real agenda. these ‘protesters’ are the expendable chumps that are used to plead a moral case to the average citizen, commit the necessary pushback, stir up emotional protests and occupy. i doubt these are the staunch ideologues that are seeking power. the power hungry ideologues need a cloak. i suspect these lost souls are being used as the cloak. albeit a flawed one. it appears the culture has deteriorated so far that even the leftist ideologues dont have much to work with either when trying to make a ‘moral facade’ to fight behind. i guess our cultural moral bankruptcy has an unintended benefit… the marxists might get ‘eaten’ by the very ones they’ve co-opted to ‘eat the rich’. good grief, what a clusterfark.

    i am re-reading a book by Os Guinness right now called:

    The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever

    if you like logic, reason and intellectual honesty, this book will intrigue you.


  9. Yorkshire said

    Obama: “I Chose My Friends Carefully… Marxist Professors and Structural Feminists”
    by Stephan Tawney on October 28, 2008

    In his memoir Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama admits that he chose his friends carefully. He even says that those friends included Marxist professors. I’ve included the transcript immediately below and the video below that:

    To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.


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