This article was originally published in April 2019 on Waging Nonviolence. On the outskirts of town a young man uses a shovel to scoop up a clod of tall grass from the side of the highway. Hastily, he dumps it into one of the huge potholes that dot the road. Glancing around warily, he jumps back in his vehicle and takes off. This scene was
Introducing my new Fragments website—merging art and activism in the belief that creativity and culture can drive political transformation. See it now – https://fragmentsweb.org Way back in the 1990s I came into contact with the zine culture. It was an amazing explosion of creativity. There were zines about everything—working as a guinea pig for medical science, writing prank letters to corporations, conspiracy theories, coffee, cereal,
Takeaways Interview excerpts from nonviolent activists in Zimbabwe The benefits of confronting a violent state with nonviolence The advantages of using creative protests The stupidity of property destruction and riots Better Bulawayo Initiative In early March I happened upon a Tweet announcing how people in Zimbabwe were planting small bushes and tuffs of grass in potholes to dramatize the poor condition of the roads. It
Takeaways ◆ Elections can sometimes bring superficial reforms, but they can’t create real change.◆ After the Big Blue Wave, what then? Business (interests) as usual.◆ Trump is not the enemy—the system is.◆ Fight the necessary battles in front of you, but don’t lose sight of your North Star. My Dream (Yours is Probably Different) I don’t believe in representative democracy. I believe in direct democracy.
Takeaways Read an interview with the Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA). Founded by artist Steve Lambert and scholar Stephen Duncombe, C4AA has been teaching artists and activists how to blend art and activism for almost ten years. Boring vs. Creative “How about Support the Troops—Bring Them Home Now,” said Margaret, a middle-aged woman who was new to activism. “That’s not really a tactic,” I offered.
Takeaways In social change campaigns, it is often the side with the most compelling story that wins. Stories are how we organize reality. The narratives we tell ourselves define our identity. Stories determine how we think, what we believe and how we relate to the world. Changing the Story You watch from the audience as the executive from the giant multinational corporation taps his pen
Moral of the story: even the most powerful leaders are dependent on the people they rule over. ***** Once upon a time there lived a cruel king who ruled without mercy. He was the most powerful king in the world, with a mighty army and an enormous kingdom. One day the general of his army came to him with some rather bad news. “Your Majesty,”
In his book Tactical Performance, L.M. Bogad makes an interesting observation about an axiom of contemporary military strategy and its relevance to social movements. In military parlance, the ground war involves the taking and holding of territory using infantry soldiers. The air war, as you might guess, makes use of aircraft to inflict destruction on the enemy from above. While only ground troops can actually
Takeaways Humorous actionscan jolt people out of their comfort zone and open minds. Forceful arguments don’t persuade people. Use an indirect approach to challenge entrenched beliefs. Examples of activist humor: Otpor t-shirts and Billionaires for Bush. Humor carries risks and should be used prudently. Challenging Entrenched Beliefs Civil resistance actions can have many different purposes. But one goal is often to persuade the general public
A few years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then president of Iran, spoke at Columbia University. I heard a clip from that speech on the radio that stuck in my mind. The authoritarian leader was answering a question about the treatment of gay people in his country. This is what he said: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don’t have that
When people band together to engage in smart, strategic activism, they can sometimes compel their government to act in their best interest. That seems to be what happened recently when the Maryland state legislature passed a permanent statewide ban on fracking, against the wishes of a powerful oil and gas lobby.But it didn’t happen by chance, or because the politicians wanted to do the right
Takeaways To build a social movement, start small. Choose an initial campaign issue that is tangible, relatable and winnable. Address local, everyday problems that people really care about. A step-by-step approach can give people confidence and a feeling of accomplishment. Examples of the “start small” method come from Serbia, Egypt and South Africa. Thinking Big Let’s say you’re passionate about fighting climate change. You form