Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mockery as Art & Rebellion

Nicholas Kristof, whose work is always brave and inspiring, wrote in his column in The New York Times on Sunday, April 17 about the creative use of mockery as a tool for rebellion. He described the Serbian youth movement, Otpor (resistance), which started with just a few members and eventually mobilized enough support to spearhead the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic.

Besides practicing non-violence, the young rebels rallied people to their cause by making fun of the despot who was universally feared and hated. One stunt was to put Milosevic's picture on a barrel and roll it down the street, inviting people to hit it with sticks.

After Otpor helped bring about the overthrow of Milosevic, they began holding seminars for other oppressed peoples, including several Egyptians, who went to Serbia to get ideas for their own recent revolution.

The use of humor as an antidote to fear, of wild creativity to fight rigid oppression, of singing and talking in public places to fight the rule of silence—these are important tactics, not just for overthrowing tyrants but for dealing with other regimes (corporate, industrial, political) in which we feel powerless, humiliated, and helpless.

Radical Joy for Hard Times confronts environmental assaults with beauty. This is not elite beauty, beauty made only by the recognizably talented, but beauty re-imagined by ordinary people. Expressing sorrow and compassion for a place in the moment, we use materials found at the wounded place to transform our relationship with the place. It's democratic, empowering, and creative.

I'm very interested in exploring how other Otpor tactics might work for the environment.

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