1st of September 2015
So far we have seen that there are three challenges at the beginning of a revolution.
- Breaking the habit of obedience
- Overcoming fear
- Building unity
So…The next question is:
How do you get people to overcome their fear?
When it comes to fear an animal might fear an immediate threat and act upon it when it arises, but one of our strongest survival abilities as human beings is the ability to see into the future and anticipate. We can fear something in the future. However, it can also hamstring us into inaction.
What do people fear?
People’s main fears are the fear of the unknown and the fear of isolation. Therefore we will concentrate on these two fears when facing the dictator.
Overcoming the pessimists
This ability to “see” into the future can have two outcomes; a pessimistic one and an optimistic one.
One of the biggest problems we sit with is not from the oppressor, but from ourselves or shall I say the negative pessimists amongst ourselves.
Note that I do not refer to them as skeptics. Healthy skepticism stimulating debate is good. Pessimism is not. It is like a slow poison amongst us...like a vampiric parasite sucking out our energy and morale.
These pessimists will deny that they are pessimists and will often call themselves “realists”. They are the people who, when you come up with an idea to defy the regime, tell you, “No, it will never work. No, you are crazy. No, forget it; don’t even try it. No, you are dreaming, etc”.
These are the people who are usually also the most scared…or they are doing it deliberately.
In fact this persistent negativism and pessimism comes from the Frankfurt School and is used quite effectively as a weapon by Marxist intellectuals who call it ”Critical theory”
The idea is to take anything from the capitalist society or anyone who supports it and then relentlessly criticize it to bring about a Marxist change.
If you want to know how effective this technique is then look at the way it was used extensively by the socialist Helen Suzman in the Apartheid parliament when she was for many years the only woman and the only member of the opposition in parliament.
No matter what the NP did, no matter how good they were to the blacks, she would always find fault with it. It was never good enough. They could never do anything right. Using psychology and linguistics she mercilessly and vindictively laid into the NP members. Unfortunately the gullible political dunces in the NP never realized what she was up to and fell for it.
Aung San Suu Kyi said in “Freedom from fear”:
“A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”
So how do you neutralize the pessimists and critical theorists?
Critical theorists, just like all Marxists are serious people and like to be taken seriously. They don’t like jokes, especially not when those jokes are aimed at them. Therefore the most effective technique against them is the use of humour. Mock them silly.
Humor and “Laughtivism”
Political humor is as old as politics itself. Satire and jokes have been used for centuries to speak truth to power.
Srđa Popović the Serbian political activist and student of Dr. Gene Sharp, said that the only thing that could trump fear was laughter.
He coined the strategy of Laughtivism after he realized that most 20th century revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, Stalin and Che, were all too serious looking on their pictures. He further said that, “Humour melts fear and fear is the air that dictators breath. Without the fear they cannot survive.”
Make a protest fun and people don’t want to miss out on the action. Humor communicates a positive image to the outside world that protestors are not angry young men (hooligans) or “terrorists” as the regime would have them believe. They are cool people.
Humor breaks fear and builds confidence. Humor attracts new members because it is cool and people (especially the young generation) want to be associated with cool.
These acts move beyond mere pranks; they help corrode the very mortar that keeps most dictators in place: Fear.
It was a bitter lesson for our dictator Jacob Zuma who surrendered and dropped a court case against cartoonist Zapiro
The ANC also exposed their extremely thin skin and how one can get under it when Brett Murray made his now infamous “The spear” painting of Zuma with exposed genitals and like the bunch of clowns they are came out with a ridiculous official statement calling on all South Africans to defend the president
They organized marches in Durban and Johannesburg in support of Zuma, complete with “rent-a-crowds” of about 2000 “supporters”.
A black man and a white man, independently acted to deface the painting, the gallery withdrew it and the City Press newspaper who published a picture of it apologized.
A leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church called for the artist to be stoned to death. In the first day of legal proceedings, the representative for the ANC, Gcina Malindi, began sobbing and was unable to proceed, causing the process to be adjourned and postponed and the television coverage of the event was suppressed. Later, the ANC sought to drop proceedings.
But that is not all.
When someone erected a small bronze statue of a naked Zuma looking like a Tokoloshe holding a sex toy on Table Mountain’s lion’s head, it was quickly destroyed. Nobody seems to know who erected it and who broke it.
One would think that governing South Africa should play a priority in Zuma and the ANC’s lives. Obviously not. Priority for them are cartoons, statues and paintings mocking Zuma and his regime.
That is exactly why we should use “Laughtevism” as a powerful tool against them. As you know, I have been doing it for years on this blog, but the time has now come to step it up.
Laughtevism is also “creating a dilemma” for the regime. People are normally ingenious and problems eventually can be solved, but give the regime a dilemma so that no matter which option they choose they lose…and victory will be yours. While the dictator is busy solving his dilemma you go on the attack.
Faced with a dilemma, the regime can either crack down on those who ridicule it (making itself look even more ridiculous in the process) or ignore the acts of satire aimed against it (and risk opening the flood gates of dissent). Indeed, when faced with an act of brazen mockery, oppressive regimes have no good choices. Whatever they do, they lose.
Also read Why dictators don’t like jokes
However, laughtevism is not easy. You need a long breath and something new every day. You need a reaction to every action of the regime.
An example of how to plan a “Laughtervism” stunt
First of all, try not to do anything illegal. You start with who you aim your joke at, for instance the regime, police or media and then plan your method back from there.
Let us say, Joe Bloggs phones up the media and tells them that coming Saturday morning at 10:00am, a corrupt ANC councillor will be slaughtered and burned to death in the centre of town.
Knowing the media, they will probably phone the police and alert them.
During the week, Joe Bloggs visits a local farmer and buys a pig from him. He gets his wife or girlfriend to sew a jacket for the pig and writes on it: “Corrupt ANC Councillor”. He also buys a few packets of pork chops which he gets his mates to carry.
Saturday morning he comes marching down the main road with his ANC pig on his way to the centre of town and his mates carrying a gas braai are taking pictures and filming it.
At the square he walks into the police and media and demand that the police arrest the “Corrupt ANC Councillor” for theft and corruption. If they refuse the pig will be “slaughtered”.
Now they are faced with a dilemma. Arresting the pig will make them look like fools. If they don’t arrest the pig, Joe will have “proof” that the police do nothing against “corrupt ANC councillors”.
They cannot arrest Joe. What for? Besides, arresting Joe and his mates will make them look even worse for then they are not only siding with “corrupt ANC councillors”, but also proving that they are every bit the brutal regime Joe said they are, harassing innocent people who are against corruption and government theft.
If the arrest is proved to be a false arrest, Joe can sue them and get the cops who arrested him suspended. If they attempt an arrest Joe let go of the pig and films the police chasing after it.
If the police just laughs and do nothing, Joe can mock-slaughter the pig and grill the pork chops for them or the media winning the day, because he would have gotten three birds with one stone: Mocking the ANC, the police and the media.
Laughter and fun are no longer marginal to a movement’s strategy; they now serve as a central part of the activist arsenal, imbuing the opposition with an aura of cool, helping to break the culture of fear instilled by the regime, and provoking the regime into reactions that undercut its legitimacy.
In the case of the arrested barrel in Serbia; what may have seemed like isolated acts of humor soon proved infectious, inspiring activists across the country. Before long, Otpor had transformed itself from a small student group into a national movement of 70,000 members. Once the barrier of fear had been broken, people were united and Milosevic could not stop it.
How to overcome the fear of sanctions and especially prison
Srdja Popovic wrote a manual on how to overcome fear of a dictator. It is called Making oppression backfire
Just like soldiers are trained and conditioned to overcome fear in life threatening situations, activists also need to be trained to overcome fear of the dictator and his goons.
Therefore an almost military approach needs to be adopted.
Basically you should identify exactly which fear it is you want to overcome and then plan for it accordingly. By identifying the fear and being properly conditioned against it and becoming familiar with it, your “fear of the unknown” will disappear.
Further, the “fear of isolation” can be overcome by the “No man left behind” strategy that Otpor! Also adopted.
Otpor debriefed all activists who were arrested within three days after the arrest. They gathered all information on conditions, interrogation and torture methods and questions of the police. Out of this they could prepare a training document for activists and plan for future arrests.
Further, before a demonstration they would gather the names of all activists and the names and numbers of ten people close to an activist like family and friends who should be contacted in case of the activist being arrested.
They would also identify all the police stations in the area where activists would most likely be held and how to get there.
If someone was arrested they would gather outside and besiege the police station with activists and lawyers supporting the cause to free the activists as soon as possible. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends of the activists would swamp the police with calls about why their loved ones were in prison.
At the same time activists outside would demand to be arrested as well to flood the jail. The police simply did not have enough space for everybody and had to let them go and if they let one go, they must let all go or everybody stays.
Otpor! also had different coloured T-shirts for the amount of times somebody was arrested, with the coveted black T-shirt for anybody arrested more than ten times ensuring celebrity status. Soon, people WANTED and DEMANDED to be arrested. Once the fear of sanctions and prison was broken, the police were powerless and one of the strongest pillars of support for the dictatorship came crashing down.