Chapter 1: It Can Never Happen
As I ran after the truck, cheering on my favorite musicians, I had a series of epiphanies. I understood that activism didn't have to be boring; in fact, it was probably more effective in the form of a cool punk show than as a stodgy demonstration. I understood that it was possible, even under the most seemingly dire conditions, to get people to care. And I understood that when enough people cared, and enough of them got together to do something about it, change was imminent. Of course, I didn't really understand any of these things, at least not yet. It would take me years to think through the feelings I had that afternoon in Republic Square, to make sense of my insights and convert them to actions. But once I'd witnessed the possibility of successful and attractive non-violent action, it was impossible to go back to my previous state of apathy. My friends and I now felt we had to do something to bring down Milosevic.
Chapter 3: Vision of Tomorrow
What we wanted our friends to realize was that it wasn't enough for the dissidents to just fight for rights and freedoms. To succeed, they would have to listen to what the people actually cared about and make sure to incorporate their needs into their "vision of tomorrow." Most people in society will take risks and participate in a movement only if the cause is personally important to them, which is why it's imperative that you know what people cherish.
Chapter 5: Laugh Your Way To Victory
It's Saturday morning. you arrive at the subway station. There are more than a hundred people there protesting against censorious announcement from the day before. But they're not saying anything against the government. They're not shouting or chanting. They're kissing each other, loudly, making these gross slurpy sounds nobody likes, drooling and giggling. There are almost no signs to be seen, but the ones you do notice have little pink hearts on them and read "kiss me" or "free hugs." The women are in short-sleeves, low-cut blouses. The men have their button-downs on. No one seems to notice you-they're busy holding each other's heads as they such face.
What do you do now? Go ahead and pretend to be the police officer. The answer is there's nothing you can do. It's not only that the amorous demonstrators aren't breaking any laws; it's also their attitude that makes a world of difference. If you're a cop, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to deal with people who are violent. But nothing in your training prepares you for dealing with people who are funny. This is the genius of laughtivism. I know, the name is stupid; my friends who are native English speakers tell me so all the time. But the principle is solid, and like many other things, I stumbled upon it competently by mistake.
Chapter 7: It’s Unity, Stupid!
In Serbia, before we had OTPOR to unite behind, elections under Milosevic followed this exact pattern. The people who study this type of thing call it "atomization." Milosevic would garner a sizable amount of votes, steal a few thousand more, and then just wait for the splintered opposition to squander any chance of getting anything accomplished by fighting among themselves. By bickering, we were doing the dictator's work for him. Which is why from the very start of OTPOR we fought two parallel battles-one to topple the dictatorship, and a second to unite the feuding political parties under a single umbrella. We intentionally baked the struggle for unity into our anti-Milosevic casserole, and it worked.
Chapter 9: The Demons of Violence
To outsiders, the imprisoned violent revolutionary became a symbol of resistance, and admiring fans kept up vigils around the world calling for his release. At one point, South African president P.W. Both offered the man his freedom if he agreed unconditionally to reject violence as a political weapon. The man refused. But eventually the reflective guerrilla softened his line. He came to understand that what South Africa needed in order to move forward wasn't more bloodshed but rather forgiveness and reconciliation. And so, when Nelson Mandela was finally released, 27 years after his arrest, he was celebrated as a champion of non-violence, and rightly so: for having tried his hand at an arm struggle, Mandela knew better than anyone that violence simply couldn't achieve the type of future that he and his people had hoped to enjoy. I bring up this story not to tarnish the reputation of a man I very deeply admire, but to show that, faced with horrific oppression, even a righteous man like Mandela can be drive to despair and convinced to go the way of the gun.
Chapter 11: It Had to be You
Sadly, the NGOs who set out to help the slum's residents did not. They had the best intentions in the world, but they were comprised mainly of foreigners of more fortunate Kenyans. The help these outsiders provided was well received, but it didn't solve any real problems. Sure, they sent up some latrines and reduce the number of flying toilets. But the fundamentals of the slum weren't effectively addressed. Things started to change only when the community decided to work together. Kibera's residents united themselves into three local organizations, and began with simple tasks. The first was to map out their neighborhoods. A map of the slum, after all, could serve as a useful tool to allow people to share their knowledge and alert each other to the perils and opportunities that surround them. It was a way for people to pool their street smarts. And it wasn't too difficult to do Because mapping these days is made easy by technology, and because technology is much more accessible to the young, a group of teenagers, armed with GPS devices, went out to collect data, walking around the neighborhood and registering everything they saw under the four categories: Safety/Vulnerability, Health Services, Informal Education and Water/Sanitation. When they were finished, they printed their map on cheap paper and handed it out to their neighbors, along with pencils and tracing paper. To their delight, many people began adding their own spots to the maps, and soon the database grew to 500 data points and then to hundreds and thousands more. Taking note of the project, the United Nation Children's Fund got involved and doled out some cash. Soon every resident of Kibera could receive map-related alerts via text messages sent directly to their cell phones, a service that helped people stay clear of everyday crime and violent outbreaks in the neighborhood Block by block, district by district, the Kiberans were reclaiming their community.
Chapter 2: Dream Big, Start Small
At first, only 32 people, most of them friends of Alrov's joined his online petition. But Israel is a small country, and a local blogger, amused by the idea of a Cottage cheese boycott, interviewed Alrov. The day after the interview ran, his petition had 9,000 signatures. The mainstream media soon reported for duty, reveling in the unlikely working-class hero who had fallen into their hands. Before too long, Alrov's page had 100,000 followers, which, in a country of only seven million, is a lot. Alrov had found an easy fight to pick, and since everyone wants to join a winning team, his following continued to grow.
Chapter 4: The Almighty Pillars of Power
All dictators are similar in one important way. They depend on people. A dictator really needs the ordinary citizens to go to work in the morning and make sure that the airports and televisions studios and solder's pension plans run smoothly. And it's important to understand that these average Joes who follow his orders just want to do their jobs and go home even when they wear uniforms and get violent, they're not necessarily evil and they're not necessarily beyond redemption.
Chapter 6: Make Oppression Backfire
No sooner had Kovida and his supporters shown up than the army opened fire. Dozens were killed. Massive arrests followed, with thousands of monks sent away for 60 years or more, often with hard labor. It was the hardest measure the regime had taken in decades. But it also went a step too far: in acting against the monks, the generals learned the bitter lesson tyrants always learn when when it's too late, namely that sooner or later oppression always backfires. Enraged by this act of violence perpetrated against the monks, the Burmese began what many started to call the Saffron Revolution. Now, on the heels of the upheaval, Burma is taking steps toward democracy, and the formerly imprisoned dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi is now the most prominent member of Burma's parliament, while Kovida, the monk who started it all, is still campaigning for democratic reform in his homeland.
Chapter 8: Plan Your Way to Victory
This I think, was the true reason for OTPOR's success. Sometimes, we were a bit more disorganized than I care to admit. But we always knew how to stay ahead of the game, realizing that the moment we started playing defense, our defeat was only a matter of time. And so, we followed up a prank with a concert, a concert with a march, a march with an election, an election fraud with civil disobedience and strikes. We treated activism like an action movie, and realized that unless it always moved forward to something bigger, louder, and cooler, it would just bore the audience. Think of it this way, and planning kind of takes care of itself, with everything falling into place.
Chapter 10: Finish What You Started
It's critical to maintain unity in your movement even after you win what appears to be the ultimate victory. Following Milosevic's downfall, OTPOR kept up the pressure on the system despite the fact that we'd won what many considered to be our biggest objective. Sure Milosevic had been knocked out of power, but his faction-though diminished-was still very much alive and kicking. And we also knew that there was a chance that Serbia;s new leadership might find Milosevic's old throne very comfortable and could try to take some dictatorial powers for themselves. But we in OTPOR had prepared for that. We knew our goose egg was democracy, and that we still had a long way to go before we got there. So we plastered signs all over the country, informing the newly elected democratic government that the same people who brought down Milosevic were now keeping an eye on the new rulers, and that any attempt to bring the old system back would mean unleashing the same people power that claimed the scalps of the former regime. OTPOR's old banners and graffiti were replaced by wheat paste posters featuring bulldozers-which had become a symbol of the Serbian Revolution-with the words"There are 20,000 Bulldozers in Serbia, and about 2 million potential drivers," while others simply read " We Are Watching You!" The point of all this was to remind the newly-installed post-Milosevic government that OTPOR's campaign was far from over. In other words, our work didn't simply end with Mlosevic's downfall. We were fighting for democracy, and we were planning to finish the fight that we started.