The Man, the Legend, the 'Rock Star' of Revolutionaries

I am speaking (in the title above) of the one and only Srdja Popovic.  Here he is with our group today:

(from the CANVAS website):
Srdja Popovic was one of the founders and key organizers of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign to unseat Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic found success in October 2000 when hundreds of thousands of protestors converged upon and took over the Serbian Parliament, effectively ending Milosevic’s rule. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly 2000-2003.

In 2003, Popovic and other ex-Otpor! activists started the non-profit educational institution the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)

In 2011, Srdja was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the year's "Top 100 Global Thinkers":  CLICK HERE FOR FOREIGN POLICY

Srdja joined our two workshop leaders/trainers, Sandra and Milan, to discuss one of OTPOR's most successful tactics in bringing down Milosevic, a tactic called "dilemma action".  What this is is a "low-risk, high impact" action or set of actions that:
  • use an opponent's strength against him (as in Ju-Jitsu, says Srdja)
  • provoke the opponent to take an action (do something or fail to do something) that turns out to undermine his credibility (as in - it looks stupid) and mobilizes your people even further to your side
Srdja and CANVAS call this "laughtivism" - the use of humor in a non-violent struggle to build morale, melt fear, "looks cool", and creates the "dilemma action" - such as mocking a government leader (or his wife).

The example they gave is when activists in Serbia placed a red flower on the head of a live turkey, and set the turkey free in the streets.  Everyone who saw the ridiculous-looking turkey knew that the person doing this was making fun of Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, who always wore a flower in her hair, no matter what occasion.  Police came to the streets where all the people were watching and laughing at the turkey (and at Mira, in her absence) and called headquarters - "what do we do?"  The command from HQ?  "Arrest the turkey!"  Now we have a couple of police trying to tackle or capture the turkey, arrest it (!), and take it to the local jail house.  All in all, a pretty successful "dilemma action" imposed on the government.  The cops looked and felt pretty stupid; the whole community got a laugh; Milosevic and his wife were the butts of the joke; it was all very peaceful/non-violent; and more people started supporting OTPOR's campaign against the dictator.

Our students had to create their own dilemma actions, based on the 4 different groups they represented for the training - health care for all; tuition relief for students; war on drugs; and immigration reform.

Afterwards, Dr. Will presented Srdja with a special gift (see below), not only for his (Srdja's) visit today but also because Srdja came to Northeastern a few days before the students left Boston for this Dialogue.  


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