Monday, September 15, 2008

One individual can change the world

I was recently inspired by a Wall Street Journal article about a shy, 80-year Harvard scholar named Gene Sharp. Mr. Sharp has spent much of his life studying non-violent movements, such as those led by Gandhi, the U.S. Civil Rights movement, and uprisings in Eastern Europe. Now, he is hated by Hugo Chavez and several other dictators around the world.

In 1993, he wrote a 90-page pamphlet called "From Dictatorship to Democracy". The Wall Street Journal writes:

" In his writings, Mr. Sharp teased out common principles that make nonviolent resistance successful, creating a broad road map for activists looking to destabilize authoritarian regimes.....This slim volume offers concise advice on how to plan a successful opposition campaign, along with a list of historically tested tactics for rattling a dictatorial regime. Aimed at no particular country, and easily downloadable from the Internet, the booklet has found universal appeal among opposition activists around the globe.

"Though he warns readers that resistance may provoke violent crackdowns and will take careful planning to succeed, Mr. Sharp writes that any dictatorship will eventually collapse if its subjects refuse to obey.

"He offers a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action, like the staging of mock elections to poke fun at problems like vote-rigging, using funerals to make political statements and adopting symbolic colors, a la Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. Less conventional tactics include skywriting political messages and "protest disrobings."

The article explains how his writings made their way around the world, were translated into at least 28 languages, and helped people resist tyranny in 8 or 10 various situations.

I find it inspiring, because when I see the horrible situation in which some of God's children find themselves, through no fault of their own--just because they were born into a country led by a dictator--I wish that something could be done about it. For example, one of my coworkers was born and raised in Zimbabwe. A few years ago, she and her husband were lucky enough to get visas to come to work in the U.S. The rest of her family stayed in Zimbabwe, and she's watched from a distance as they have been slowly starving, as their money loses its value, and as they've been intimidated and harrassed by government supported hoodlums. She's done what she could to help them, but with a dictator who abuses and suppresses the people, there hasn't been much she could do. As I've talked with her about the situation, I wished that I could do something about it, and have felt quite powerless.

So, I love this example of how a single individual has enabled others to throw off the shackles that bind them. It gives me hope.

Here's a link to the full article:

Unfortunately, you may need a Wall Street Journal subscription to view it. Or, I can email you a link that will allow you to view it without a subscription...just email me if you are interested.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Education allows people to read, and once they can read, they can learn how to resist. Education is the key in so many ways, and I'm glad that there is something worth learning about how to resist a dictatorship.

I do quibble over calling 90 pages a pamphlet though. ;)