NBC News: Meet a Young Venezuelan Artist Known As the ‘Painter of Protests’

Read the full article here. By ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Ariana Cubillos / AP. Abuse is hurled daily at the art of Oscar Olivares. Rubber bullets and tear gas canisters clatter off protesters’ shields adorned with his works — cartoon-like digital paintings that have made him an instant icon for the demonstrators who have taken to Venezuela’s streets in recent weeks to oppose the socialist government. Olivares received a standing ovation at a recent event by former colleagues of volunteer paramedic Paul Moreno, who died in May after being crushed by a truck while attending to injured protesters. In Olivares’ hands, Moreno is immortalized as 24-year-old clinching his fist high the air while walking through a cloud of tear gas with Venezuela’s colorful flag trailing behindIn this June 2017 photo, a protester carries a homemade shield embellished with an adhesive printout created by artist Oscar Olivares, during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela. Another popular creation, called the “Heroes of Liberty,” depicts the more than 50 victims of this year’s protests – along with victims of previous unrest in 2014 – standing alongside independence hero Simon Bolivar and other national icons smiling widely and staring into a sky full of white doves....

Slate: Why Dictators Don’t Have a Sense of Humor

Originally published on Slate. It was early on in our efforts to take down Slobodan Milosevic, and like all novice activists, we had a moment of reckoning. Looking around the room at one of our meetings, we realized that we were a bunch of Serbian kids, and rather than focus on what we had going for us, we began obsessing about everything we didn’t have. We didn’t have an army. We didn’t have a lot of money. We had no access to media, which was virtually all state-run. The dictator, we realized, had both a vision and the means to make it come true; his means involved instilling fear. We had a much better vision, but we thought on that grim evening, no way of turning it into a reality. It was then that we came up with the smiling barrel. The idea was really very simple. As we chatted, someone kept talking about how Milosevic only won because he made people afraid, and someone else said that the only thing that could trump fear was laughter. It was one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard. As Monty Python skits have always been up there right with Tolkien for me, I knew very well that humor doesn’t just make you chuckle—it makes you think. We started telling jokes. Within an hour, it seemed to us entirely possible that all we really needed to bring down the regime were a few healthy laughs.  And we were eager to start laughing. Milosevic-on-a-barrel, smash his face for just a dinar.Photo courtesy Srdja Popovic We retrieved an old and battered barrel from...

Politico: Harvey Milk’s First Crusade: Dog Poop

Originally published on Politico. As a former leader of the youth movement that overthrew Slobodan Miloševic—and now as somebody who shares his passion about non-violent struggle with everyone from street activists in the Middle East to students at Harvard and NYU—there’s one thing I’ve learned: A big part of a movement’s success will be determined by the battles it chooses to fight, and a lot of that has to do with how well it understands its opponent. Many centuries ago, Sun Tzu reflected on this idea when he told readers of The Art of War how important it is to always put your strong points against your enemy’s weak points. Take Gandhi, who went up against the British army, the most powerful in the world, by attracting 10,000 Indians to march for tax-free salt—a mineral essential for human survival and found in almost every household, no matter how poor. That’s the reason you see so many activists campaigning for better and healthier food: Because no matter what a person’s religion, skin color or political belief may be, there isn’t a single human being out there who doesn’t need to eat. Whether it’s food or some other basic necessity, activists who can identify some everyday thing that speaks to as many people as possible will always have an advantage over those who cling to a much narrower platform. Which brings us to Milk. Harvey Milk, that is. Apologies for the pun, but you may have heard about this pioneering politician who was the first openly gay public official in America. If you haven’t, he is wonderfully portrayed by Sean Penn...

Turbulent London: Book Review: ‘Blueprint for Revolution’

Originally published on Turbulent London. By Hannah Awcock. Srdja Popovic and Matthew Miller. Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Non-Violent Techniques to Galvanise Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World. London: Scribe, 2015. £9.99 Srdja Popovic is particularly well qualified to give advice on the use of non-violent protest tactics. One of the leaders of Otpor!, the non-violent movement that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, he then decided to use his experience to help others and founded CANVAS, a non-profit organisation that gives advice and training to activists all over the world. Blueprint for Revolution is part how-to guide, part memoir, in which  Popovic uses stories of successful activism to illustrate his advice. Many of the stories come from his own experience as an “ordinary revolutionary” (p vi) and protest guru. There is a false notion that only the elites in our societies matter and that all change, progress, or setbacks emanate magically from within their dark and greedy souls…The world we live in worships and respects the strong and the mighty. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that nobody gives enough credit to the weak and the humble. But, as we have learned, even the smallest creature can change the world.” (p260) Some of Popovic’s advice might look more at home in a business manual than a protest one- branding is crucial, for example, and find out what the people want instead of trying to make them care about the same things you do- but it’s good advice nonetheless. As Popovic explains, Harvey Milk was elected on a promise to crack down on dog poo,...

The Politic: A DIY Guide for Overthrowing Dictators

Originally published in The Politic. By Yifu Dong. AFTER RECEIVING A copy of Blueprint for Revolution, my top concern was bringing the book home. If the customs officials at the Beijing airport chanced to order my luggage into the X-ray machine, they would surely ask what books I was carrying. Last December, I told them, “textbooks,” smiling a little, looking confident, a Beijing kid pretending his best. This time, I knew I would say, “novels,” and I rehearsed the line in my mind every day. But as a necessary precautionary measure, I decided to put the book in a plastic bag with clothes, leaving some harmless English novels and Spanish dictionaries on the surface for inspection. Any book named Blueprint for Revolution would definitely not be welcome in Mainland China today, unless the author was Godfather Marx, Comrade Lenin or Dear Leader Mao. Fortunately, my luggage was not inspected this time. The author of Blueprint, Srdja Popovic, is not particularly well-known, but when I heard him speak at Yale’s College Freedom Forum last semester, I knew I had to read his Blueprint for Revolution: How to use rice pudding, Lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world. (There goes the best subtitle of the year.) Unlike scholars or dissidents, Popovic is first and foremost a victor. In 2000, a movement he helped found, Otpor! (Resistance!), successfully overthrew one of the most notorious dictators in recent memory––Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic––who was later tried at The Hague in 2006 for genocide. Moreover, Otpor! achieved its goal through nonviolent means. In this book, Popovic explains how...

Scientific American: Selma’s Timely–and Empirically Sound–Message of Nonviolence

Originally published on Scientific American. By John Horgan. Americans are flocking to a film that celebrates a soldier who killed lots of people during the U.S. war in Iraq. Meanwhile, a growing number of Americans want the U.S. to send ground troops back into Iraq to fight ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Scholarship shows that nonviolent tactics, like those depicted in the film Selma, which focuses on the struggle of Martin Luther King and others in the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, have been more effective than violent ones. So now is the perfect time for people to see Selma, which like American Sniper has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Selma celebrates a genuine hero, Martin Luther King, and it delivers a message—backed up by empirical evidence–that our violence-intoxicated era badly needs to hear. Selma dramatizes one of American’s history’s most inspiring episodes, when King and other courageous activists banded together to challenge violent, state-sponsored bigotry and injustice and changed our nation for the better. The inaccuracies that some critics have griped about are nit-picky. Selma hews to the historical record more closely than most historical films (even though the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., refused to allow Selma’s director, Ava DuVernay, to quote from his speeches). Compared to American Sniper, Selma is True as a Euclidian proof. The film recreates the horror of “Bloody Sunday,” an incident in 1965 when Alabama police beat 600 civil rights protesters marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge (named for a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan). After the bloodied activists retreat to a church,...