How to start a revolution?

A week ago I started interning with Frontline TV, a news organisation that advocates independent journalism.  My job includes reviewing and writing short synopsis for several documentaries sent in from international filmmakers, which I find very interesting cause I love documentaries and films.

Luckily it was the week, where most films based on recent events in the Arab Spring were being screened, I was pleased and one particular film caught my attention, How to start a revolution by Director Ruaridh Arrow based on a book by Gene Sharp

Before I went to the screening of the film, there is little that I understood about what it took to overthrow dictatorships using non-violent methods. I saw the trailer, and read a little more into it and was captivated.

I had never heard of Gene Sharp or the book before, but watching this film gave me a deeper insight into the kind of work he carries out and how countries have fought for a democracy using some of the non-violent techniques listed in his book. From putting women at the forefront, to co-opting with police and military officers, mass disappearance, flash mobs and several others these are some of the tools mentioned.

I particularly liked the way Ruaridh weaved case studies into the film from different countries ranging from Serbia to recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. What Ruaridh said in the Q &A session after the film screening, was even more interesting. He spoke about what actually caught his attention and what led him to make such a film and provided insight into countries that have been strategically planning the downfall of their dictatorship, something which is unheard of in the news.  One could also learn from the Serbian Otpor or recent revolution in Tunisia and Egypt , there is no definite recipe. A technique that worked for one country need not necessarily have worked for another, but an underlying tool was not to give up in their fight towards reaching their goals

While I was watching the film, there are several things I could identify in light of recent events that has been taking place at the Occupy movement in London. While the root cause of most protests in Middle East, Africa and Serbia were years of oppression and dictatorship, here in London, New York and other countries it was a fight against alleged financial greed, years of corruption and the huge disparity between the rich and the poor.

This has certainly also raised a lot of questions as to how effective the Occupy movement is going to be? A good start is, they seemed to have got the church on their side by allowing them to camp outside St. Pauls till January. And more recently camps have been set up in other cities across England such as Cardiff and Leeds. However little is known about their concrete objectives or goals? Do they have a strategic plan in place?

Guess it will only be a matter of time, before we see the outcome. But the important message here as we heard and know  is not to give up.

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3 thoughts on “How to start a revolution?

  1. Very interesting piece. I would be very interested to hear what the exact circulation of From Dictatorship to Democracy is.

  2. Good post. Gene Sharp sounds like an excellent academic on non-violent protest, but I wonder if his work really was as direct a cause at the trailer makes out.

    1. Thats a very valid point. Heres what I read recently on the extent to which Gene Sharp’s theories have influenced the fall of dictatorships globally

      However, according to prominent Egyptian activist and journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy:
      “Not only was Mubarak’s foreign policy hated and despised by the Egyptian people, but parallels were always drawn between the situation of the Egyptian people and their Palestinian brothers and sisters. The latter have been the major source of inspiration, not Gene Sharp, whose name I first heard in my life only in February after we toppled Mubarak already and whom the clueless New york Times moronically gives credit for our uprising.”

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