Let's talk about your need for holy leisure, interior freedom, poetic education, creative expression and cultural engagement. Authentic, joyful, humorous...many talks to choose from...custom crafted presentations...workshops, retreats, group facilitation...let me help you!
I actually do have something in common with its author, Srdja Popovic: we both love Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Who knew he was popular among Serbian dictator-overthrowers? Popovic is a non-violent revolutionary, inspired by hobbits to believe in the power of small, individual human beings to bring about real change in the world.
I skipped over his praise for Harvey Milk’s non-violent homosexual acceptance revolution. We revolutionaries don’t agree on everything! He clearly does not see that violence may be done to the human person without guns. I tsk’d at his preferences in music, and at some of his language, too. But I was intrigued to learn “how to use rice pudding, lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world.”
Popovic helped orchestrate resistance to Slobodan Milosevic’s reign of terror in Serbia. All he and his comrades, and the many resistance groups from other countries he has since counseled, really wanted was human freedom. That should interest Catholics…especially Chestertonian ones. I can’t help thinking G. K. Chesterton would love the story of the toy protest in Siberia. Denied permits to protest election fraud, activists set up collections of lego men, dolls, toy soldiers and stuffed animals with little protest signs. Delightful, easily photographed, shared and replicated, too silly for the authorities to be seen taking seriously (though they did, finally, and played right into the hands of the ‘laughtivists’), the toy protest got results. I’m sure the author of The Flying Inn would get a great kick out of this one. He’d also have loved the massive ping-pong ball protest against Syria’s Assad.
Though I am not currently under the oppression of violent, anti-freedom forces, I’d like to hope the Church could learn some lessons from these young people. How could we use humor to disarm fear of priests, or fear of speaking out about being religious? How do we respond when someone makes the Church the butt of a joke, revolting, perhaps, against its perceived-oppressive authority? Could we give away something good – as in the ‘rice pudding revolution’ in the Maldives – so as to gather people together under some symbol of freedom?
Without even a nod to the religious foundations for Poland’s resistance to tyranny, Popovic recounts the 1982 episode in which Poles nightly ‘walked’ their television sets around in wheelbarrows to protest against the constant flow of televised government propaganda. He compares all these creative resistance gestures to improvisational comedy. Comedy will always be a bit undignified, though. I wonder if we Catholics can bear to play the fool to ‘win some’??
Speaking of the need to meet a foe’s strength with your weakness, he might even have quoted Scripture to good effect, but didn’t. Popovic’s kind of revolution is one in which grandmas and children can participate. I like that intergenerational vibe. I like the way his own grandma did her part by baking goodies for the lads who risked their lives to stencil the resistance logo all over town. I like the way having weak people involved helps send the message that enemies of freedom are not as powerful and fearsome as they think.
This theme – the weak confounding the strong, the fool confounding the wise – should give heart to Christians who may have forgotten, lately, that we’ll not likely dismantle huge societal and political forces of ignorance and evil by meeting them head-on, or engaging on terms and on fields of battle that play to their strengths. Nope, we Christians, like Popovic and his crazy friends, are just hobbits.
What will it mean to resist, with creativity and humor, a culture of death, of atheism, of the degradation of human beings, of cultural poverty?
This deserves much more thought and conversation. To that end, I invite you to my table!