Today we’re gonna talk about Nonviolent Method number 7, Slogans, Caricatures, and Symbols.
Now, a little editor’s note here: the preceding nonviolent methods, number 1 through 6 that we’ve done, they all fall into the Formal Statements category, and now we’re moving onto a much more exciting category, which is Communications with a Wider Audience. These are basically designed to gain converts and get sympathy from the other side, and even garner support for the nonviolent group. Considering only at this point 16 percent of the people really understand how serious climate change is, we really need to cast a wider net, right? So Communications with a Wider Audience is basically just what the doctor ordered.
Alright, so Method number 7: Slogans, Caricatures, and Symbols. This one’s pretty cool, alright? A lot of these examples are cool. In 1941 and ’42 in Berlin, there was this awesome group of Jewish youths called The Baum Group. They’d go out at night and paint resistance symbols on walls and stuff, and it was really dangerous! Even though none of them ever got arrested it was really dangerous. But just the ability to do it was considered a test of your revolutionary ardor. We need that. We need revolutionary ardor for the climate movement.
We need people with some stones! And we also need to ignite the youth. Young people should be the coolest people in this movement. After all, most of their adult lives they’re gonna be completely screwed by climate change so they have the most to lose, right? So they need to lead! If you’re a young person in some little town you need to get people on your side and start goin’ out and doin’ stuff. Or find the people who are!
Also in World War II there were these Polish resistance youths called the Little Wolves (I like that, the Little Wolves… Maybe we’ll have the Little Polar Bears. I dunno, it doesn’t sound quite as scary, even though a little polar bear could take a little wolf any day…but we’re nonviolent, so we’re not gonna talk about that.) But the Little Wolves would go out with cans of indelible paint and write on fences, and even on German trucks, and sometimes even on the coats of the Germans themselves. When they weren’t lookin’ they’d sneak up really quietly, and paint the stuff on their back, and then run away. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it, right? So every morning Warsaw would wake up to all these cool messages that this band of little wolves would paint overnight. That’s so cool, right?
More recently, in Serbia, this group Otpor would go out every night and just paint and paste the neighborhoods with stuff. Now, they learned pretty quickly that, even if they only had a few people, those few people could go out at night with cans of spray paint and get the whole city’s attention the next day. So it made the little group look big!
And they had a clinched fist symbol that could easily be made into a stencil and so you could just slap it against anything and spray paint it on and there was this fist of resistance, right? Everywhere!
And as they grew people kinda knew who they were, “Oh it’s the Otpor guys!” I mean, they didn’t know who they were specifically, but they knew what the movement was about.
And they got more sophisticated as time went on. They found that the smaller the message the better. Eventually they’d have signs that would just say “It’s Coming”. And by then everybody knew what “It” was! So they were really smart.
We need good, short messages for our movement. You know, stuff like “No Hoax!”
Now you gotta be really careful when you go out and do stuff like this because the U.S. has all these tough anti-graffiti laws.
And I don’t know what the stickers laws are, but if you could get cool stickers, like, I dunno, a Pissed-Off Polar Bear, you know…you could help spread the message fast. Just slap it on a sign, or on a wall, or something.
Symbolism really counts. People are into that. There’s a reason that corporations spend billions for a tag line and a logo. This movement spends too much time speaking in paragraphs! On that note, I’d better shut up!
So remember, it's a great way to spread the message, it’s fun, it’s a great way to show your revolutionary ardor, but you gotta be careful.
Also, if you really want to get inspired about this, go rent the movie about Banksy and Shepard Fairey called Exit Through the Gift Shop. But only watch the first half. The second half’s dumb.