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Posts Tagged ‘Resistance’

Photo: Yauhen Attsetski via Radio Free Europe.
Sept. 3, 2020. Repainting the mural in the Square of Change. A mural on the side of a Minsk apartment building showing two deejays who were jailed for playing a controversial Soviet rock song has become a flash point in the standoff between Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko and his opponents.

I don’t know if readers recall the Belarusian presidential election of 2020. There were massive protests after Putin puppet Alexander Lukashenko declared a big victory. I’ve been keeping track of resistance in Belarus for a while now and feel sorry that because the president is helping Russia with the Ukraine invasion, ordinary Belarusians get associated with him.

A story — practically a book — about the resistance was reported by Sarah A. Topol at the New York Times in March, detailing how numerous Belarusians risked their lives to unseat the strongman and how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has intensified the heartbreak of their failure. I will present the conclusion of the article here. The names mentioned are people Topol interviewed about the 2020 uprising.

She writes that in February of this year, “no one believed the war was coming. The New Belarus movement was busy preparing to protest a constitutional referendum that would allow Lukashenko to stay in office until 2035 as well as give him lifetime immunity from prosecution once he left. The proposed amendments also included a change removing Belarus’s commitment to be neutral and free of nuclear weapons, which meant the country could host Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

“In the early hours of Feb. 24, Russia’s military attacked Ukraine. When I messaged the group, they were horrified. Their country had become one large Russian military base bordering three NATO countries. …

“Sviatlana and her supporters immediately announced their firm antiwar position. As the sanctions began to resemble those recently imposed on Russia, the exiled movement maintained that the people inside the country were prepared to suffer. What else could they do to stop Lukashenko now when they had failed to overthrow him already? Not everyone was as convinced. Sanctions risked hurting the average citizen; they had a mixed record of effecting political change.

“As the war continued, Belarusian relocants in Kyiv fled farther west, many of them now forced to run for their lives twice in less than a year. In Warsaw, Diana had been working on a plan to open a house for newly arriving Belarusians — a community where people could get advice on residency, refugee status, health care and schools. The group she was working with, Courtyard Activists Abroad, pivoted to providing supplies for Ukrainian refugees. She attended protests at the Belarusian and Russian Embassies. She grappled with a sense of shame. All along they wondered if they could have done more to stop Lukashenko, to free their own people and by extension to stop this war.

“ ‘Our guilt is greater than our attempts at justification, because we didn’t finish what we started — our unfinished revolution,’ she told me. ‘Lukashenko is sitting there and cooperating with Russia. This is our fault. For two years, we tried, but we couldn’t overthrow him. Given we screamed that we are the majority, we should have been able to do it. We could have done it. But to say we could or couldn’t is just a discussion; we didn’t even really try. We could have overturned the buses, even if they had 20 siloviki in them. We had thousands in our marches. But we didn’t try. Instead, we were peaceful. We walked with flowers.’

“Sviatlana released video after video supporting Ukraine, and she praised the Belarusian volunteers going to fight alongside Ukrainians. The Cyber-Partisans paralyzed Belarus’s railways to prevent Russian military movements. Three rounds of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials have taken place on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. By the end of March, the Pentagon had counted at least 70 missile launches from Belarusian territory, though no Belarusian troops had been confirmed on the ground in Ukraine. In Minsk, people had begun to fear that they would be forced to fight against their will. If Belarus announced that it was officially at war, men of military age would be barred from leaving the country.

“On Feb. 26, the night before the constitutional referendum, the chat members in Minsk decided they would go to the Russian Embassy the next day to protest the war after they went to the polling station to spoil their ballots. There had been no large rallies since the previous winter. It was a huge risk to take to the streets. When they were about to depart for the Russian Embassy, they heard it was surrounded by paddy wagons. Arrests had already been made. The group decided to change course: They would go to the Ukrainian Embassy with flowers. …

“They weren’t the only ones who risked their freedom to take a symbolic stand. Though the regime had spent a year and a half decimating the ranks of the politically active, thousands of Belarusians still took to the streets. Across the country, more than 800 people were arrested. (In Russia, with a population roughly 15 times greater, 2,000 people were arrested that same day.)

“Westerners often looked at Belarus as if it were Europe’s own little North Korea. Lukashenko himself mocked reporters who called him ‘the last dictator of Europe.’ People who have not experienced it tend to believe all autocracies are the same, but in reality, regimes and freedoms vary, and repressions exist in shades. For Belarusians, the shift from gray to black, from autocracy to totalitarianism, was calculable in lives.

“Nearly 10 million people still lived in Belarus, unwitting collaborators in the raging war. According to a Chatham House poll in mid-March, only 3 percent of Belarusians supported entering the war alongside the Russian military. The Square of Change wanted the world to know that Belarusians had recognized this danger earlier, that they had been fighting this regime, which owed its existence to Putin, for a long time. Even in this atmosphere of repression, they had not given up or fled.

“They had tried so fervently to build the independent Belarus they were promised when the Soviet Union fell. Still, 30 years later, they were thwarted by dynamics that formed decades before their birth. It had been foolish to believe that the U.S.S.R. could collapse so peacefully, that its ghosts would not demand placation. Now they were all paying the price.

“There is so much discussed about the act of fleeing, but perhaps even more puzzling is the choice to remain. ‘I have no fear for myself; I have fear for my family,’ Shamberbetch told me. ‘I want to send my relatives abroad. I want to stay here as long as possible, to fight. When I realize there’s nothing I can do here anymore, I’ll leave the country through the woods.’

“What started for two D.J.s as a small act of symbolic defiance at a concert became a mural on a wall. That symbol became another, the Square of Change, which became to Belarusians the symbol of what their new nation could be. Then those who created that symbol became symbols themselves.

“Each revolution creates its own hieroglyphics — bracelets, flags, murals, heroes and demons — but to what end? How long can a revolution survive on symbols? When your country participates in the destruction of another, how much is symbolic protest worth? Is a symbol worth your life? ‘This is what worries us now, that the meaning of fighting with stickers and other symbols simply loses its meaning,’ Sous-Chef wrote to me in March. ‘Our peaceful protests have practically no effect on the current state of affairs.’

“Still, a few nights earlier, on the fence next to the children’s playground, on that white sheet the size of a flag, they painted NO WAR in red with a black peace sign. On the side, they marked their stencil — two small D.J.s with their arms raised.”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: The Nap Ministry.

Although recent research into the connection between frequent, long naps and dementia has made all of us serious nappers nervous, I remain a big proponent. Sweet sleep “knits up the raveled sleeve of care” and calms us down. It lets us return to our activities with restored energy.

WordPress blogger Tricia Hersey has known this for a long time. And during the stressful summer of 2020, she was moved to spread the word to a wider audience. Napping is not escapism, she believes. Rather, if you’re refreshed, you can fight the good fight another day,

Hannah Good writes at the Washington Post that “years before the pandemic encouraged legions of people to question their relationship with work, Tricia Hersey was preaching the gospel of rest.

“A multidisciplinary artist, writer and community organizer, Hersey began thinking about the importance of rest as a theology graduate student at Emory University in 2013. She’d recently endured some personal trauma and grief, alongside her difficult graduate school research, which dealt with the cultural trauma of slavery. A few states away in Ferguson, Mo., the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining traction in response to a number of police killings of Black people — many of which were captured on video and shared ubiquitously on social media.

“In short, she was exhausted, and it led her to do something radically simple: She took more naps.

“A few years later, Hersey’s philosophy of rest as resistance took shape as an organization. The Nap Ministry, founded in 2016, is an artistic practice and community organization that focuses on the radical power of letting your body rest. …

“Since then, the Atlanta-based organization has hosted hundreds of writing workshops, lectures and communal events. … Hersey’s book, a manifesto on her philosophies called Rest is Resistance, is set to be released this October. …

“The ministry’s signature events are nap sessions: community events where people can rest together. Participants lie on yoga mats as a facilitator reads meditations and poetry; dim lights and soft music, sometimes performed by live musicians, set the tone. This helps assuage what can be a strange and vulnerable experience — falling asleep with strangers. When it comes time to wake up, the music grows louder and changes to something upbeat and joyful: a tone-setter to carry the lessons learned into the day, according to Hersey. …

“We asked Hersey to make our readers a playlist inspired by these themes of rest and resistance. … ‘The energy of this playlist is celebration, ease and leisure,’ she said. ‘It reminds us that we can daydream, wander, imagine and dance. We can just be.’ “

Hersey’s list starts with Duke Ellington’s ‘A New World Coming,’ which she believes is “a piece of magic. This composition is a call for imagining a new world. It opens the playlist because it taps into the expansiveness of dreaming with orchestra sound. To begin the journey of liberation via rest, we must first stay in a ‘DreamSpace.’ ”

“Lullaby” by Tasha, Hersey says, is “a classic lullaby with a specific request for Black girls to do less, dismantle the ‘superwoman’ myth and sleep.”

As for Nina Simone’s “Here Comes the Sun,” Hersey calls it “a joyful moment of ease and hope. The ultimate wake-up call. I have used this song to wake people up from their slumber slowly when they sleep at our collective napping experiences.’ “

Communal napping is weird at first. We had a nap room at my former job. You get over the awkwardness fast if you know you are exhausted and just need about 20 minutes of shut-eye to be good for the rest of the day.

When my sister was in the hospital and I was spending many long, anxious days there, I discovered I actually had quite a gift for taking brief, restorative naps. One time I went to sleep on a bench in a busy, lighted hallway next to an elevator bank, where a maintenance man was operating a huge floor polisher!

More at the Post, here.

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Taking pictures is a personal expression. I imagine it is a bit personal even if you are taking a standard shot of something like the Washington Monument. What catches your eye has a lot to do with who you are, and there is only one of you.

Libby Kane captured that idea in a December Business Insider story about homeless photographers. Kane reported, “In early June, Jason Storbakken distributed disposable cameras to 10 homeless residents of New York City.

“Storbakken, the director of chapel and compassionate care at The Bowery Mission and author of Radical Spirituality: Repentance, Resistance, Revolution, directed each photographer to capture ‘things they hoped others might see.’ …

“The photos from this project have been curated into a show called ‘Through My Lens,’ which will spend the next year in various locations around New York City. …

“As the photographers returned with their images, Storbakken sat down with them in his office to do some light editing through web editor Picasa and to add their statements to each photo.”

See 17 of the pictures at Business Insider, here. More on the project at OneGlimpse.org.

Photo: Sean Collins
“This was on the subway platform. There is a reggae band in the back singing ‘Three Little Birds.’ The little girl is dancing with her daddy. Watching this interaction gave me a lot of joy.” 

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