The sales numbers of George Orwell’s most famous book 1984 should be included in the Democracy Index. Days after Trump’s election, 1984 topped Amazon’s book charts. In 2013, its sales rose dramatically after Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA’s mass surveillance program. At the end of 2015, 1984 was among the best-sellers in Russia.
Unfortunately, the sales numbers of 1984 (and other dystopian novels like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) only follow political tragedies. It is too late to read 1984 when 1984 is already here.
Which book to read when it’s too late for “1984”?
“From Dictatorship to Democracy” by Gene Sharp (pdf).
Gene Sharp is the world’s leading expert on non-violent revolution, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize four times, founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and former researcher at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. His work — inspired by Gandhi and Henry Thoreau — inspired revolutions in countries throughout the entire world including Burma, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Egypt (the Arab Spring).
“From Dictatorship to Democracy” was the instruction manual for bringing down dictators like Milošević and Mubarak.
Gene Sharp has assembled 198 different methods of nonviolent action to discredit, destabilize and, utterly, topple dictators. These include creative types of nonviolent protests, social non-cooperations, economic and political boycotts. Below just a few examples that can be relevant in the next months:
- Mock funerals
- Teach-ins (a fit for the March of Science on April 22?)
- Suspension of social and sports activities (too late to stop the Super Bowl)
- Protest emigration (probably not worth the risk if you have the wrong passport and might not be let back in)
- Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
Some improvisations during the Serbian revolution to bring down Slobodan Milošević are examples of true socio-political art. Listen to Srdja Popovic, a leader of the anti-Milošević movement, to hear how a turkey with a red flower made the news in Belgrade in 1999.