In 1963 the persecution of Buddhists in South Vietnam under the rule of staunch anti-communist Ngo Dinh Dien, had reached crisis point. On June 11th three monks walked to a crossroads in Saigon. One placed a cushion on the road upon which sat Thich Quang Duc, a highly revered Buddhist monk; the third man then proceeded to pour petrol over Quang Duc. The picture of the monk’s self-immolation went worldwide and is one of the most iconic forms of activism; the ultimate sacrifice for a cause, which has been undertaken in many notable cases, most recently Mohamed Bouazizi that sparked the Arab Spring.
Activism is an art form and comes in many shapes and disguises. It can be holding a placard, throwing a Molotov, standing in front of a tank, where you choose to sit on a bus, occupying a financial district, or as in the case of Pussy Riot, dancing in a church. In Egypt, much of the activism during their Arab Spring, came from young women, who were not allowed to protest at Tahrir Square for fear of violence against them. So they took the internet and became cyber-activists, sharing messages, feeding news to other protestors across the Arab world. Activism can also be the simple act of writing a poem as with Ai Weiwei.
Susan Evans’ poem # Irony, covers some of these approaches to protest and the perceptions that arise. “Marching online she joins/the virtual protest ‒/bloke in armchair calls her/an `armchair activist’“ But you can also sign petitions “she shares petition after petition ‒/38 degrees”, or watch events unfold “‘The People’s Poets’ upload pics,/pleased as punch; bunched outside/Westminster,” driven by examples of friends who, as mothers are greatly affected by austerity measures as they “fiercely fret over/the going rate of the Tooth Fairy.” (more…)