I was reading the New York Times and I read an article about the most ridiculous form of activism. When I say ridiculous I do not mean to undermine the action, but to show my mere bafflement at the courageous act done by a few Swedish pilots over the “tightly” controlled airspace of Belarus. These pilots flew over Minsk and opened their cargo doors to drop teddy bears carrying pamphlets on July 4th.
I can’t explain how I gagged a few times while reading the article, which seemed to recount Mission Impossible if it were a comedy. It must have been very embarrassing for President Lukashenko, who subsequently fired some of his military personnel, mainly the head of the border service and the head of the air force.
Despite this rather cuddly activism with a punch to the gut, I would say there is no lighter side to this work. This is just a success story, where everything went according to plan. The article reminds the reader that in 1995 a pair Americans in a hot-air balloon drifted into Belarus airspace by accident. Then they were shot down and killed by a missile from a military gunship.
These hot-air balloonists weren’t activists, but unlucky tourists, and just the same way the teddy bears could have been set aflame thousands of feet off the ground. One might think that the smallest forms of protest done by independent parties are safe and harmless, yet they sort of even are here in countries where there is free speech and freedom to protest between 10AM to 10PM with a legal contract from the authorities. Elsewhere things are different, like in Belarus as the article states. One can end up in jail for gathering plush toys onto a plaza.
Can there be, any, comedic value in dissent? I doubt it, even when one might see comedic value in a witty satire made of the authorities. Those who truly want to change something around them must take themselves seriously if they are protesting against something truly macabre, as the authorities will take them seriously even when they are just joking and could punish them in even more serious manners.
It is easy to be a sole crackpot living in a country where apathy reigns supreme over its people, as there is comfort for everyone. The dreary atmosphere of the city streets filled with alcoholics who receive their dole in the form of per mille. I have found myself in many tables where young people talk about other countries than their home country. Home is always right in these tables, everything is alright at home. The people who see a need for improvement are laughed at like comedians and despised for not being thankful.
Free speech has become the freedom to complain, and that is good enough for most. If the park with the president’s name is ugly or the statue of the forefathers is bent, you are free to say it: “This is ugly, I hate it.” or “It’s not good enough, but it’s alright.”
These both are read as, it’s okay, I do not like it yet it’s alright. It sure is nice to breathe fresh air in a comfortable country where self-deprecation is the norm.
This is the first world, free speech, freedom of opinion induced apathy. The utter apathy and weakness of oneself that follows. For example in Finland most people feel they do not have the power to change things around in their community, they feel their free opinions are void in the public eye. People do not innovate and band together, they do not make tightly knit and open communities. Most surrender their fate to the government which is nearly as lost in the world as they are.
I would like to request everyone who read this to correspond with their community on the issues they have, promote collaboration and friendship. You might not be a dissenter of any form of living, but do not have dissent against yourselves. Do not be a stranger to your neighbors and be positively active with your friends and relatives. You do not need to pull off a stunt like the one done over the skies of Belarus, but remember that the little things matter as well.