I heard the author interviewed one Monday morning on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week program. Surge Popovic sounded interesting and his book’s title, Blueprint for Revolution, made me go out and buy it. The book has a co-author: ‘and Matthew Miller.’ One gets the sense that this is Miller’s book after having some conversations with Popovic. The style of writing is conversational, anecdotal, and not too challenging.
There’s not much theory or history but lots of chat about his work, realisations, lessons learnt, and whimsy comparisons. The books subtitle is how to use rice pudding, lego men, and other non-violent techniques to galvanize communities, over-throw dictators, or simply change the world. You get the picture. There’s a sentimentalism to it all that’s a bit too cloying to me.
Don’t get me wrong. Popovic is a, er, revolutionary. He’s been involved with more than his fair share of, er, revolutions. Plus he teaches the stuff. But I’m unsure as to how much anyone can learn from this book. Which is a shame. It’s worth reading, though. There are some important insights and nuggets to savour. Take this:
Believing that change can happen to you, dreaming big and starting small, having a vision of tomorrow, practising laughtivism, and making oppression backfire: these are the foundations of every successful nonviolent movement. But like every building, the foundations aren’t enough. Unless a solid structure is erected slowly and deliberately, the whole thing is likely to collapse. And the first thing you need for a house to stand united is for everyone to work in unity. (p. 150)
Of course, I read this book while thinking about the animal rights movement. And here’s one quote that made me pause:
Movements are living things, and unless unity is planned for and worked at, it’s never going to materialise on its own. And that’s why it’s important to make your movement relatable to the widest number of people at all times. (p. 167)
So, will this book make you a revolutionary? Probably not. But it will make you think about whether you could be a better revolutionary. Yes. And what’s so wrong with that?