David Bruce: Resist Psychic Death — Activism and Activists, Advice

Activism and Activists

• In 1969 at Akron University, activist, artist, and musician Paul Mavrides and some of his activist friends announced that they were going to use their own homemade napalm to burn a puppy to death. Of course, this was a protest against the use of napalm to kill human beings in the Vietnam War. They planned to announce to the crowd that they had no napalm and no puppy, and then they planned to say, “How can you people justify showing up to save a dog, when there’s an actual war going on and this napalm is being used on real people?” Unfortunately, the crowd that showed up was so angry that Mr. Mavrides and his activist friends had to be rescued by Akron University police, who smuggled them through underground tunnels to get them safely away from the angry crowd. And the use of napalm in Vietnam continued.

• Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) was forced to take an examination in order to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper at the University of Glasgow because the Lord’s Supper was restricted to those deemed worthy to take it. After passing muster, participants were given a metallic token to present so they could partake of the Lord’s Supper. Mr. Campbell, however, felt that the Lord’s Supper should be open to all. Following his conscience, he declined to join the other participants, and he cast his metallic token into the plate as it was being passed round. The metallic token made a sound that echoed throughout the church.

• Birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger looked shy and quiet, but she was tough and determined. Someone once asked her to take some time off for rest and relaxation, but she replied, “I am the protagonist of women who have nothing to laugh about.” In 1916, she spent 30 days in jail after her birth-control clinic was shut down and she was charged with “illegal activity.” After the 30 days were up, the police wanted to fingerprint her, but she did not want to be fingerprinted. The result: She emerged from jail exhausted and bruised — and triumphant.

• Saul Alinsky, an activist in Chicago, was upset when Station WGN decided not to show a film about Martin Luther because it was opposed by the archdiocese of Chicago. Mr. Alinsky tried to persuade Edward Burke, a monsignor of the archdiocese, to withdraw opposition to the film. Mr. Burke remained opposed to the showing of the film, so Mr. Alinsky said that it ought to be shown “with one proviso, that they show it backward so that Martin Luther will end up as a Catholic.”

• A notable act of activism occurred in Berlin when some activists painted some barrels to look like nuclear waste containers, filled them with sand, and then drove into Berlin and dropped them off in a place where they would be noticed. The news was filled with descriptions of the dangers of exposure to nuclear waste, and workers in Hazmat suits worked to remove the barrels. The activism created awareness of the risks of moving nuclear waste through populated areas.

Advice

• Professor Ernst Schneidler taught many artists and illustrators, including Eric Carle, who creates books for children. He was able to motivate his students to do their very best work, perhaps because he was so gifted at doing those things he taught. Actually, he did not spend a lot of time with the students; instead, he simply looked over their work every so often and pronounced judgment on it. Usually, he merely said “Dumb” or “Not dumb.” When he said, “Good,” which he rarely did, it was exceptionally high praise. He also spoke to the students on occasion. Professor Schneidler was gifted at determining what his students should do and what they should avoid doing: He knew his students’ talents. When Mr. Carle tried to do calligraphy, Professor Schneidler told him, “Herr Carle, not so good. Dumb. Don’t do that anymore. Anyway, we don’t need any more calligraphers.” But when Mr. Carle created some linoleum cuts, Professor Schneidler told him, “Good.” However, Professor Schneidler added, “That’s good, all right. But, ah! You don’t even understand why it’s good.” This Mr. Carle interpreted as meaning, “Go and find out why it’s good,” which Mr. Carle considered and considers very good advice.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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