In a world that, till today glorifies revolution, freedom and ‘the people’ taking a stand, history books unfailingly bring alive the storming of the Bastille followed by the fall of the French monarchy. Che Guevara’s visage, which has now become a global symbol for rebellion has metaphorically lead uprisings sprouting from Cuban slums to communist strikes in Kerala. Many such instances have been sculpted into the walls of the past and tell tales of bravado and unification. Here are a few more that had taken the unsuspecting world by storm but have faded away into mere tales passed down by generations lucky enough be a part of such a raw showcasing of the human spirit.
Frikis fight back
After the collapsing of the Soviet Union in 1989, Cuba lost one of its biggest economic partners. The following decade or so (called the ‘Special period’) came with extreme poverty, famine and a deadly AIDS epidemic. This was also the time when the Punk Rock phenomenon hit South America. As Fidel Castro was trying to clear up a destitute Cuba he ordered the police to prosecute and brutalize the punks. He also built sanitariums for those inflicted by AIDS where provisions and accomodations were multiple rungs above that on the streets. The already ostracized punks known as ‘Los Frikis’ found themselves in the worst of situations and were treated like scum. In a bid to retain their rock’n’roll culture, lifestyle and desperate for better living conditions, the Frikis united and did the unthinkable. They injected the deadly AIDS virus on to themselves. By transferring the virus from their already AIDS stricken friends they forced Castro to transfer them to the sanitariums where they lived out their short lives together in much better conditions. Till the end, the Frikis who expressed their social nonconformity through auto injection, lived life the punk way. Truly, a revolution within a revolution.
1831,at a time when slavery was at its peak in America many small uprisings by slaves broke out that were usually, rather immediately crushed by force. Nat Turner, a rather religious and intelligent slave once experienced ‘prophetic visions’ that he claimed had commanded him to fight for his freedom forcefully. Turner, who was well respected among the slaves managed to convince 70 other slaves about his visions.On August 21st, armed with staffs and knives, the inspired slaves set out in the night to brutally murder their masters. They killed around 70 white masters as they slept and soon the group grew larger. Heavy militia was sent to put down Turner’s rebellion which had spread far and wide. Turner and 55 other slaves who were part of the initial movement were executed followed by the panicked order of killings of slaves all around by white mobs. Turner’s ‘intelligence’ had rattled the whites to such an extent that from that point onwards education for black people was banned in several states.
Back in 1899 when the newspaper was the primary and only means of mass communication, two major papers were circulated throughout New York, “The New York World” and the “the New York Journal”. Papers were sold by the penny by innumerable ‘newsboys’ scattered all around New York. Comprising mostly of orphaned homeless kids, the newsboys’ sole means of survival was through selling these newspapers. One fateful day, the Newspaper moguls, in a bid to increase earnings decided to raise the tax paid by Newsboys who bought the papers everyday in bulk. This crippled the struggling youth to such an extent that they took matters into their own hands. The strikes began slowly, with newsboys refusing to sell papers, publicly piling them up. This continued for several days and soon blocked traffic in and around Brooklyn Bridge. By this time, around 5000 Newsboys from across New England began to gather for rallies and speeches. These speeches were given by a newsboy called Kid Blink. With an eye-patch straight out of a vintage pirate movie, and a strong Brooklyn accent, Kid Blink effectively held multiple rallies, strikes and unified Newsboys all around. Violence was also resorted to at times and Kid Blink and his entourage ploughed their way through the streets in rebellion. This finally forced the breaking up of rallies and the moguls compensating heavily. This sowed the seed for urban child welfare practices and many other such Newsboy revolts.
Battles such as these may vary based on scale and motivation but will be remembered as the torchbearers of the indomitable human spirit.
To quote George Patton, “It is better to fight for something than to live for nothing “.
Feature image source: modernpsychologist.ca
– Advait Nair