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It's an election year, so you're probably feeling pretty smug about how politically active you are. You're registered to vote, you signed a petition or two, maybe even attended a rally. You're using all the right hashtags on Twitter. And that's all great, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that by the end of this article, you might feel the need to step up your game a little bit.

5
The "Iron Lady of Manipur" Went On The World's Longest Hunger Strike

india.com

Plenty of people have gone on hunger strikes to protest before, but they rarely last very long. Either the person dies (that is some serious dedication, and we don't recommend it), they give in, or the institution they're protesting gives in. Even Gandhi went back to noshing at some point. But one of his countrywomen took the hunger strike idea and ran with it ... and then ran some more and some more. Irom Sharmila, also known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur," finally ended 16 years without food in August, making it the longest hunger strike on record. Her first "meal" was some honey she licked off her hand in front of reporters.

thehindu.com
Whoa, slow down there, piggy.

It's not like Sharmila figured out how to exist without nourishment, or that she was ridiculously obese when she started and is now really, really skinny. She began her protest in the year 2000, after 10 innocent civilians were (allegedly) killed by Indian soldiers. Her issue was with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, which, among other things, lets soldiers shoot people on sight. And you thought the Patriot Act was sketchy.

Since governments think it looks bad if you die while peacefully protesting their policies, Sharmila was arrested and had a feeding tube stuck up her nose. They gave her an out, though: All she had to do was agree to start eating again, and she would be released. But she was all, "Nah, I'm good." Her actions were impressive enough that after five years without real food, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn't win, but that's maybe for the best, since the stuff at the awards dinner would probably be hard to resist.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
"We poured the champagne in her nose and she was like 'Stop! It burns!' So ungrateful."

So why did she call it off? Basically, "lady is still being force-fed" was becoming old news at this point. Sharmila realized she could more effectively make a difference by running for office and changing the laws herself, without relying on other lazy, full people to do it. Let's just hope they manage to get off their big butts and vote.

4
Suffragist Emily Davison Threw Herself Under The King's Horse

Arthur Barrett/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Speaking of voting, remember when we didn't let women do that? Yeah, that was crazy. 100 years ago, women in the UK were fighting hard for the right to vote, just like they were in America. There are plenty of women who deserve mention, but Emily Davison was in a class of her own.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Spoiler alert: This doesn't end well.

Born in England in 1872, Davison was not your average Victorian lady. She worked as a governess to pay her way through Oxford and got the best grades possible in her final exams, yet didn't earn a degree because the school didn't give them to women, because of our feeble brains or whatever. She became a teacher, but in 1908, she left to become a full-time suffragist, joining the most militant group, the Women's Social and Political Union, run by Emmeline Pankhurst. Davison took "militant" a bit too literally, to the extent that even the WSPU was like, "Hey, tone it down" and backed off from her actions.

Davison was arrested 49 times for crimes ranging from disrupting men's meetings to throwing stones to friggin' arson. While she was in jail, she went on hunger strikes, like many incarcerated suffragists, and was subjected to force-feeding. She even threw herself down the stairs, not once but twice, in the hopes that her suicide might draw attention to a cause that she thought was going nowhere.

wikipedia.org
Couldn't she have just worn a more flamboyant hat?

Then came the Epsom Derby in 1913, a huge race in a horse-crazy country. Everyone was there, including the king and queen, who owned one of the horses that was competing. Davison and a friend got right at the front of the crowd with a clear view of the track, and as the king's horse came past, she ran out in front of it. Oh, and since this was around the start of newsreels, we have the incident on film.

Davison died from her injuries four days later. 50,000 people lined the streets of London for her funeral. Historians debate to this day whether she meant to kill herself or if she was just trying to disrupt the race. Still, she ran in front of a horse; she must have known that wasn't going to end well. It caused the sensation she wanted, though, and she goes down in history as one of the great badasses whom we owe our rights to.

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3
The White Rose Students Died Protesting Hitler

twelvetribes.org

Ever since the Third Reich fell, people who didn't live in Germany at the time have been really sure that if they had been there, they would have stood up to the Nazis. Everyone thinks they are Tom Cruise in that movie where all the Germans have British accents, but in reality, very few people tried to do anything about it. Sure, their Jewish neighbors might have been slowly disappearing, but they had jobs to go to and families to raise. That's what makes one group who DID speak out so impressive. It was comprised mainly of five college students named Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Christoph Probst, as well as Kurt Huberand, a professor at the University of Munich. They called themselves the White Rose.

tracesofwar.com
It sounds way more metal in German.

Staying anonymous behind that label, they set out to get people to rise up against the Nazis using secret meetings and graffiti, but mainly one kickass technique: pamphlets. Yes, something so innocent that you get them in the doctor's office when that weird rash flares up were enough to get people killed under the Nazis. And it was a lot harder to pull off than it sounds.

First of all, since they were at war, everything was rationed. Buying too much ink, paper, envelopes, or stamps would look really suspicious. Doing anything even slightly out of the ordinary was immediately suspect. They had to use a typewriter to make every copy of the first four editions, and after that, used an old hand-cranked printing press that they had to continually turn, day and night. The Gestapo should have realized something was up when one group of friends suddenly had extremely buff right arms.

holocaustresearchproject.org
Between that and Sophie Scholl's epic resting bitch face, they could have taken down Hitler themselves.

Despite the difficulties, the White Rose managed to write and distribute six pamphlets. They mailed them all over the country, and traveled by train to different universities to distribute them -- at great personal risk, since anyone traveling without an obvious reason was likely to get searched. But mainly, they distributed them in the halls of the University of Munich. And it was there that a janitor caught them. They were arrested, questioned for days, tried, and executed. We know they took with them the hope that their deaths would at least finally encourage other students to rise up against injustice, but nothing happened. Like I said, most people see bad stuff happening but are too busy going about their lives to do anything about it.

(*cough cough*)

2
The Tree-Sitters Of New Zealand Used Treehouses To Get Their Way

nzbybike.com

If you ever find yourself in New Zealand and have run out of things to do after finishing the Lord Of The Rings tour, why not visit one of the most beautiful national parks in the world? The North Island of New Zealand is home to Pureora Forest Park, a 190,000-acre rainforest full of 1,000-year-old trees. And in the late 1970s, there was nothing stopping the government from logging the shit out of them. So of course they were doing it, since back in those days, environmentalism was completely unheard of, I guess because people basically assumed we'd be on Mars by the time everything good on Earth ran out around the year 2000.

Springer
Ah, the majestic beauty of unchecked human progress.

In the past, people had to work through politicians to get places protected. Maybe they even started a petition. But how could a small group of people physically stop companies from logging? In 1978, the New Zealanders hit on a way: They built treehouses and stayed in them, risking their lives for the trees. Yes, your childhood dream of climbing up into your treehouse and not having to come down for dinner became a reality for a handful of dedicated volunteers.

Huon Valley Environment Centre
Just try not to think about what they use that bucket for.

The government, to their credit, figured out pretty quickly that they couldn't cut down the trees with people in them, no matter how much fun it would be to watch some old hippies go splat (which at least one logger later admitted he wanted to do). They especially didn't like how much press the tree-sitters were getting, and they were forced to back down. The protest was a complete success; the logging stopped, and the area was designated a national forest. This inspired dozens of other tree-sitting protests over the last three and a half decades, until they started to seem less badass and eventually became so mainstream and annoying that even Arrested Development made fun of the idea.

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1
Black South Africans Had A National Stay-At-Home Day

robinsonlibrary.com

Everyone knows that apartheid was really sucky. There is basically nothing about it that was good, but there were things that were extra super terrible bad. And one of them happened on March 21, 1960 in the town of Sharpeville. Thousands of black South Africans were peacefully protesting when two police officers fired their guns for reasons that are still unclear. Other cops assumed those guys must be shooting for some reason, and 50 of them fired 705 rounds in a matter of seconds. By this point, the crowd was scattering. 69 people were killed, 50 of them women and children. 180 other people were injured. The vast majority of the casualties were shot in the back.

weebly.com
A South African version of The Daily Mail? Haven't they suffered enough?

As a form of protest, May 29th was designated a national "stay-at-home" day. The government tried everything to scare people into going to work. There were wide-scale arrests, printing presses were confiscated, and meetings were banned. Tanks rolled into cities, in the largest peacetime military show of force in the country's history. But in the end, people rose to the occasion. This meant the country effectively ground to a halt. Hundreds of thousands of people risked losing their jobs. Some people went in to work just so they could walk out en masse. Nelson Mandela, who was in hiding at the time and had helped organize the event, considered the day a huge success.

complex.com
I think he's happy. It's hard to tell.

And in case getting people to stay home from work doesn't sound like THAT much of an achievement, other countries have tried this and failed. In 1926, the UK's miners wanted better conditions and announced a general strike that would end up lasting nine days. Over 1.7 million people took up the call. But the aristocrats and other upper-middle-class people decided they couldn't let the lower classes tell them what to do, so they turned out in droves and took over menial jobs to keep the country running. A famous socialite folded copies of The London Times, while the writer Evelyn Waugh tried his hand at being a cop. In the end, the strike was considered a failure -- probably helped by the fact that even the police who had been on the job less than a week knew not to fire into crowds of people they disagreed with.

For something absolutely worth protesting, read 5 Uncomfortable Truths About Rape on College Campuses. But make sure that if you protest, you don't do it in a hypocritical way, like the homoerotically shirtless men protesting gay rights in 5 Hilarious Ways Angry Protests Proved The Other Side Right.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see that even though you have free speech, you should really consider what you say in An Urgent Message To Guys Who Comment On Internet Videos, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!

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Every year, we're inundated with movies that are based on true stories. We're about to get a Deepwater Horizon movie in which Mark Wahlberg will plug an oil spill with his muscles, and a Sully Sullenberger movie in which Tom Hanks will land a plane on the Hudson with acting. But we think Hollywood could do better than this. That's why Jack O'Brien, the Cracked staff, and comedians Lindsay Adams, Sunah Bilsted, Eli Olsberg, and Steven Wilber will pitch their ideas for incredible true stories that should be made into movies. Get your tickets for this LIVE podcast here!

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