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Reflection on Elin Ersson’s Action

Posted by Erin Bechtol

By Veronica Pelicaric


Artist, translator and activist Kazuaki Tanahashi says that while participating in peace and environmental work he has come, albeit unconsciously, to confirm four commonplace truths:

  1.  No situation is impossible to change.

  2.  A communal vision, outstanding strategy, and sustained effort can bring forth positive changes.

  3.  Everyone can help make a difference.

  4.  No one is free of responsibility.

As I was reading a piece by him in the latest issue of Lion’s Roar, I heard about Elin Ersson’s action on board a Turkish Airlines plane to prevent the deportation of a man to Afghanistan.  She stood and refused to sit until the man was taken off board. (An airplane cannot take off until all passengers are seated).  A group of people at the back of the plane supported her effort by doing the same. She made a video of the event which went viral. Amy Goodman and Noam Chomsky commented on her action on Democracy Now. The New York Times wrote an article on it. People kept emailing me saying, “Did you hear about the Swedish girl?”

I cannot but ponder on how her action confirms Kaz’s four commonplace truths. Normally, people would think that the authority of travelling commandos is impossible to change. Anyone who has lost their passport en route will tell you that. Much more so if we are talking about a deportation, for goodness sake! Yet this woman knew that no situation is impossible to change.

She had a vision based upon compassion, which actually is the opposite of injustice. Perhaps she also envisioned the man being tortured and killed in Afghanistan, and her training as an activist came up with an out-standing strategy. And she sustained an effort that brought forth a positive change. She knew, she believed, she trusted that everyone can help make a difference.

Perhaps none of it was this carefully thought out. Perhaps she was just moved by a good heart to do something and did what she had at hand to do. Maybe. In any case it worked. And by that action she became a beacon to many. And I cannot but imagine (can you hear the song?) what the world would become if one person at a time did what they had at hand to do to help others in need. As Gandhi said, whatever you do will be insignificant,  but it is absolutely essential that you do it. One person at a time could change everything.

At Pace e Bene we are organizing a week of actions. We are counting on having 2.000 actions this year. This is such an incredible ground for possibilities, for many Elin Erssons to open their hearts and explode their creative nonviolent actions; for many ripples of nonviolence on the turbulent currents of this moment in history; for many voices becoming one in uttering, truthfully and wholeheartedly this time around:  Si se puede! (Yes we can!)

Here goes another little quote from Kaz’s above-mentioned article:

“Actions for peace, the environment, and social justice should not be confined by religion or ideology. Likewise, these principles ought to be universal. They must be tested in all situations by all groups of people before they can definitely be called ‘truths.’  Until then, these four principles will merely be candidates for truths.”

I think Elin has taken a step towards helping them make it to graduation.

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