Sunday, March 30, 2008

Provost, Provos and Provo

Provost: (1785-1850)
A French Canadian Fur Trapper. The first what man to see the Great Salt Lake. He narrowly escaped death at the hands of “savages.” Where Provo, Utah got its name.

The radical Dutch counter-culture movement that exploded onto the European stage in the early 1960s which created virtual panic for the national government and local authorities. The Provos were a radical group of freethinkers; inspired by anarchism, Dadaism, and radical philosophy. They used non-violence and performance art called “happenings” to provoke reactions from the local police, working towards social change. The group was officially formed on May 25, 1965 by anarchist Roel Van Duyn and others who quickly began organizing around the international anti-war movement. In their brief manifesto they proclaim: "It is our task to turn their [the state’s] aggression into revolutionary consciousness." The group’s tactics are generally associated with “Situationism” and the work of Guy Debord, who authored Society of the Spectacle a Marxist inspired critique of industrial society’s obsession with consumption. The groups loosely defined mission was to break the strangle hold capitalism had on society through creative action directed locally. The Provos were a mixture of radical leftists, Marxists, street kids, and artists. Many were anti-work, and praised the writings of Paul Lafargue who penned The Right to Laziness. But most were more politically active, writing anti-monarchy leaflets, organizing demonstrations, and publishing a magazine. One Provo even landed himself on the city council in Amsterdam.

The Provos are most famous for their series of “white plans” of which the white bicycle was the most popular. The plan called for the prohibition of cars from the city’s center and the strategic placing of white community bicycles that would be maintained by the police. The group even donated fifty bicycles that they had painted white, but which were quickly confiscated by the authorities and the plan never materialized. Other white plans included the white chimney, which called for filters to be placed on all large smoke stacks in order to reduce air pollution, and other white plans that called for better health care for women, legalizing squatting, and disarming police officers. One plan even proposed that victims of car accidents be immortalized in the pavement by outlining their bodies in white paint. The so-called "traffic terrorism of a motorized minority" would thus become an ever-present reminder of the violent potential of the automobile.

As the movement grew, the police began to react more and more violently, which created a mystique for the group who were few in numbers but do to media coverage appeared to number in the thousands, which terrified government authorities. During the royal wedding of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands to a German man who had been a member of the Hitler Youth, police expected a massive terrorist attack by the Provos, and over 25,000 troops were deployed! A newspaper headline even said “The Provos are Attacking!” The Provos ended up lighting off a few harmless smoke bombs, but the police reacted violently and images of the embarrassing incident were printed all across Europe. By 1966 political violence was at its zenith in Amsterdam, hundreds were being arrested, and demonstrations were made illegal. Eventually the group began to faction into more radical elements who supported the use of violence, and some who began to seek political careers within the system. These were criticized for institutionalizing the movement, and after 1967 most had gone their separate ways. The Provos dissipated into political and social obscurity. Today the Provos are survived by the Kabouters (gnomes) a leftist political party in Holland.

The Utah city with 105,166 people. Most conservative city in America with over 100,000 people. 88.52% white. Home to BYU, the LDS MTC, and a host of other Mormon-specific acronyms (mostly surrounding dating).

1 comment:

Austin said...

I knew the Provost, I know Provo, but the Provos are new to me. Thanks.