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11 of the World’s Greatest Dissenters

Nelson Mandela,South African anti-apartheid pioneer

With the apartheid regime teetering and international protests intensifying, South African President P.W. Botha came up with a plan to defuse the situation. In 1985, he offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison as long as his political party, the African National Congress, renounced certain policies. Even though Mandela had spent 21 crushing years in custody, he refused, believing that any compromise would undermine the anti-apartheid movement. For this self-sacrificing dissidence, Mandela spent another five years in prison. But he inspired a fresh generation of activists and stoked the flames of the uprising that eventually brought full democracy to South Africa.

Toni Hoffman, nurse

When a new surgeon agreed to come to a remote hospital in Australia, administrators were thrilled that they had been able to recruit successfully during a doctor shortage. Nurse Toni Hoffman, however, watched as this surgeon ignored basic hygiene, conducted unnecessary operations and botched procedures. When her complaints were repeatedly ignored, Hoffman mounted a campaign to expose the doctor, despite threats of lawsuits and dismissal. Finally, a parliamentary investigation linked the surgeon to 87 deaths. He now faces multiple counts of manslaughter. As a result of her heroic dissent, recruiting practices at hospitals were overhauled and Hoffman was named Australian of the Year.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Malawian gay rights advocates

A hateful wave of intolerance is washing across Africa. In Senegal, two dozen men were jailed for frequenting a gay bar, while in Uganda, conservative politicians and Christian ministers are lobbying to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. In this atmosphere, the decision by Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga to become the first openly gay married couple in Malawi is one of the most courageous acts of dissent in recent memory. Monjeza and Chimbalanga were arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison following their wedding last year but have recently been released.

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Megan, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.


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8:22PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011


9:23PM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

Protest and survive!

4:39PM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

Brave, Great, Amazing people as Robert O. says, really illustrating the true power of one.

12:07PM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

It would be much better if such people didn't have to do these things, if humans started treating others with fairness, dignity and love, there would be no need for dissenters.

1:37PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

maybe not on the level of the people above, but someone (not the only person), who I think supports the feelings of animals is rupert sheldrake - the really important fact of empathy between species.

12:46PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Thanks - I learned about a couple of unsung heroes that I was unaware of their contributions.

11:50AM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Great, brave people. We need more like them.

11:48AM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

They are truly amazing people that really illustrate the true power of one.

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