If you know someone who was involved in resistance of some kind: Solidarność, Black Panthers, resistance movements in WW2, people who hid Jews during WW2, and so forth, NOW is the time to find out how they organized. How they got the systems in place to get people out. How they created the networks of information gathering and distribution.
While I hope that I am wrong, I fear that things are about to become even more difficult for oppressed minorities in the next few months. The global political climate is distressingly similar to the times leading up to both World Wars. There has been a trend towards fascism for some time now, with major political parties veering dangerously right. Essential human rights are treated as negotiable burdens by different governments. Too many people live in desperation borne not out of a lack of resources but because of restricted access with the majority of the world’s wealth concentrated in the hands of a privileged few, and their followers.
We have a new aristocracy, only now we call them CEOs, we call them politicians, and we call them “self-made men”. The sense of entitlement and of receiving what they’re due despite no actual merit remains the same. The greed remains the same, and so does the use of manipulation to convince those they have enslaved that their suffering is caused by those worse off then them.
This past November in the United States, a man was elected who ran on a rhetoric of hatred for the other. He clearly identified the other for people: the disabled, those who come from other countries, those whose skin is darker even if only in inheritance and not in actual appearance, trans people, and queer folk. His promised policies bear distressing resemblance to those that led to the Holocaust and the death of over 6 million Jews and 6 million other prisoners including Romani people, Polish people, gay people, and political prisoners.
When we consume media about situations like the Holocaust, like the American Revolution, like the fight for Civil Rights, about the abolition of slavery and the fights against oppression, we tell ourselves that had we been there, had we lived in those times, we would make the decision to fight. We would choose the right side of history. We would defend those who were at risk, and fight to stop atrocities from happening. We would resist oppression, even if doing so was against the law.
We like to think that when the time comes, we would be one of the heroes.
When those things are happening, many turned their sights away. They made excuses. “If only they listened to the law,” “there was nothing I could do,” “if they hadn’t resisted,” “someone else will take care of it,” “I was just following orders”. All those excuses existed in the minds of people who spent mental energy not seeing what was happening because it is easier.
People across Europe lived next to concentration camps and lived in denial of that fact. How many of them provided food and services to the same guards who would then go and torture and kill hundreds of people? How many ignored the screams and moans of pain? How many pretended that they were just Prisoner of War camps? How many learned to ignore the stench of burning?
It’s easier to ignore the truth. We all have our own struggles, our own problems, and it takes energy to pay attention. It takes energy to recognize what is going on and even more energy to fight against it. Ask people who advocate for issues of social justice how many friends they lost for speaking out. Ask them how many of them have faced harassment and consequences for speaking out.
Movies like Star Wars, like The Hunger Games, they glorify single acts of outstanding heroism, of flashy brave defiance, but none of them would be possible without systems in place that already existed. Luke Skywalker could never have destroyed the Death Star if someone else hadn’t secured the plans. There wouldn’t have been a place to bring Princess Leia to, if the rebellion didn’t already exist with a well-established network. Luke would have had no ship to pilot if the Rebel Alliance didn’t already have a fleet. [Do not post Rogue One spoilers in the comments.]
While Katniss became a symbol of the rebellion, she could not have achieved what she did if a resistance didn’t already exist. Nor was her path so obvious if she hadn’t herself benefited from the acts of resistance in her own community: the black market, her father’s hunting, the burned bread, and many more.
We need to fight. And maybe, if we do… we can stop the tragedy before it happens. But it will take more than the resistance of just those directly affected.
When you are a member of the population being attacked, being targeted, survival itself is an act of rebellion. Choosing to leave, choosing to go to a safe place, choosing to hide, are all valid options. Leaving means creating a space for someone else to run to. It means helping develop systems that make it easier for others to leave.
The fight needs to include more than just those of us who are being targeted. White people need to stand in front and shield PoC, abled folk need to defend disabled people, cis people need to protect and empower trans people, and so forth and so on.
This is a time for radical intersectionality because THAT’S HOW WE MOVE FORWARD. That’s how we become stronger. Unity, but real unity, and not the silencing of problems to create the illusion of togetherness. Unity that looks like realizing how we’ve been complicit in existing oppression even when we didn’t mean to be and addressing and pointing out that complicity to ourselves, and others like us who exist in that sphere of privilege. Unity that looks like taking over the emotional labour necessary to educate others about oppression and not leaving it to further burden those already weighed down by facing that self-same oppression. Unity in realizing how all forms of oppression are irrevocably interconnected, and that eliminating one means addressing and resisting them all.
That’s how we don’t just stop a tragedy, it’s how we change a world. This is the time.