What matters under tyranny?
In the face of tyranny and environmental apocalypse, does our activism still matter?
I felt my heart sink recently when I saw an old comrade, largely retired from activism, questioning the value of his work. As a passionate advocate for LGBTQIA rights, he was one of the most radical and outspoken, never willing to settle down and wait for the human rights he deserved. I don’t in any way judge my friend for stepping back from activism, which is often a valid and eminently sensible decision. I’ve done it myself, lately, for various reasons including a legal battle I just won.
The stakes are higher now, to be sure. While Trump’s administration constantly seems on the verge of collapse, his election seems to signify a new era in which old standards of political behavior are abandoned in favor of accelerated, unchecked avarice and unmasked bigotry. Simultaneously, even the most pessimistic of climate scientists seems shocked at the rate at which things are getting worse for our planet.
But that doesn’t change how I feel about the work I did with my friend during Occupy, or similar activism today. I think the struggle for social justice in all its forms is no less vital in the age of Hurricane Donald than it was during the Obama presidency. It seems like we have more to lose now, but in part that’s because we won so very much before. I believe that each movement builds on those that come before, as long as we remember them.
Ahead of us is a truly great struggle. More realistically, we’ve been in the middle of one for some time now, but many of us are just beginning to realize it. The big victories we need to survive and maintain our humanity will be built on the smaller ones. The local victories will fuel the national ones. We have to empower individuals to fight back, and that means fighting for their needs too as well as whatever we perceive to be “the big issues.”
Now, more than ever, when it seems like we have to pour everything we have into fighting tyranny, it’s vital that we remember how important it is to build as well as to destroy, to create and not just resist. And if we’re doomed to experience climate collapse and chaos, I can’t help but believe the human connections we forge with the “small,” everyday work will be the ones that save us, if anything can.
Really, none of us knows the value of our actions in the long term. Freeing one refugee from detention could be as important as shutting down the next pipeline.
So stay strong, stay gonzo, and keep caring about each other. I’ll be standing beside you.
Gonzo action tips
I was arrested at March 4 Trump 2017, a far-right event in downtown Austin, even though I had been the victim of assault. The Austin Lawyers’ Guild came to my defense, offering pro-bono legal aid. On March 5, 2018, one year and a day after my arrest, my case was dismissed.
The ALG, like the larger National Lawyers Guild, are tireless defenders of the rights of activists and others oppressed by the “justice” system. Unlike other organizations which defend constitutional rights, the lawyers guild does not remain neutral, and will never go to court to defend fascists or the far right.
If you’ve attended a protest, you may have seen their legal observers in green baseball caps. Did you know you don’t need to be a lawyer or even law student to be a “green hat”? Legal observer training is open to everyone.
This issue, I’m challenging you to support the National Lawyers Guild, or a local chapter near you with your time or your money. One way to donate is to support the crowdfunding campaign I’m running for Austin Lawyers Guild until March 21. Help me raise $500!
We have a moral obligation to get fucking angry. –ELEANOR GOLDFIELD, “PARADIGM LOST“
Seeking Justice In The Face Of Apocalypse & Tyranny by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://kitoconnell.com/2018/03/17/tyranny/.