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Thoughts and actions. [Feb. 7th, 2017|12:57 am]
[mood |determineddetermined]

I have two things to say first about how we react to fascists, and then proceed to productive, varyingly specific actions we can take. Feel free to skip to the action (so to speak).

Remember my comment on the alt-right happily considering themselves Nazis, while not wanting the rest of us to call them Nazis? That was before I knew that Richard Spencer had coined the term "alt-right" to rebrand white supremacists with a name more palatable to the general public. Yeah, I called it. Nobody should be hesitant to accurately describe extremists by using extreme terms. We would only validate and normalize extremism by collaborating with them to sugar-coat it in their own chosen euphemisms. (Also, to make things perfectly clear: Spencer is the man whose website, Alternative Right, published an article explicitly suggesting the genocide of black people.)

Someone recently told me (in less polite terms) that I was overreacting to the fascist takeover of the executive branch of the U.S. government: That this was America, not Nazi Germany, and that sort of thing couldn't happen here, because "We wouldn't let it happen." It leads me to wonder whether they thought that it couldn't happen because of people comfortably saying, "Don't worry; it can't happen here," or because of people actually giving a damn and pushing back. I think they were confused about which one of those constitutes "not letting it happen".

Of course, the idea of taking personal responsibility for opposing evil is scary, for reasons that will make a different post. Right now, I'd like to talk about action. Most or all of us on the side of light are stressed and overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the good that needs to be done, and the harm that needs to be undone. But it is not your personal responsibility to fix everything. Even if you feel it is your responsibility to do as much good as you possibly can, that still involves taking it easy on yourself. Let's look at what that entails:

  • Working more than forty hours per week decreases productivity in the long run. Similarly, burning yourself out on activism in the first two months will reduce your usefulness for the next two years. Take whatever breaks you need in order to stay functional.
  • Practice self-care in whatever manner you need to. Keep doing at least some of whatever it is that makes you who you are, and whatever gives you pleasure.
  • Know that there are two types of pride: Pride in your accomplishments is healthy, and props you up. Pride in being strong/smart/whatever is a fatal flaw, which will keep you from recognizing and working around your limitations. When you can't hack it, when you need help, suck up that pride and admit it.
  • Learn to say "no". When there's a chance to do something good, you want to jump at it. But once your plate is full, it's time to evaluate: "Is the ratio of benefit to effort of this action better than that of the other good works I'm committed to?" One source (whose identity I sadly cannot recall) hit home for me by declaring that you must learn to sometimes say "no" even when you're the best person for the job. Those are exactly the chances I jump at fastest, even when the beneficiary is a complete stranger. But habits acquired in the limitless energy of youth need a little retooling lately. I'm slowly learning to consider the opportunity cost, and if your energy is limited, you should, too.

Next, remember that the little things are important. Doing something small to help another good person may free up their resources enough that they can contribute more to something major. We're in this together, and the more we help each other, the more we can help the world. Even fairly effortless things, like sharing tips on how to talk more productively to each other, give us tools that we need for more productive resistance. (For example: Don't disparage all communication to congresscritters other than phone calls. The effectiveness of letters and emails varies by the office. Those among us who have difficulty with phone calls can still exert influence, and telling them otherwise is false, counterproductive, and demoralizing. Another example: Learn how not to accidentally derail a productive conversation by changing its scope.)

Make conscious decisions about how vocal, and how public, you want to be in your resistance to fascism. Acknowledge the reasons for your decisions, and don't waste any energy regretting them. There are very good reasons to be public and vocal, that include: Setting a good example; giving hope to those around you by showing that there are good people willing to stand up for what's right; and giving pause to fascists and other bigots around you by showing the same thing. There are very good reasons to keep your resistance out of the spotlight, that include: Being a vulnerable member of a targeted group, such that unwanted attention from fascists and other bigots might be especially harmful*; performing acts of resistance other than communication, whose chances of success may benefit from privacy; and being dependent on someone (e.g., a relative or employer) who will punish you severely for speaking out.

* If you are not a member of an especially targeted minority, and you still stay silent out of fear of the fascists, then you are doing exactly what they want. Also, your fear is wildly disproportionate. The assholes spraying swastikas on public property still have to do it when nobody else is watching. They know that they are a small minority, who don't dare get caught. They use euphemisms because they know that calling themselves "white supremacists" or "Nazis" in public won't fly. They are afraid of you.

That said, there is room to walk both sides of this fence: The same anonymity that allows Internet trolls to go unpunished can allow you to speak out without reprisal. Speaking as yourself puts the weight of your credibility and reputation (if any) behind your words, but if you are in a vulnerable position, you can still say what needs to be said under a pseudonym. If you aren't versed in Internet privacy, you'll want to do some research first.

So you already know which marches you are and aren't attending. (Or maybe you can't march, and that's okay.) You've already made your charitable donations, perhaps even with recurring payments. (Or maybe you haven't donated because you need that money to continue building and sustaining your life. That's cool, too.) Now you're wondering what else to do. Here are some ideas:

There are particular people I want to thank for letting me know about several of these things, but I don't know that they want to be named here. You know who you are. Thanks.

That's about it for action advice, for the moment. If you're up for some education about current events, scroll down to the comments for a large link round-up.

This entry was originally posted at http://blimix.dreamwidth.org/143249.html. (comment count unavailable comments there.)

[User Picture]From: blimix
2017-02-07 06:43 am (UTC)

Re: Large link round-up

Whoops! Edited. Thanks for bringing the links here.
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[User Picture]From: elenbarathi
2017-02-07 09:36 am (UTC)

Re: Large link round-up

You're welcome! There's a new list just up; feel free to gank it too if you want. If you right-click 'view source code', you can copy the HTML for the whole list and re-post it - much easier than copying links one at a time.

Edited at 2017-02-07 09:40 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kirinn
2017-02-08 10:16 pm (UTC)
Just got to reading this, thanks for the thoughts and links.

For the most part, since I have considerable privilege on 90+% of the relevant axes and am not dependent on anyone likely to meaningfully punish me for my opinions, I'm choosing to be loud. (Mostly over on twitter as far as social networks go, since it's the primary one where I'm active. Made an antifa logo overlay for my user icon over there.)

Trying to keep on keeping on with the calls and feedback and otherwise making noise directly at those in power, though it does get exhausting from time to time. Unfortunately I find myself resisting the handy "here's today's issue, let us patch you through" tools, even though I love that they exist for people who use them, just because I want to be responsible to setting my own priorities. It definitely presents time management issues, though. Keeping up right now takes a *lot* of investment (which is, of course, part of the regime's strategy).
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