Well, folks. It’s been a hell of a year, hasn’t it?
I feel like since 2016, every year has been “the longest year ever” (or maybe 2016 itself has just been the longest year ever and is still going on). But I really do feel like 2022 has taken the cake so far. We have an ongoing major land war in Eastern Europe involving a nuclear-armed totalitarian imperialistic aggressor, fascist anti-LGBTQ terrorism running rampant in the United States, and everything else bad that you could imagining kicking off all over the world. It’s been an exhausting year that’s felt more like a decade than 365 days. With the state of things, it’s understandable that some folks may be feeling very burned out, grim and dour about our future and the future of the world in general.
As many of you well know, I oppose doomerism in all its forms – for a variety of reasons, but if for nothing else out of spite and a desire to spit in the universe’s eye. I do still truly believe we can make the world a better place – though that will require a great amount of blood, sweat, and tears on our parts. But I recognize things will likely get worse before they get better. I too, still go through periods of being discouraged or temporarily or tactically “doomer” even if I still have hope in the long run. It’s understandable and inevitable as a human being.
It was in one of those slumps recently when I started thinking about what I wanted my last essay of 2022 to be. Thinking about how I felt in that moment and how others felt at home and abroad, I decided maybe what folks might need is a reason to keep going. We spend so much time being bombarded with media meant to break our will and get us to give up whatever struggle we’re involved in to make things suck less, that we could do with a few explicit words of encouragement. Everyone needs a reason to keep up the struggle in whatever form that takes, against the forces that would seek to bring destruction and despair to all corners of the earth. In so many words, sometimes we need to be reminded of the answer to the question “why we fight” or “why should we fight?” That’s what I’m hoping to give you in this last essay of the year before I go sleep for two weeks straight and hope things are better when I wake up.
The Thing That the Essay Title Promised You
So, I’m going to do you all a favor right now (you’re welcome). I’m going to give you the bottom-line up front(ish) so if you just want the basic takeaway of this essay and don’t feel like reading the rest, you got it:
We fight because we’re worth it.
Whether its ourselves, or our friends and loved ones and others who matter to us, we all have inherent meaning and value as people. As we go about our daily lives, we all have the capacity to create and do amazing and beautiful things in the course of our existence; things that make ourselves and all those other people we care about feel a wide array of positive emotions. Whether it’s writing a book or drawing a picture or even just hanging out with someone and telling them a joke or a funny anecdote and making them laugh or taking the time to listen to them if they’re having a bad day, we all have the capacity to do things that make living worth it – both for ourselves and for others. In a way, it’s the world’s most positive feedback loop.
Maybe I’m being soft and lame and cringe, but I think that’s wonderful and worth protecting so that it can continue and flourish all over the world. We fight because we all have the capacity in us to do good things for ourselves and others and that’s absolutely worth protecting. We fight because we can make the world a better place in which for us to do those things that make life worth living and to show our inherent value and worth and meaning as people.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to fight for our inherent right to exist and live our best lives. However, as it’s become painfully obvious to us, a perfect world is not possible and just a better world is a struggle to get to. There are those who would deny us this right for a variety of reasons.
For some it’s just a matter of simple greed in regard to money, power, and more; people who in order to achieve their goals requirement need to exert their control over us and deprive us of the means and freedom to be ourselves and be happy.
For others, they have convinced themselves or been convinced by ideology of various kinds that their happiness and self-worth can only come through a world in which they have total control to exert their world view on others and can subjugate and destroy all those who they see as a threat to their goals or conflict with their worldview – particularly minority groups of various kinds.
Others still – for one reason or another, be it nature or nurture – are just full of hate and want to do harm.
In some cases, it may be “all of the above” (and more) motivating certain people to launch campaigns of political, military, and economic domination all over the world. Whatever the motivation, there are those who would deny us the right to live as ourselves and they must be resisted in order to protect our worthiness to exist and do what we do.
Ok, So Now What?
Alright. I’ve told you why we fight, but you’re still here because you want more. Rather: you’re asking, what are you actually supposed to do now?
Naturally, as an analyst, my instinct here is to throw down a smoke bomb and disappear in the ether because I am allergic to giving definitive answers. I am going to fight this impulse and at least try to give you some broad ideas of what we should be doing (“we” just being people the world over in general), with the major caveat that there is no one size fits all solution to the myriad problems we face internationally in the fight against the forces of reaction. We have a great many tools in our toolbox, some of which are ideal for some situations, and others not so much. It all depends on the nature of the threat and the environment it’s occurring in, among other factors. There are no quick and easy fixes that apply in every single case.
To elaborate a bit more on “use the right tool in the right situation” analogy, it helps to think of what we’re involved in as a global total war on the forces of reaction. In some cases, we fight back using non-kinetic political and economic means; in other places and situations, violent or military force may be necessary. But it has to be understood that all of humanity is in the midst of a struggle against the forces of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, fascism – whatever you want to call it – in all aspects, be they physical or otherwise. That means we will need to fight back in different ways at different times depending on what is more appropriate, expedient, or necessary. With all that in mind, the battles we fight and the means we use to fight them will vary widely.
To start on the softer end of things, while I know many of you are likely disillusioned with electoral politics and feel as though your vote doesn’t matter, in many cases your vote does in fact have an impact and is necessary – if nothing else, as a tactical act to minimize harm against those who are the most vulnerable.
I harbor no illusions about the flaws in our system – nor do I believe that voting alone will save the world and change society. But to disregard the tool of voting completely is foolhardy politically speaking. At the end of the day, I am in fact a democratic socialist with an emphasis on the democratic and while I will continue to advocate for a more just and equitable democratic system than the one we currently have, it still has its uses and applications and we have to deal with it. So, as much as it may make you roll your eyes, voting is still one action you can and will often need to take.
However, as I said, voting alone does change things for the better. Once again, while I am very much a democratic socialist with a heavy emphasis on the democratic, I am not an electoralist. To put it plainly, while I believe in participating in electoral politics as part of politics I do not believe that voting alone will save us and bring about the change for the better that is so badly needed in our society.
Political and economic action beyond voting is not only possible but necessary in this battle. Labor organizing, strikes, and other industrial action have been and will be crucial in achieving change for the better. Beyond action among labor, other forms of civic activism and organizing to bring about change and apply pressure on authorities regarding key issues will also be essential – as it has been in the past for issues like civil rights and voting.
In some cases, around the world, certain situations occur that when all else fails and there is no other option, armed resistance and organized military action is necessary and the only way to defend yourself. Obviously, this is has been most visible in Ukraine following Russia’s unjustified, imperialistic invasion earlier this year, which has required mass resistance in Ukraine on a national scale among all its people.
As I often say, even if your country as a whole doesn’t want war, sometimes an outside aggressor will see fit to bring it to you regardless for whatever reason, and your only option for survival is to defend yourself with force of arms – be it in your country’s officially mandated military and paramilitary forces or by other methods of armed resistance. For those of us not present in places under attack in this manner, expressing support and solidarity through fundraising, donating of essential supplies and equipment, or encouraging elected officials or those in power to provide aid are all measures that can be taken to assist those that are fighting for their lives and rights.
Aside from an outside invader, we have seen all too often when the armed aggressor seeking to deprive you of your civil and human rights is not an invading army attacking your government but your government itself. You can pick from a wide variety of examples ongoing in the world today, but one of the freshest and also consistently escalating in the civil war in Burma (Myanmar) which has seen large sections of the population – with many young people desiring a better future – rebelling against the fascist military junta that seized power in a coup.
I feel like the threshold for violence here can sometimes (not always, but sometimes) be higher and murkier in comparison to the more cut and dry cases of being outright invaded by a foreign power. However, we’ve seen plenty of cases where a government has turned against peaceful and non-violent movements for change with overwhelming violence and murder that leave its people no choice but to take up arms against them in defense of their rights, such as the initial protests of the Arab Spring that led to the civil wars in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but in many places unfortunately ends up being the only option.
The shoe, of course, can be on the other foot as well. Sometimes the forces of reaction deadset on oppressing and killing you aren’t coming from within your government (though they may have allies within it) but are in fact actively trying to subvert it or destroy it and replace it with their own twisted vision, causing a rebellion and civil war in the process. There are historical examples of right-wing rebellions or insurrections elsewhere in the world, such as theocratic groups like the Islamic State or Taliban in Southwest Asia, or the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. But here in the United States we still have a recent experience of this in an unsuccessful attempt at seizing power in the January 6th Insurrection following the 2020 Presidential Election – which at time of writing, the Congressional panel on the subject has just recommended charges to the Justice Department against former President Donald Trump for his role in the attempted coup (we’ll see if anything actually comes of it).
On the topic of the United States – where I live, and I imagine most of those reading this essay live – I don’t think we’re on the brink of a civil war like we’ve seen in Burma or Syria or elsewhere (as much as some in certain corners of the internet who fetishize the idea of that kind of collapse may wish that were true). I still think the risk of something like this happening here is somewhat low, though A.) it’s not near as low as I’d like it to be or it should be; B.) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant to make sure things don’t escalate to that point.
But it is increasingly hard to deny that even if we are not in a “civil war” as we might imagine that we are in the midst of some other kind of campaign of politically motivated armed violence. I used to think that, rather than a full on “civil war”, we were fast approaching something more in the league of The Troubles of Northern Ireland or the Years of Lead in Italy. Its only lately that I’ve realized that we’re already well into that kind of situation and probably have already been there for some time before I finally came to terms with it.
Not only are we well into such a state of affairs, but it is also increasingly obvious that – barring some massive sea change in national sentiment and political will – that we can only sporadically count on the authorities to do anything to challenge the waves of fascistic terrorism we find ourselves victim to, if at all.
The state of affairs we find ourselves in now was most recently demonstrated by the act of right-wing terrorism against a drag show at a LGBTQ bar in Colorado that occurred earlier this month. In the case of that shooting, more loves were kept from being loss by the patrons of that bar aggressively fighting back against their attacker. This demonstrates what I think is the only option in this case of holding the line while we fight for change on other fronts. While I believe we shouldn’t seek out trouble in the current environment, we should be by all means prepared to deter it from occurring and fight back against it as communities where it occurs to enable ourselves to be able to live our lives.
Those supporting the forces of reaction that would seek to destroy LGBTQ and other marginalized peoples and their allies for whatever insane reason, need to be shown that people will defend themselves and that there can and will be consequences for their actions if they insist on following through with their violent fantasies and that they take their life in their own hands when attempting violence against the innocent. Quite simply put, the only sensible solution here is a domestic version of what I have been advocating in foreign policy: “don’t start none, won’t be none” or “fuck around and find out.” It’s a somewhat grim proposition, but when we can’t depend upon the state and other authorities to do the right thing, folks should be prepared to defend themselves when in vulnerable situations.
In Case You Forgot Already: We’re Worth It.
We live in “interesting” times to put it mildly. There is much to be discouraged about, to be angry about, to be fearful of. But we can’t let those emotions be channeled into despair. We can’t let all of the manmade horrors beyond our comprehension swirling around us like ghastly apparitions at home and abroad distract us from the main point: we’re worth it.
We as people have inherent value – and by “value” I don’t mean value in the way a venture capitalist or economist would think about it. we have emotional and philosophical value. We are worth protecting so that we can enable ourselves and others to flourish and reach our full potential. So, the next time you’re doomscrolling your way through a major historical event on social media, try to keep that in mind. Keep that in mind when you’re at the ballot box, on the picket line, in the midst of a protest or act of civil disobedience, or learning to defend yourself by whatever means against those who would threaten your life. We are worth it. The struggle for a better world is far from over. Our future is far from set in stone and time is not, in fact, a flat circle. Those who would seek to oppress or destroy us are far from victorious and their victory is far from certain. We are worth fighting for. Keep fighting the good fight in all its forms all over the world.
To all of those celebrating anything this time of year, I wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season. To everyone out there, I wish you all a Happy New Year that hopefully – if nothing else – brings us somewhat closer in some way to the better future we all deserve. Thank you for taking the time to read what I had to say past, present, and future. Stay safe.
Image Credit: U.S. Department of War, 1942.