The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Hopelessness
I will live in a world free of capitalism, homophobia, patriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism. I repeat this sentence to myself from time to time, and I try my hardest to do more than just say it, but to truly believe it. It's not always easy to believe, because my rational brain believes (incorrectly) that it has a proper estimation of these social evils. That part of my brain overestimates the strength of oppression, and underestimates the boundless possibility of a community in action. It is a stubborn part of the brain. It refuses to be convinced and instead insists that we'll never live to see liberation.
I'm writing for LiMD today to call out that part of my brain for giving into a self-fulfilling prophecy. To suggest that we will always have to live under unjust systems of power is to even further solidify that power over us. If we compromise on our liberation, if we settle for less than what we know we deserve, then we have done part of the work in maintaining our unjust world. I have no objective proof or concrete plan for how we will overcome oppression, but I do know that if we don't at least believe liberation to be possible, it will never come to pass.
By stating firmly that we shall outlive evil, we bring ourselves closer to making that belief a reality. Remember that we are imagining a world that does not yet exist. If we indulge the notion of compromising with evil, the best we'll even dream of is a mediocre world. But if we aim for nothing short of full liberation, our imagination is being activated! We can begin to think about what a liberated world would look like.
We'll not only be able to see the ways our lives will be better, but we will also have to be honest with ourselves about the way our lives will be less convenient, but more just, good, or sustainable. I certainly enjoy the convenience of having bananas in New England available at any time of the year. But I know this is not how the world ought to be. It isn't sustainable, and it is pushing the cost and consequences onto someone other than me so I don't have to see it or deal with it, at least not immediately. If we are hoping to change the world we must be prepared to lose even some of the things we like about the way things are now. If we are to live with integrity, we must see that justice is worth the loss of our privilege.
Our rational mind greatly overestimates the power of oppression. Those who indulge fascism have revealed themselves the moral inferiors of any who sink to that level of evil. Those who need others to kneel for them to feel tall and who see another's success as their own loss, have revealed an admittedly human insecurity that is at the root of all forms of oppression. Remember that they will be joining us in a liberated world, that they need liberation as much as we do.
I will live in a world free of oppression. I must repeat this to myself and try to believe it. Because the enemies of liberty believe just as strongly that they will live in a world free of those they deem undesirable or undeserving. What they intentionally overlook, however, is that if they somehow manage to eliminate all the members of an oppressed class, nothing will truly change for them internally. Human frailty will ever haunt them. If they destroy their targeted group, they would simply have to create another. And should the members of that new oppressed group recognize that they're the next to go, who will they turn to if those who were just beneath them are gone?
We can outlive oppression, but only if we believe it possible.
Bryce Dumas loves his friends, video games, naps, and Pride and Prejudice (2005) dir. Joe Wright. His most used emoji is the crying while laughing one, which is fitting.