This post is a guest contribution by L.A.A. Marcano.
Resistance—Every Shape, Form, and Capacity
There is a rule in traditional wrestling that is instilled from the beginning stages of instruction until the body performs under its principle automatically. Variations of this rule can be found in many other styles of martial arts, in books that teach the principles of chess, in military field manuals and tactical guides the world over, even in the way that an astounding majority of organisms interact within ecosystems—it is a tenet of competition. In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, it is, roughly, “If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.”
The rule, as it was handed down to me, is phrased as “never let the other guy do what he wants to do.”
There is no time to listen to those among us who are less certain than we are, who refuse to be clear-eyed, surefooted readers. The facts are painfully clear to informed, courageous eyes: fascists are in the active process of gaining secure, authoritarian control over a modern empire. At their forefront and heart are the nadir of toxically patriarchal white supremacists, and they have kindled once more from embers the terrible fires of the Nazi. Behind that tableaux lies the shadow of the modern Kremlin (as it has been painted in the West), an authoritarian state whose contemporary methods of hybrid warfare consist of covertly empowering these threats to life and liberty, making states dysfunctional and vulnerable to intervention and their brand of politicking by the shadow of force and imposed economic mandate—states of affairs which appeal tremendously to those who would wield the power of life, death, and the dollar over those who live in America.
I stress again that these are facts. Our interpretations of these facts within historical context must be correct and precise, and the action we take based on our interpretations cannot be stymied by those who would prevaricate, doubt, cling to decency, fall silent, be complicit, cooperate, normalize, and maintain whatever of the status quo they can while those of us who are dead where we stand under the swastika are left to our fates. We must resist immediately, through every avenue of resistance that our intelligence and imagination can conceive.
What I suggest is that no form of resistance is invalid. The inalienable rights and political tools that the documents upon which our nation is founded provide, that the legal system provides—however little they were designed to protect the marginalized—continue to have some weight and meaning. It is imperative that they be used to their absolute, total effect by as many individuals and groups as possible—as our opponents do, and will continue to do. Cultural tools in their myriad possibilities, styles, and mediums are more essential now than ever before. Art is perhaps our greatest weapon, the center of our hopes. The drive to create, and to give form and symbol and life to the world we hope to see—to give birth to the world that we dream of, a world of freedom, equity, justice, and joy for every human being—is the beating heart of resistance, the spirit of our very hope, our legacy. We need to continue to make art that moves those that would stand with us, that inspires and strengthens and emboldens us—as our opponents do, and will continue to do, with their grim visions of a world of master and slave in perpetuity, and their nauseating disregard for truth.
Where our persons are threatened, where we are attacked physically, in public, legally, in the courts and prisons, and down from the top of the Hill whence the declarations that inform the kind and quality of our lives descend, we must strike back—strike back, for our opponents have already struck and continue to strike. They cannot be allowed to do so unanswered. Each strike—each act of hatred and violence—must be answered, swiftly and justly, else they build their hideous momentum and culminate in that most inhuman human act, the genocide. We must prevent it, by any means necessary, within the confines of the law and beyond where the law fails us.
If you are attacked, defend yourself. If you see another being attacked, come to their aid. If possible, arm yourselves. Learn triage, first aid, CPR. Stock potable water, medicine and medical supplies, non-perishable foods. Set up safe houses with porch surveillance. Establish closed loops of secure communication with those you trust. Refuse to comply with the dictate and writ of racists, plunderers, and Nazis. Strike out at them from positions of strength, and add to the strength and security of every position you can, from your own home to city hall to your state capitol to Washington D.C. Frustrate and deny their designs at every turn, in every way, applying every ounce of cunning and care you and yours can generate. Sun Tzu again: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Some will object that this has never happened on American soil, and there is no reason to expect it to. They can be safely ignored, for they are either ignorant of the American treatment of the people of the First Nations from first contact through to the moment that I am writing this, or do not consider it significant, and thus are null. Some will object that we are the nation that stopped the Nazis in the first place, that we fought to end the Nazi Holocaust; this is a fundamental misunderstanding of military and political history, and ignores the fact that (aside from the vastly overrepresented role of the USA in stopping Hitler) white supremacists—and no one can any longer build a satisfactory case that shows that there are not many millions of white supremacists among us today and yesteryear—supported Adolf Hitler’s ideas and the actions of the Third Reich even through the Second World War. These objections, too, can be safely put aside. Some will object that our systems of government will not allow this to happen. I reply that there are agencies in our government whose entire purpose is to ensure that it happens across foreign borders, and those agencies have been shown to be staffed, and soon operated at the highest levels by, white supremacists and fascists. In addition, the ideological collusion of the incoming government with secessionist groups and white supremacist propaganda machines (there are regrettable and frankly alarming quantities of overlap here) must be taken into account, as must the emerging trend of global democracy, in the European Union and elsewhere, falling victim to extremists, authoritarians, and demagogues.
In short, I suggest that we not listen to those whose standoffishness, whose carelessness, whose unwillingness to reckon with the grim truths of their moment, have proven the undoing and death of billions throughout human history. I suggest instead that we take our threats seriously and meet them where they stand, with courage and with every tool at our disposal, indirect and direct, according to capacity and capability.
We must resist by every means imaginable, through every means available to us. It is our only hope for survival. Act now in every way to strengthen and secure your communities, and act to protect the most vulnerable within them.
The Decentralized Nervous System
Many are stressing the necessity for leaders, perhaps a great leader, to step forward and see us through these times, to mount an opposition to the cult of personality, the dust-cloud of propaganda and engorgement that has grown around the seventy-year-old man who promised to punch ISIS, or, whoever, in the face. Perhaps this is a reaction to how abominably Hillary Clinton failed to act as a foil and deterrent for the political energy that the slumlord rapist demagogue she ran against was able to build and concentrate through rancor, hatred, and the unchecked falsehood.
It is possible that centralized leadership could be helpful. I doubt it. I do not dismiss it out of hand as one of our possible tools in the public and political sphere, but I doubt it all the same.
The time of great leaders is, I suspect, behind us. Great leaders get shot by the FBI. Great leaders are prone to corruption, and their positions lend their agendas and decisions a weight which has, to be perfectly frank, always and forever been unwieldy, poorly understood, unsatisfactory, and prone to the worst imaginable oversight and tin-eared hearing. What is a leader? What is a “hero”? Paper tigers, waiting for a spark.
Organisms with a central nervous system—such as human beings—enjoy particular advantages in many spheres of activity. I will skip, however, to the great disadvantage. Damage, even slight damage, to the brain or spinal cord—the very center and the great highway to and from the center—can render the organism severely impaired, or killed outright in the neatest, quickest fashion available to nature. To wit, a single bullet, shorter than a finger, can kill any human being before they have time to notice that they are dead. If the brain is dead, the body is dead. Whether the brain truly needs a body remains up for debate, and that should, within the confines of this metaphor, be chilling to our nerves.
Organisms with a decentralized nervous system seem to us, when trapped by our narrow and pointless biases, primitive. There are, however, myriad advantages to such an arrangement. Damage to any one of many nodes of neural activity, spread evenly or near-evenly throughout the body of the organism, is not fatal or even necessarily troubling to the total function. The regenerative capacity of such organisms, also, is well-documented.
I believe there is value in focusing on this model. A lack of centralized leadership, or at least, a profusion of independent nodes of self-organized resistance, will make us more difficult to discover, root out and destroy in one fell swoop, and allow us more flexibility in our actions. Critically, such a model—that of many cells of resistance acting independently but in conversation, diverse in every sense and application of the word but united by overarching purpose—hopefully stands a chance in preventing any one privileged subset of resistance from easily claiming power over the rest. For there is danger to ourselves from ourselves, which we absolutely must take into account even from these early stages if we are to succeed.
Tactically, we must be cautious when adapting our opponent’s strategies to suit our own needs, though this is a necessary component of any contest. Our comportment as regards the tools available to us are what set us apart from our opponents, and similarly, our triumph must be set entirely apart from any picture of triumph that they could conceive of. Our victory cannot entail a return to the status quo, but must represent a step forward culturally, politically, and spiritually for the entire world.
Hence, there can be no victory wherein a few leaders, the leaders that we like or that have convinced us to like them, or to settle for, are lauded, garlanded, and assume undue power over our lives and the lives of others, for the idea and principle of a ruling class has run its course. The time of saviors, messiahs, kings, figureheads, and great generals must be relegated to the world that was. What is required to create the world that will be is a paradigm shift in global interdependence, public self-determination, equity, justice, and cooperation, and it must begin with our actions here, today, and now. We cannot kill fascism only to rescue or reinstate empire. We must aim higher.
As such, I suggest that communities form multiple independent think tanks geared towards the self-preservation of all which that entails, particularly that of their vulnerable sub-communities. There should be secure and efficient communication between think thanks, with a trickle-upwards effect—prioritizing the most insular, vulnerable, and threatened elements, socioeconomically and politically, through direct and indirect action. We cannot afford the obliteration of the smaller picture by the bigger picture in this instance; to lose sight of the smaller picture is to lose everything.
The question on everyone’s lips must be “how can we help each other survive?”
The Unifying Principle for the Divided in Concert
Intersectional Abolition Feminism.
Generally, when human beings consider opposites, they attempt to formulate them diametrically, in opposition. This is a failure, as is nearly all binary thinking. The “opposite” of white supremacy, for example, has never been “black supremacy,” and it has always been asinine to the point of a break with reality to assume that it could be. Yet, this is not an uncommon belief, whether openly given voice or lurking in the undergrowth, perhaps unknown even to the individual that holds it.
The true anathema of a concept or idea is never its diametric opposite. That is merely the conception of two extreme cases as the only two possible quantities in an equation. Their possible range of interactions in such a frame are limited, violent, and fraudulent.
The “opposite” of white supremacy is that state of being that will effectively oppose it, place it in check, and heal the wounds that it has caused. White supremacy conceives of whiteness as the norm for human organisms, and to lack whiteness, or possess traits out of line with whiteness, is to be subhuman or aberrant. Intersectionality grants humanity with an eye towards equity for human organisms of all shapes, colors, capacities, origins, and states of being, including whiteness—but grants supremacy to none.
White supremacists, on the basis of the subhuman, sub-caste status their conception of whiteness casts on the rest of the world, have acted outside any and every law of hospitality, decency, and spiritual feeling when dealing with the nonwhite world, and have butchered and raped a bloody swath through recent history. The brutal enslavement of other human beings is of course part of this, notably through such crimes as the transatlantic slave trade, the “end” of which is often heralded as the end of slavery itself. Slavery, however, existed before the economic boom represented by the large-scale theft and abuse of Black bodies colonially and post-colonially, and took and continues to take on a myriad of shapes and forms, from the sexual to the corporate, trapping vulnerable agents of every color, class, and creed. Slavery continues to be a fundamental part of the workings of the sociopolitical state of the world that white supremacists and similarly oppressive ruling classes and castes have imposed through gross, duplicitous, and brutal means. Abolition is the praxis of unmaking these systems, by any means necessary, and cooperatively imagining and shaping a world which contains not a single slave or master—a world where justice lives up to its name, to its potential and promise.
Patriarchy and rape culture are the lynchpins of not only white supremacy, but diseases of cultures, nations, and empires all over the globe. The violent enforcement of heteronormative principle and toxic expressions of masculinity and dominance has been an instrumental drive throughout recorded history and is expressed par excellence in the behavior of violent forms of government and nation-building that form the strata of history, the languages we speak in and the way we use our language, and the way the vast total majority of human beings, living and dead, have been oppressed by ruling classes deluded by notions of inborn superiority and their tyrannical and inept governance. Feminism is the only school of thought that has the theoretical power to destroy patriarchy and dismantle its norms. Feminist theory and feminist influence have pushed the questions of existence, the subject, the state, human rights, and the role of the social actor further and higher than any cohesive form of thought past or contemporary. By definition, feminism, most emphatically Black Queer Feminism, stands contra to the patriarchal rape state, and by virtue of the labor and example of the brilliant thinkers and scholars that have drawn from and added to the body of feminist thought, stands equipped with the tools to dismantle it.
I have written elsewhere that courage ought to serve us as ous shield in these times. I suggest that intersectional abolition feminism is our sword, our spear, our bow and arrow. Ideologically, theoretically, and in practice, it is our best hope for a better world. In addition, it is what our opponents hate and fear most; what drives them most into an inhuman frenzy of vitriol, ressentiment, and rage. That is an asset.
We must win the war within ourselves if we hope to win a war with white supremacy. That means we must never lose sight of our hopes for peace, indeed, we would be best served by raising those hopes still higher, by throwing our imaginations into overdrive and striving relentlessly to envision and put into practice a world we would be proud to live in. Sun Tzu: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” We must never lose sight of our faith in the people that we love, and must act in every way to honor that love through our actions and our words. We must stand up for one another, if we are to stand up to those who would see us parted, enslaved, and destroyed.
The most intelligent and skillful base from which to build, the platform from which our ideas and actions might best come into practice and be of the use and quality we require, is that body of thought and praxis understood as intersectional abolition feminism. And if we are to place great value on any set of voices, if we must employ leaders of one kind or another, let us first look towards Black Queer Feminism, and its luminaries.
The most vulnerable among us are our most precious assets in this struggle. Our care for them, our efforts towards protecting them from those who would, in their cowardice and disregard for humanity, wipe them out, is what separates us the most from our opponents. They must be protected at all costs, and provided with as much support as possible, and immediately, for the most disenfranchised and most vulnerable will be moved against first.
We must not underestimate our opponents. We cannot assume that they will not go very far, and act very intelligently, to begin undermining both our freedoms and our ability to effectively care for and legally protect one another, especially those of us who require extraordinary amounts of care to survive, some of it from branches of government whose existence will be put at risk; as laws passed to enact civil rights and protections will be at risk of repeal. Our only defense is to move immediately to bulwark these institutions and advance cases towards their preservation and increased scope.
Immediate, too, must be our focus on becoming of material aid to the disenfranchised and the at risk, beyond the theoretical. The disabled community, the chronically ill community, the trans community, the LGBQIA community, the homeless community, undocumented Americans and immigrants in all their communities, people of color in all their communities, people of minority faith communities, people of no faith communities, radicals, skeptics, “dangerous” teachers, “dangerous” creators, leftists, organizers, and the myriad of individuals making up this nation that live at risk and stand threatened with the gravity and scope of those risks increasing—an increase on the many pressures on their survival, which we must act to materially alleviate.
The fact is that “increased pressure on survival” describes each and every person living in this nation—indeed, the world. We are all, from pole to pole, seriously threatened, directly and materially, by the rise of authoritarianism, kleptocracy, and fascism in the United States of America. It inherits the weapons and privileges of an empire whose provenance and whim affects every area of the globe, and trains upon it the threat of many deadly forces at its command. As though this were not enough, these specters do not rise in America alone.
For the sake of all who stand to lose their freedoms and their lives to an America become the ghastly worst version of itself, a dream gone full nightmare, we must stand up, and die standing if we have to. We must shatter the dream before it destroys us, and that means we have to have one another’s backs. We have to offer what we can. We have to put something on the line. We have to be brave. We have to do everything in our power.
Look to history, the histories of resilience and survival against overwhelming state suppression, for inspiration. Learn from their tactics and invent new ones to suit the times. Remember Sun Tzu.
BLM (here, there are no suggestions.)
Black lives matter. Black Lives Matter. Point of immediate focus.
The history and legacy of Black America, and an accurate modern picture of American Blackness, is something every person in this nation is bound up in, has a stake in, and needs to be amply and accurately informed about. The white imagination, from slaveholder to neoliberal, has misapprehended the realities of Blackness and Black life, and committed outrageous crimes against them in its creation of America. That the need for redress for these ills and the need for immediate abolition of their modern manifestations are grave indeed can be seen in the national response to one simple statement of a truth that did not correlate with the inherited truths of the white imagination.
The tidal wave of rage, resentment, misapprehension, slander, and hatred that met #BlackLivesMatter was not astonishing, but it was a warning too many took little notice of. Obama’s presidency had seen white nationalism begin to expand its roots, take hold and grow in places it had once had little access to. #BlackLivesMatter and the rise of Breitbart News under the white supremacist Stephen Bannon saw it blossom.
The unreasoning hatred and fear experienced by so many at hearing one of the cores of white American identity—that Black lives are in fact, disposable—directly contradicted by a truth—that Black lives are in fact possessed of the same value as any other life—is only to be expected. This is a truth that their protest would actually echo—that all lives matter, which would ostensibly include Black lives. However, in this context such an echo actually cements this fact in a lie, since they do not include Black lives in their system of life-valuation. Their need to respond with anything other than affirmation proves they do not take the fact into account, or find it arguable, or conditional (it is not). Their believing and speaking of an untruth and a truth in one so baldly places them in a state of cognitive dissonance, which is extremely uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable truths are most easily soothed with untruths which seem to undo truth’s problems. The magnitude of such disprovable, material untruths residing comfortably in the psyche in some cases requires a scaffolding of smaller untruths which were seeded in order to support the great lies, but often enough they do not need it. The notion that Black lives are disposable and do not matter is factually untrue and abhorrent to any ordered mind, but to a vulnerable, tormented, divided mind, such a lie can lead a mind into the fatal trap of believing explicitly that because it is not a Black mind, not a Black self, it has some extranormal value. This is seductive, for it promises a certain manufactured peace of mind, of self. It is this product that is at the root of caste systems and hierarchies of privilege throughout world history; this existential self-harm acted out in material and psychic harm.
This is the mechanism by which white supremacists and Nazis wish to engender their regime. They have made serious inroads.
However, Black lives matter, or none do, and all lives will not matter until Black lives do, and that is the truth, and the truth is no small thing. That many people do not believe the truth, or how angry hearing the truth makes them—these quantities are incapable of preventing the truth from being true.
Lies are of course very powerful, and truth has no guarantee of victory in contest. However, the truth is where we must pin our hopes and center our resistance. By acting in service of that truth in our lives and in the lives of those within the reach of our word and deed, we engage in the work of liberation, and thus in the most direct possible contest against the forces that oppress and endanger us.
Black Lives Matter.
Say it three times before you go to sleep at night.
Say it first thing in the morning.
Say it in your heart always, and do your work with that.
Look to The Books
Remember. And continue to seek.
What there was in the beginning and what will last until the end. Who stole fire and brought it to us, the price paid, who rearranged the terms of the sacrifice and joints and portions of the meat. Remember our covenants, and the breaking of our covenants, and imagine covenants for a new world. Remember the prophets, and the tales of the hearth, and the grandmother’s word. Remember the lawgivers and the tricksters, the shadows and the suns. The dragons, the phoenixes, the cranes in flight, the eagles, the rainbow bridges. Remember the ocean, and the sky behind the sky. Remember the trees, and the moonlight, and the flowers wet with rain.
Every story is a totem of boundless power, a talisman, a torch to light the way. And the stories of the world that has been are the great springboard from whence we can, if we are fortunate, vault into a world that could be. So many voices, so many minds, traditions, spiritual paths, instructions, reflections, theories, jokes, speculations, histories, divinities—precious gifts to lighten the weary way. We need them now more than ever, for now is the hour in which we are tested, and have no choice but to find ourselves equal to the heroes and stronger than the monsters of our collective imaginations.
Moving forward, I implore that we take seriously and place our faith in the values of the literature of our ancestors and champion our contemporaries who have created such a mighty tapestry from which we might discern, as though from a distance, a realm of truth and beauty.
Art by Jun Joestar.