The Lord of the Rings - a Guide to resisting
Tolkien lived in what can be described as ‘interesting times’ including a global struggle against totalitarianism. He brought together ancient tales and histories of resistance to help forge a story of resistance in his time. A saga written for entertainment, but also for those who would in the future face ‘interesting times’.
The purpose of this post is not to urge anyone to form a medieval army and set-off to assault a generalised ‘enemy’ or to stick on a crown. Sure if you have a suit of armour and know where to find Sauron then by all means go and fetch your sword. However, as with Tolkien, (though on a comparatively trivial level), the intention is to use the stories, the battles and the dramas, to encourage people to wield a sharper blade than most . . . the cutting edge of persuasion.
We can see how clued-up Tolkien was about both resisting and persuading in this short piece:
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
One Ring to Rule Them All
Totalitarianism arises from corruption and is rooted in complicity. No tyrant stands alone, but you can make them more and more isolated by seeking common cause and common ground at every opportunity. If you don’t agree on this, that or the other . . . dig until you find something you can agree on and take it from there. Tyrants have been fended off before and can be again.
Hope is Kindled
Those who get drawn into or volunteer for extremism tend to jabber a lot about it - particularly online where they can recruit through the routine sharing of populist jargon and fake news, often mixed-up with a spot of recreational trolling. Those who resist are rarely as routinised and tend to be considerate of the views of others looking at their social media content, which limits their resistance related posting.
Unfortunately the result is racists and populists often have an advantage when it comes to spreading their news and information. An option here is to share more and to adjust our choices concerning posts and shares. You might drop most posts and shares about individual politicians and add more posts about issues. Or lose pictures of angry opponents in favour of showing activists getting on with resisting or offering information.
You Shall Not Pass
At what points can or should we call out the unacceptable without entering into debate - perhaps where extremists offer no debate. If your neighbour, someone on social media or your elected politician is making excuses for locking kids in cages, destroying the environment or promoting violence . . . that needs to be called-out consistently in terms of ‘we’re not setting that aside’ or ‘kicking it into the long grass’. If the reaction is hostility then any actual debate can only start once it’s accepted that free speech does not include hate speech - they are opposites pulling in totally different directions.
I was WRONG to despair
In the face of the relentless barrage of negativity and disorientation put out by extremist media it can be tempting to let things pass or to go with the flow. All the more so in societies where many people live alone, others feel socially and economically marginalised and those protecting and resisting seem more points of light than a field of stars.
Nevertheless, there are countless people out there fed-up with the same lies and distortions. And many of them are resisting peacefully in their own ways and on their own terms. They are most unlikely to start out mainstream or to appear in the media, often no one has heard of their group or organisation, but they press on and are waiting to welcome those who wish to join in.
That Line Was Broken
Extremists’ key tactics include undermining identity and social fabric. By polarising and fragmenting such concerns, (and often to some degree backing both sides of an argument), they can raise tensions and foster escalating conflict. Launching such attacks through cultural and historical narratives is a particular favourite, as personal and community identities reach far outside political boundaries and much further into lives and shared identities.
This form of digital necromancy is most easily defeated through authentic culture and history, which uses the best evidence to represent a past, present and future that are not all bound to the often broken narratives of generations without access to the same standards of evidence. So by all means throw your weight behind political and economic solutions, but also guard and regularly revisit your heritage or others will dismantle it behind your back.
No Man Can Kill Me
A peaceful, determined and successful resistance to totalitarianism is not one where political systems locked into forever trying to get back to an imagined golden age are going to avoid lurching into totalitarianism entirely through their own devices. Concerned citizens need to get concerned and active in building a consensus to enable change or see themselves being funneled towards rapid, uncontrollable change. Such situations necessitate grassroots contributions that are genuinely representative of society and so capable of setting aside rigid, top-down organisation hierarchies while working to promote democratic structures.
A light from the shadows Shall spring
In terms of resistance to the current wave of totalitarianism, (largely focused on far right extremism dressed-up in more suits than uniforms), the widespread engagement of women, the use of protective tactics over traditional protesting and a very broad tapestry of grassroots organisations and community actions is already offering more of a defense than approaches based around yelling back.
As a result of so many opting for persuasion so far, whenever someone takes a personal step towards resisting on some small level they’re contributing to a growing pool of people encouragement others to do the same - effectively crowdsourcing more reasonable but determined resistance.
The late 20th Century and its organisational structures, including the United Nations and the European Union, delivered a period of relative peace and considerable prosperity to large populations within the Western sphere of influence. This was at times at the considerable expense of other regions and populations, but broadly speaking whole societies were able to flourish to a greater extent than at any previous period in history.
Universal healthcare, universal education and support for the vulnerable became staples in these societies. And we find the direct exploitation of exactly the same cost-effective social structures driving the present totalitarianism. This is because universal healthcare, universal education and support for the vulnerable are areas open to intensifying extremists’ ideological need for an already massive and ever widening gap between the wealthiest and the poorest.
Sure many politicians and corporations take advantage, but most are primarily interested in sustainable structures and businesses where it makes obvious sense to reinvest along the way and to benefit from a healthy, educated and diverse workforce. Clearly that is not for the far right, the predator capitalists. For them the plan is quite simply piracy.
Fortunately, there is a potential silver lining, as extremists are extremists and a lot of those lured towards them in troubled times are open to drifting towards any reasonable alternative put before them. Consequently, if those of us involved in resisting reach out to soft-voters, non-voters and those registering doubts - with the genuine intention of connecting and persuading - we can win people over.
Keen on the practicalities of peaceful resistance - please have a look at the site’s Resist content.