November 2016

29 November 2016

History is a Weapon

History isn’t what happened, but the stories of what happened and the lessons these stories include. The very selection of which histories to teach in a society shapes our view of how what is came to be and, in turn, what we understand as possible. This choice of which history to teach can never be “neutral” or “objective.” Those who choose, either following a set agenda or guided by hidden prejudices, serve their interests. Their interests could be to continue this world as it now stands or to make a new world.We cannot simply be passive. We must choose whose interests are best: those who want to keep things going as they are or those who want to work to make a better world. If we choose the latter, we must seek out the tools we will need. History is just one tool to shape our understanding of our world. And every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trump’s America

A few that I especially like:

  • Do not obey in advance.
  • Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
  • Don’t use buzzwords. Describe situations in your own words. Don’t read things on the internet before bed.
  • Stand out.
  • Figure things out for your self. Investigate. Learn. Be curious.
  • Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
  • Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.


…even if the results of November 8 were historically predictable, they’re also still entirely unwelcome. One party’s raison d’être is the unsubtle erasure of the very basic and still fairly minimal civil and human rights gains of the last fifty years. For those who’ve sat on the sidelines, or who’ve said that “there is nothing I can do,” this is another time for choosing – not the choosing of candidates, but the choice of what work to take up and what future to help to build in the face, now, of an emboldened, reactionary conservatism. For those who’ve been involved all along, this crossing is a dangerous provocation, a declaration that what seems normal – the flow of traffic, the routinization of autocracy – needs to be troubled.

Creating a list to take stock:

This list, then, is the mental equivalent of taking a deep breath, finding the time to gather up my ideas. I see this sort of taking stock as utterly crucial right now, because I don’t think it is a good idea to improvise personal, professional, or political goals in the midst of social triage, or on a teetering, uneven landscape. I think we need to think harder and reflect longer.

On Remembering Values and Staying Troubled

on being compelled to conform and comply

But I need you to fight too, in the way that matters most, which is inside. Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.

the voice in your head crying out that something is wrong grows fainter and fainter until it dies.

You do it because everyone else is doing it, because the institutions you trust are doing it and telling you to do it, because you are afraid of what will happen if you do not do it, and because the voice in your head crying out that something is wrong grows fainter and fainter until it dies.That voice is your conscience, your morals, your individuality. No one can take that from you unless you let them. They can take everything from you in material terms – your house, your job, your ability to speak and move freely. They cannot take away who you truly are. They can never truly know you, and that is your power.

do not accept brutality as normal

We are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned.

A Time for Treason

Normal as a threat to our lives

Although there are bleak times ahead, we must remember that for most of us America was never paradise. Democrats and liberals will use this time to revise history. They will present themselves as the reasonable solution to Trump’s reign and advocate a return to “normalcy.” But their normal is a country where Black people are routinely killed by police and more people are imprisoned than any other place in the world. Their normal is a country where millions are exploited while a handful eat lavishly. Their normal is the opposite of a solution; it’s a threat to our lives.For many, this is not a new nightmareFor the rest of us [Mayukh Sen, author], the victory of this fascist is a confirmation of the biases we have known all along, no matter public liberal consciousness’s inabilities to wrangle them into submission. I have had unerring nightmares every night since getting profiled by a member of the NYPD the night before 9/11 this year. Now, I live not with fear but, rather, with the understanding that this will increase; the question is one of how soon my next brush will be. Yesterday, a dear friend of mine–older, white, straight, male, coronated with an Ivy League degree, etc.–texted me that we have now entered a “waking nightmare.” I don’t quite know how to respond to this, because I wonder what nightmares he’s known thus prior, and whether they look like mine; all I can say is “Welcome.”