On Discipline and Preparedness Within Our Movements
Debates about what constitutes constructive critique, versus purely divisive analysis, are ubiquitous within activist circles. While some of these arguments may be motivated by good faith efforts to push our collective work forward, they are far too often manifestations of internalized oppression. When we internalize the ugliness that has been imposed upon us, as marginalized people, we too often engage in lateral attacks, attempting to obliterate one another’s credibility, reducing our movements to the kind of individualistic competitions that this culture has so successfully divided us into. When people of color tear one another down, rather than focusing on what we ourselves can heal and build, we do the work of the power structure.
But if one insists on the necessity of critique for the sake of growth, we would argue that an honest and informed evaluation of the state of this society can only lead to one conclusion: that cooperation with the very structures that were engineered to enslave, destroy and break us is the position that must be challenged.
The truth of our history, as well as our current condition, is that it is obedience, rather than resistance, that undermines our pursuit of liberation.
Given our current social condition, and relationship to the powers that imprison, poison, and routinely murder us, resistance rather than compliance should be normative.
On Normalizing a Defensive Posture
When we say that resistance should be normative amongst oppressed people, we mean that our endeavors in these areas should be thorough and self preserving, both in practice and in theory. We should not only be ready to defend ourselves when we expect violence, but instead render ourselves ready to confront it whenever it should arise.
We should practice security culture with our digital communications, not because our actions are illegal, but because the surveillance state should be shut out of our communications as a matter of cultural principle.
Non cooperation with a system that seeks to incarcerate, commodify, assimilate or completely erase our peoples is foundational to facilitating the next wave of revolutionary thought and action. The organizers of today should be cultivating cultural norms that exist in functional opposition to this system and all manifestations of the violence it reinforces.
We need to standardize the act of caring for one another, in the face of a dehumanizing society, and recognize that in this society, any effectiveness in doing so has always been cause enough for state surveillance and harassment.
The anticipation of violence has rarely been an actual governmental concern, with regard to the surveillance and infiltration of our communities. What frightens neoliberals and conservatives the most is effective coalition building and the ability to mobilize determined communities who are attempting to control their own destinies. When successful, this kind of organizing is viewed by those in power as a dangerous insurrection.
Whether violence is structural or interpersonal, a stance of preparation – knowing what “rights” we can exercise within this system’s legal structures, being prepared to defend our own bodies against violent assailants, caring for our own communities and distancing ourselves from government involvement in our lives – is crucial to our ability to survive in the present, and thrive in the future. We must have discipline and approach organizing and community with a willingness to learn.
Throughout the history of impactful movements, tactical education and discipline have been key to the development of successful frameworks. self-defense classes, digital security trainings and direct action education will be essential to any effective efforts to overcome oppressive structures. As Assata taught us, no power structure will provide us with the education we need to overthrow our oppressors. We must create the framework for that education ourselves, and share what we learn and build with our communities.