What is authoritarianism?
The dictionary describes authoritarianism as, “the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom”.
When looking at the history of authoritarianism, it is quite easy to notice certain characteristics even in the United States. Currently, now in our country, the United States, there are many who argue that President Donald Trump engages in authoritarian politics. If you delve deep into his rhetoric and ways of commanding, depending on either your political view or moral compass, you will see the ways in which he may be capturing those authoritarianism characteristics.
Some of those characteristics listed upon Preserved Articles are:
- Dependence on coercion and force
- Less importance to Rights and Liberties (There are no attention to your personal liberties that are granted to you as a human being)
- Rules determine all decisions
You yourself or someone else that you may know could be experiencing some of the same ideals. How will you know that it is time to act?
How do we recognize what we are to resist?
There is a feeling that will provoke your mentality & challenge your moral compass, helping you realize that what is going on, is not beneficial for everyone, especially not you. The effects of authoritarianism have been delegitimizing the rights of citizens all around the world. Authoritarian regimes have a great way of manipulating others, usually upon political ideas but not always subject to. While experiencing the dehumanizing schemes of an “all controlling” regime, there is a way to fight back. To resist. To prevail. To conquer. You have the power. How will you begin?
In order to provide a concise and achievable way to resist an authoritarian regime, I have listed ten unquestionable ways that are beneficial in carrying out a proper resistance:
Acknowledge the Issue
Sometimes if you feel like something is going wrong, most of the time it is. You may call it intuition. Acknowledge what is going wrong. How does it affect you? How does it affect others? How long will it continue? Is there a stop to the madness? The issue exists. Before solving the issue, you must realize that it is there.
Sometimes if you feel like something is going wrong, most of the time, you are actually right. You may call it intuition. Acknowledge what is going wrong. How does it affect you? How does it affect others? How long will it continue? Is there a stop to the madness? The issue exists. Before solving the issue, you must realize that it is there.
Mercer University, the “Harvard of the South, a prestigious University, home to many of the greatest around the world, was a place of barriers. Not long ago, it was a place that was not as accepting of those who were of African/African American descent. It harbored a racial barrier- a barrier that did not want to be broken.
There was no one around before visionary professor, Mac Bryan to bravely tackle the issue. Mac Bryan was not afraid to speak out. It is certain that Bryan went through a series of questions when addressing the university’s issue upon race. He was the spearhead of a group that would transform not only Mercer University’s history but Macon, Georgia and the state of Georgia as well. Because of acknowledging the issue, Bryan, his student followers (the “Bryanites”), and others were able to aid Mercer University into “becoming the first private university in Georgia to desegregate”.
If dealing with a social injustice, “Combustible/Burn”, a play written by Dr. Andrew Silver, will allow you to understand how simply acknowledging that there is an issue can make changes. Many are afraid to even think that there is something wrong, but you can’t progress with that train of thought. Do you have the strength to be a rabble-rouser? “Rabble-rouser” became a term to identify those who felt the need to take a stand against things they did not agree with. Spark the emotion of others. Show them that acknowledging the issue will create a pathway for freedom. Rabble and rouse- you can do it.
It has been proven many times and times before, that if you don’t know what’s going on it is best to educate yourself. Make yourself known about your surroundings. There will be a long and hard road of resistance if you don’t know what is actually happening. You will face many who will try to challenge your ways, but you must know what’s going on in order to come back with a strong rebuttal. Others may also want to join you.
Who wants to join a group that is unfamiliar of the cause?
A great example of accessing familiarity with a situation is that of Sophie Scholl. In the documentary “I Will Stand For Truth, Even if I stand Alone – The Story of Sophie Scholl”, you can see how essential it is to educate yourself about an authoritarian situation. You will be fooled, bamboozled, and tricked into thinking that you should adhere to the oppressor’s message, but in all actuality, with the power of knowledge, you can break free.
Sophie realized that.
A young influential German college student, who had enough of the Hitler’s relentless control, began to write leaflets of information to disperse amongst all who walked her path. Her letters of protests became “legendary examples of civil resistance against an ungodly government”.
Contacting the most influential person around was something that Sophie was not afraid to do because they were not exempt from noticing the truth of Hiter’s evil regime.
Whatever the cost was for freedom, Sophie would pay it.
Her faith along with knowledge gave her the strength to never back down.
There will be lots of information that you must become acquainted with. However, don’t be discouraged by your lack of experience or knowledge about the situation. Make a conscience effort to find out what is rightfully yours to know.
You will have others on your side that can help fill in those blank, mental spaces, help you send out information, and even take great action. Don’t remain by yourself.
Join with Others, but Resist Conformity
Join with those who share common goals. Join those who are oppressed. Join those who are targeted. Gathering together will create a unified space, despite diversity, because you will all be familiarized with each other’s stories- stories that will create a powerful uproar. You want to resist, right? You can’t do it alone.
However, in the grand scheme of things, you cannot allow others to negatively impact your thoughts and actions.
Ursula Le Guin creates a scene in “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” that emphasizes the importance of resisting conformity, whilst belonging to a group or society.
Omelas, the “city of happiness”, that strikes some [to be] goody-goody… joy built upon successful slaughter”, is a place the floats in injustice. From a literary standpoint, it is seen as a dystopia, but many of those who live there are in quite the utopia.
Many citizens of Omelas are opposed to its crooked ways.
Le Guin points out a special character, in which she does not identify with a gender. This boy or girl is locked up in a basement and shown as a public joke. Put on display, day by day, people stop and stare in curiosity. Many make it a reoccurring activity. Some leave with no emotions, but there are few that know this is wrong.
How can a town be full of “comfort, luxury, and exuberance” but delegitimize another being to the point of where they cannot even speak?
The ones who know that what they’re doing is wrong, understand that those things are not possible in an area like so.
“They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk into the darkness, and they do not come back”.
Things may seem fine within a society, organization, etc., but remember what and why you are resisting. Don’t allow others to conform you, changing your thoughts to associate with their conniving ideas.
If you must leave, go. Others are you may be afraid to do it by themselves, and they may join you. Be the example and always remember to stay true to yourself.
Now that you have a group of people to collaborate with, what will you do next? TAKE ACTION. Sitting on your couch, watching the world go by is not action. There’s a saying that reads, “Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream”, so WAKE UP. Make the seconds, minutes, hours, and days of protesting count.
In his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” (1963), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the importance of action. He stated, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue” (p. 123).
People should engage in direct action because it applies pressure to the governing body.
In particular, it puts the oppressor into a predicament in which they cannot ignore the harsh realities of its society. Dr. King supports this notion when he proclaimed that direct action needs to “…create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation” (124).
You must take control of your circumstance by completing targeted actions that aid your struggle; mere comprehension is not enough. Furthermore, prompt action is preferred over delayed action. One cannot simply wait for a situation to change and one should not delay his or her action for any reason. Dr. King considered this a profound revelation in stating, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” He understood that with constant procrastination comes inevitable inaction. Therefore, it is your duty to not only take action but to take action QUICKLY. Lastly, you must persevere wholeheartedly even if the situation does not change immediately. “Freedom is never readily given by the oppressor; in fact, it must be demanded by the oppressed” (124). Hence, you must fight, fight, and fight some more until you bring about the change you desire.
Take action QUICKLY. Move with a swiftness. Move as if your life depends on it because IT DOES.
you must persevere wholeheartedly even if the situation does not change immediately. As previously stated, “freedom is never readily given by the oppressor; in fact, it must be demanded by the oppressed” (124).
Once again, you must fight, fight, and fight some more until you bring about the change you desire.
Being a larger group, there must be organization. It is required with most things in life. Resisting authoritarianism is a big thing in itself, and if not done in an orderly fashion, many things can go wrong. You can even face the threat of not achieving your goal to throw them down. Organize several groups, positions, jobs, that will generate success to resist. An unorganized group will not be taken seriously.
Being a larger group, there must be organization. It is required with most things in life. Resisting authoritarianism is a big thing in itself, and if not done in an orderly fashion, many things can go wrong. You can even face the threat of not achieving your goal to throw them down. Organize several groups, positions, jobs, which will generate success to resist. An unorganized group will not be taken seriously.
When looking for examples of organization, consider watching the Netflix documentary, “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”. The documentary gave raw footage and portrayed immense feelings of those who were unsettled by the wrongdoings of their government. Fear did not flow within their blood, only power and strength.
In the Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, protestors allowed no areas to be penetrated or left unprotected.
There were groups of those who fed and provided shelter.
There was your “Activist on Wheels”, the Automaidan, who became the frontline of protesting. They took their cars and occupied the streets. While reading the Euromaidan Press, it was noted that “beneath any authoritarian rule is the basic expectation of personal immunity from public dissatisfaction; at the emotional level, people are irrelevant. Dealing with their standing crowds is different from the agonizing uncertainty over what would happen tomorrow in front of one’s own doors. Peaceful but mobile protest ruined that confidence and revealed the current government’s weakest spot.”
They wanted to keep the Maidan together.
They were going to strike an emotional chord and that they did.
The Maidan is the square in which the protesting mostly took place.
Challenged by Berkut police, the Muslim brotherhood, and lest not forget the Ukrainian government, these groups, though working separately, created a unified organization.
Each group sought to fight corruption in Ukraine, in an organized manner, and it WORKED. When you’re not organized, those weak spots can be easily punctured. Shield yourself with the protection of great management.
Although the regime is taking its necessary actions to bring you down, don’t fall into the same trap. Once people see and understand that you’re being preyed on, while not acting on it, you will gain the upper hand morally and through outside support. It looks bad when someone is being attacked for doing nothing but being peaceful. Remain respectful.
“Nonviolent direction action… seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored” (MR 123).
It is difficult to disregard or pay attention to those participating in the non-violent action. Not reacting to the jibes and jabs being thrown at you on a consistent basis. Let the “way of nonviolence [become] an integral part of [your] struggle” (MR 129).
How will you act towards an “unjust law… that a numerical or powerful majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself” (MR 126)?
Referring back to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” (1963) also addressed the vitality of non-violence.
In his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom” he presented Six Principles of Nonviolence:
- Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
- Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding
- Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
- Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform
- Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
- Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sole philosophy was built on non-violence. Being one of the most influential leaders in the world, as well as an advocate for protesting, it is essential that you look into his various works. You will be amazed in the sound that you can make without tearing others down.
Be mindful in how you react, but whatever you must do: DON’T BACK DOWN
Can you create a showdown for non-violence? You can. Personally check yourself, if addressed violently, and remember your non-violent values.
Consider Your Resistance Area
Where will you meet? You need a meeting place. A centralized area calls for a lot of attention and would be the most beneficial space. Make sure there is enough room to accommodate many people- you never know who will join your campaign. Ask yourself these questions:
Do I want an area that is private or public?
How can I make this space comfortable?
Below is an example that I have given before, mainly to help emphasize the importance of space:
Imagine yourself as a little child.
Where was the place that you felt the most freedom? Was it an area with few people? Were there many people around? Was it indoors? Was it outdoors?
Thinking back to my elementary school days, the most liberating and freeing area for me was the playground, in particular, my school’s playground.
Located in the most centralized area on the school’s grounds, stood a few 20 feet multicolored jungle gyms, with slides and all the amenities a child could desire. It was public space that created friends and where children learned to be social creatures, ultimately learning the value of community. Being placed within the center of the school, allowed a lot of attention to flow towards that one area.
Given that the playground was a “happy place”, made for fun activities, there was rarely any issues. There were groups of kids who “ran”
the playground and others who would enjoy their time outside – recess.
Now, imagine yourself in a Square- “the locus of power”, what David Remnick calls it, in his David Remnick’s “Geopolitics: Strength in Numbers” (Remnick 98).
In both spaces, people have experienced the darting shots from an authoritarian regime (those who “ran” the area). From there, power stems. Making it difficult to “dissuade the relative masses” (99).
Red Square – The Soviet Union, invasion of Czechoslovakia
Wenceslas Square – Vladmir Putin and Patriarchs
The government began to realize the power of the public squares. Amongst the squares, people would protest and freely express their feelings.
Independence is what they sought.
After sitting in the Red Square, uttering the lies that the Soviet Union was trying to persuade others to believe, various people were arrested and jailed. Troops came in pummeling over the people amongst the cobblestone. Because of their persistence, they believed that they were successfully “break[ing] the flow of unbridled lies and cowardly silence… show[ing] that not all citizens of [their] country agree with the violence that [was] happening in the name of the Soviet people” (98).
The square awakens, bringing out a different side that others did not even know that they had
But they realized the power within the area.
Their demands were exposed for all to see.
Use Mass Media
Exposure is key. It is truly important in the demand for freedom. Get your word out! Exploit, exploit, exploit. Use social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Make films, take pictures and POST. Let the world know. Capture the emotion, the feeling, and the desire from the people. The world must see what you’re experiencing. The world must be familiarized with the manipulative plots being used to suppress others. You have the power. Use mass media as your source.
One of the biggest fears that these regimes have is documentation through media. Media grants access to the ins and outs of what is occurring, and that is not what they need when trying to sway the opinions of others.
Over the past weekend and a half, The New York Times has closely followed the journey of “a previously apathetic generation of people in their teens and 20s, most of them knowing nothing but 17 years of rule by Vladimir V. Putin”. It is said to be “the most striking face of the demonstrations, the biggest in years”.
They are protesting against Putin’s tyrannical regime.
Seemingly, the most influential way that younger people are protesting and getting their word out, is through mass media, which is deemed “exceptionally important”
““Russia is really stuck in the past,” said Ilya Amutov, a 25-year-old technology worker who marched in Moscow on Sunday. Young people, he said, “just want to live like normal, modern people in the rest of Europe.””
Instead of getting their information from the news sources, they have sought out the Internet.
To their defense, it has not failed them yet, like their government has.
No police or administration will prohibit them from using social media, videos, and pictures to discuss the real issues that are occurring.
No one will stop them from gathering their information/
Moscow is NOT ready for them.
Is anyone ready for you? No, because you have the power to exploit the authoritarian regime. Use your resources.
In all that you do, take responsibility for your actions. Do not be ashamed of what you are doing.
In Tahrir Square, Jehane Noujaim gives a great example of how taking responsibility can change not only a situation and the way you protest but your whole being, your moral compass.
Jehane Noujaim an Egyptian-American filmmaker visited her home in Cairo, Egypt, to immerse herself back into the culture.
Upon her arrival to the airport, she was thoroughly searched and revoked of her DVDs of an old film that she captured. It was a film that she loved; one that she worked hard to create. They asked what she had in her bags and, she lied, and disposed of her “contraband”.
Then there was a change.
She began to think about the unarmed protesters in the square protesting the violence of security forces and the manipulation of the government in regards to elections. The janitor who retrieved her belongings reminded her that there was no reason to fear what was right.
In the square, where she was headed, there was no division, but “equality and solidarity” (118). It was all one movement.
From that day on, she found a new perspective in the way she would carry out her walk in life.
When you fail to take responsibility for your actions, you’re giving your suppressor the ability to take charge, even more than they’re already trying to.
Lies demoralize you. They delegitimize the things that you stand for. They hand your rights away, as well as many other things that you deserve.
If you want to truly stand for your cause, you must be willing to take the responsibility, for whatever it may be. There won’t always be a deathly consequence- you never know who might help you.
You’re “living with the refusal to lie, the refusal to hide [ultimately gaining] strength” (115). You are letting the world know.
When things don’t seem as if they’re mapping out how you’d like, keep doing it. When others think you’re silly for engaging in something YOU know and believe is important, keep doing it. When there are legislations passed that will penalize you for standing up for what is right, do what you can to still support your personal ideals. Don’t give up. Persevere. In the end, you will win.
Today, there are worldwide protests occurring.
The sole purpose of these protests are to seek justice for a rightful cause, on that is different than what the world is pushing a specific cause against those who don’t agree. Because of those causes, “persecution will come to us when we choose an economic order different from the pattern of the world” (164). Shain Claiborne, author of “Irresistible Revolution” reminds those that what we truly need in place of protesting is prophets “those little voices that can point us toward another future” (295). There is a necessity for radical interdependence and the knowledge of love, the economic love as well, that will release a change amongst the world. Find the voice and keep going.
Be the catalyst for change. You may not see it immediately but it will be there. “Giving up hope is not an option”.
I was listening to a podcast from The Guardian and the most striking quote stood out to me: “…Well, we can’t see the future. We have the past. Which gives us patterns, models, parallels, principles and resources, and stories of heroism, brilliance, persistence, and the deep joy to be found in doing the work that matters. With those in our pockets, we can seize the possibilities and begin to make hopes into actualities.”
You standing up and defending the rights that YOU deserve is something that you should not give up on. It is your life, your rights, your past, your present, and your future, that can stand as reminders to PERSEVERE.