Last weekend’s public displays of resistance against the rise of right-wing populism were heartening but Lee Williscroft-Ferris argues that more sustained action is necessary.
If the world feels like a scary place right now, that’s probably because it is. A seemingly unassailable Tory party here in the UK pursuing an unfathomably ‘hard’ brand of Brexit, with the likely ensuing bonfire of workers’ and environmental rights; the dawn of President Trump on the other side of the Atlantic, with the socially conservative menace to gender and racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights and progress on climate change.
To a degree, the new wave of right-wing populism sweeping over the western world comes as no great surprise – at least to those of us who have not allowed ourselves to slip into a cosy coma of political complacency and apathy over the last decade. Equality is fragile, all too often at the mercy of the winds of political change. That is precisely why the protests taking place around the globe following Trump’s inauguration are so incredibly crucial – and why they must be stepped up as we move forward.
On the bright side, at least we know what we’re up against. Donald Trump is nothing if not brazen. He is openly xenophobic and hostile to America’s Muslim community; he is a self-confessed sexual predator and enters the White House mired in misogyny. The people (overwhelmingly fellow men, naturally) with whom he has chosen to surround himself are, unsurprisingly, of a similar ilk. If Trump’s cabinet appointments had not been sufficient in confirming his intended direction of travel, the removal of the White House website’s sections on LGBTQ+ rights and climate change just hours after he was sworn in surely does. Nevertheless, as Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
Equality is fragile, all too often at the mercy of the winds of political change.
Be under no illusion; this is a battle. Freedom, justice and equality have been imperilled on numerous occasions over the last 100 years. At no time has tyrannical oppression been defeated through passive inaction or appeasement. It is for that reason that mass demonstrations of public defiance are absolutely essential if we are to rescue the planet and its people from the threat of irrevocable harm at the hands of this megalomaniac narcissist. The Women’s Marches that took place in several US cities over the weekend, as well as all over the world (you know you’re unpopular when there is even a protest against you in Antarctica); the ‘queer dance party’ held outside Mike Pence’s home in protest against his anti-LGBTQ+ record – such events are hugely heartening. However, it is only in sustained resistance that those who find their basic human dignity exposed to the full force of this new fascism (call a spade a spade) have any hope of overcoming.
A hallmark of all fascists, especially egotistical sociopaths such as Donald Trump, is their extreme aversion to all forms of criticism and dissent. One only need look to Twitter for evidence of @POTUS’s entrenched hatred for any activity he considers to be an attempt at undermining his authority. While the ‘alt-right’ disparages minority groups, dismissing them as ‘snowflakes’ for seeking to defend their basic equality, the inescapable irony is that in reacting so melodramatically to even the most subtle form of censure, in such public fashion, Trump is the most delicate snowflake of them all.
At no time has tyrannical oppression been defeated through passive inaction or appeasement.
It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to the socio-political predicament of anyone outside of the cisgender, heterosexual, white male realm. Progress has to be nurtured, defended, built upon. Those who insist that feminism, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ activism are no longer necessary – that we should all get back in our boxes and accept being ‘tolerated’ or worse – are more often than not those with least to worry about. Beyond the ‘alternative facts’ and the infantile Twitter temper tantrums are millions of people unwilling to allow their hard-won rights to be jeopardised. Human rights are not a political football and not the gift of the powerful to bestow. Furthermore, it has never been more crucial for minority groups to have one another’s backs. Those lacking an intersectional perspective on matters of equality would do well to seek one as a matter of urgency.
Resistance is not futile – it is utterly imperative. Political inertia is a luxury none of us can afford. If this ‘post-truth’ era of neo-fascism is to have any positive consequences whatsoever, let it be the birth of a new generation of activists, not content to lament the relentless attacks on their personal freedoms from the relative comfort of their computer keyboard, but rather on the streets, chanting, shouting, even dancing. Trump, Farage, Le Pen, Wilders: all of these sowers of discord, these personifications of hatred and bigotry should know this; snowflakes can become blizzards and blizzards often become avalanches.
Follow Lee on Twitter (@calamospondylus)