Sabotage: Part 13 - Surrender and Defiance
The fifth sabotage is war—a supremacist sabotage that ensures destruction rather than paying repair’s natural costs. The big question is: How do we counter it? Let’s talk about defiance.
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on November 20, 2022.
Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |
Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 |
Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 |
Hi. It’s the penultimate part of the series. (I think that means that it is the ultimate one, but it’s written with a pen.)
We’ve really been on a ride, huh?
A couple weeks back we here in the United States had an election. Maybe you heard about it.
The Republican Party, which represents the interests of supremacists (wealth supremacists, Christian supremacists, white supremacists, male supremacists, and so forth—all of them committed as a foundational matter to and united as a strategic matter around the lie that some people matter and all others don’t matter) failed to win back the Senate and may have even lost a seat by the time all the dust settles.
But they did win the House by a razor’s edge margin and a bunch of state governments and governorships. And their most prominent and popular fascist won his governor’s race down in Florida handily, and a lot of people are very excited about his chances to bring open fascism back to the White House in 2024.
However, it must be said: the supremacist party known as Republican didn’t have as good a time of it in the elections as our media insisted they would, and in fact a far worse time of it than history would suggest a party in their particular position should have had.
And that is some cause for hope.
There is very good reason to think that this disappointment for supremacist people everywhere came about because voters were concerned about what Republican supremacists intended to do once in power. For example, there is evidence voters were concerned about the literal end of democracy.
Democracy, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a newfangled power-organizing mechanism whereby representation in government ultimately lies in the hands of the people through the act of voting for representatives and proposals. As such, it is generally seen as a positive arrangement by those who believe that society derives its value from all its people, and therefore power should exist for the benefit of all people, and therefore the most foundational lever of power should be in the hands of the people, and the structures of incentives should be set in such a way as to encourage power to act primarily for the benefit of people, rather than (oh let’s say) property or profit.
Democracy is generally seen as a very bad thing, though, by people who believe that all a society’s value comes only from and should go only to certain people who matter, and that value going to people who do not matter represents unacceptable theft, and that thieves deserve any punishment that comes to them no matter how violent, and so government therefore should exist only for the benefit of people who matter and the punishment of those who do not—which is the supremacist position, and you can hear that position presented uncritically any time you switch on the news, and that lack of criticism for supremacist positions is what these days we call “the marketplace of ideas.”
Where was I? Oh yes!—democracy. Voters concerned about the end of it.
And voters were also concerned about bodily autonomy, mostly the bodily autonomy of people who can get pregnant, but also of anybody who might want access to instruments and tools of reproductive health, and maybe of 12-year old girls who don’t want to do things that conservative Christians and other supremacists are forcing them to do, such as submit to a genital examination in order to play middle-school volleyball, or be forced carry their rapist’s baby.
There is and was a very good reason that voters should have been concerned about what empowering Republicans would mean for bodily autonomy, because Republicans have spent decades talking about their supremacist intention to establish theocratic control over everyone’s bodily autonomy, and 2022 was the year when, after decades of scraping away at legal protections, they finally got their fingers all the way under the bodily autonomy linoleum and started to rip up everything they could. The 50-year national right to abortion is now completely gone, thanks to a captured partisan supremacist majority on the Supreme Court, and Republicans immediately pivoted from this victory to talk of restricting and banning things like contraception and IVF, and so on.
And there is very good reason to believe that voters should have been concerned about what empowering Republicans would mean for democracy, too. For example, a whole lot of Republicans ran very directly on effectively dismantling democracy—first, by achieving positions of power that would allow them to control elections, and by using those positions to create as many unfair advantages as possible for their side, and then by ignoring and overturning any results that didn’t favor them.
And pretty much no Republicans who weren’t running on specifically anti-democratic propositions in any way withdrew their support from those who were. They were clearly on board, either with their support or their silence. Any of the very few not on board with full supremacy have by now been bounced from the party by supremacist Republican voters, who have learned they can have openly supremacist candidates and now expect and demand nothing else.
So, yes: there was plenty of reason for voters to believe that Republican supremacists all meant exactly what they said, and there was very little reason (none?) to believe they didn’t mean it.
Voters also had history to consider, if they were astute.
The 2022 midterms didn’t represent the first assault on bodily autonomy or democracy by supremacy, you see. Supremacists have been waging a war against the ideals of democracy and bodily autonomy—and also equality for all, liberty for all, the pursuit of happiness for all, freedom for all, and many other things—from the very start.
A brief and very incomplete history of American supremacist war:
On January 6, 2021, a large group of partisans, incited by then-president Donald Trump, swarmed the Capital with the intention of overthrowing our democracy and killing as many members that opposed them as they could, and they almost did it, and they enjoyed the support of almost every single Republican office holder, both before and after. They did it because they believed the election had been stolen, and by their actions it’s clear that by “stolen” they meant “Black people voting.” I say this because in the prior months supremacists all around the country (mostly white Christian supremacists but there were all types) were up in (sometimes literal) arms at polling places, demanding literally opposite things, depending on whether or not the votes in those places were predominately white (“count every vote”) or Black (“stop the count”). And “stop the count” eventually became “stop the steal,” which eventually became an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government and install a theocratic fascist dictator who would accommodate their supremacy.
It was an act of war.
And some months before January 6, 2021, in Michigan, a large group of armed supremacists captured the State Capitol, protesting mask mandates, demonstrating their exclusive ownership of the people’s government, and demonstrating their right to carry massacre weapons unharassed by police as the clear evidence of that ownership. They were protesting against mandates designed to curb the spread of a virus that was disproportionately killing and harming people from various groups and segments that supremacists have deemed don’t matter, and they were livid over the idea that they should be asked to act as if those people mattered. So they claimed the state house. Later some of them plotted to kidnap the governor.
It was an act of war.
And a few years before that, Nazis marched with other very fine people who were apparently not Nazis to defend statues honoring the murderous traitors who waged war to protect and expand the institution of human slavery. They marched and chanted Nazi slogans, and I suppose the very fine people with them who were not Nazis just marched but did not chant. And one of them ran over a protester named Heather Heyer with a car and killed her, a murderous act that Republican lawmakers have been trying to legalize ever since.
It was an act of war.
And for decades before that, to this present day, Republicans (you might be thinking “not just Republicans,” and we’ll get there) have made sure that anybody who wants to enact a massacre is given easy and unrestricted access to tools that will allow them to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and then used the massacres they’ve made ubiquitous as a pretext for making massacre weapons even more ubiquitous, and have then held themselves blameless when people inspired by their propaganda use those massacre weapons to massacre the targets of that propaganda.
And they’ve made sure that police can operate in as brutal a manner as they desire in the neighborhoods they occupy, neighborhoods which some of us have noticed happen to be predominately Black. Incidentally, some of us have also noticed that this dynamic has led to police forces recruiting the exact types of people who seem to very much enjoy being brutal to Black people. And whenever the people protest this brutality, the police have rioted, making sure that the protest was maximally violent. And whenever police riot, armed supremacist militia groups use the violence the police have created to swarm to the area, ostensibly to provide support to the rioting police—and in one recent such police riot, one babyfaced militia member in Wisconsin killed a couple people and got off the hook for it in court and is now a celebrity in supremacist circles, and a prominent speaker at supremacist conferences like CPAC and Turning Point USA and maybe the Republican National Convention in a couple years. And supremacists have enacted many other policies as well, all designed to make sure that people who they believe don’t matter are treated as if they do not matter.
These are all acts of war. Supremacists even call these things “war.” Wars on crime, on drugs, on poverty, all of which have harmed those who suffer most from crime and addiction and poverty, all of which have disproportionately lowered life expectancy and quality of life, all of which have stolen years of freedom and life.
And for decades before that, laws known colloquially as “Jim Crow” were permitted to proliferate in states that refused to function as democracies. These laws delivered to Black people not only disenfranchisement but open terror and violence, with the full support of the moral ancestors of today’s supremacist party, who were at that time (as a matter of historical record) mostly Democrats, so I think we’ve learned that supremacy doesn’t mind changing its name and its symbols as long as the message remains. The promulgators of Jim Crow marched with sheets instead of red hats, for example, and they put a D next to their name back then at least as often as they put an R, but they carried signs emblazoned with many of the exact same slogans that seem so familiar today.
And Jim Crow grew out of a series of compromises and surrenders with supremacists who were enraged by the sight of people they thought of as lesser participating in democracy and society, and expected to have their outrage accommodated, as it had been since the Civil War.
And the Civil War—the traitorous mass murder event enacted by southern promulgators and defenders of the institution of human slavery—was itself the inevitable endpoint of a long accommodation with that unsustainable institution, the endpoint of accommodations with supremacy which made a lie of all the fine principles our founding documents enshrine, from the moment those documents were drafted to today.
Until the Civil War, the entire South was, in effect, a genocidal concentration camp, a centuries-long house of nightmares, and wealthy people from North to South profited from it. We could talk about liberty and equality and freedom, but any casual observer could see what we were truly about.
And some observers weren’t so casual.
As a matter of historical record, American chattel slavery and Jim Crow apartheid inspired German Nazis, who formulated their own brand of supremacy on the foundation we set. And yes, there was a war, then, too—in Europe and the Pacific and Africa. The whole world, really. It was a world war, to use a term I may have just coined.
We don’t “both sides” that world war much, I’ve noticed—depending on who I mean by we.
We certainly “both sides” the Civil War, and all the other supremacist acts of active and passive war that came trailing after it, like sharks trailing a slave ship.
We certainly “both sides” the war that is happening in Europe right now. Our supremacists seem eager to take the supremacist side. They campaigned on doing that, too.
And we certainly make sure to fulfill the supremacist expectation that their rage and violence—their acts of war—will be accommodated. Depending, again, on who I mean by we.
Some people don’t get offered the opportunity to accommodate supremacists. They only get the opportunity to submit to oppression and suffer from that oppression, or else defy oppression and suffer even more from war.
And I didn’t even mention our centuries of supremacist war against the many nations of people native to this continent. Failing to mention them doesn’t distinguish me much from many others.
Have I mentioned that this is a series about repair, and sabotage of repair?
Well, it is.
A series recap might be in order. Here goes:
Most of us want to see what is broken get fixed, yet repair seems far from us. I propose it’s because the sequential progressive process of repair—awareness, conviction, confession, repentance, repair—has been sabotaged by a blameless supremacy that refuses to pay any of the natural costs of maintenance, improvement, and repair, or to accept any blame for refusing to make these improvements or repairs, choosing instead to profit from making other people pay the much higher unnatural costs of brokenness.
As I perceive it, each sabotage is a regressive process, the dark mirror of the process of repair, with the final sabotage being war. And, as I perceive it, each sabotage is accommodated by its own enablement; a tacit agreement with supremacy by people who claim to not ascribe to supremacy’s goals.
The enablement of the final sabotage is something I’d name surrender—specifically, a pre-defeated agreement with supremacy to not oppose any supremacist aggression, in exchange for the reward of not having to pay the cost of a fight.
We can see surrender everywhere, if we look for it.
It’s worth thinking about how surrender works in a society founded in blameless supremacy, foundationally convinced that some people matter and others do not, that will go to war against any attempt at reparation.
I’d like to make two brief points about war and surrender.
First, war is what happens when a group raises the cost of opposing their intentions to the point of physical destruction—of property, of life, of liberty, of life expectancy. That is the first common theme of all the historical events I just listed above, and it is why I consider all of them acts of war. And surrender occurs when a combatant no longer possesses the resources and will to meaningfully prevent the other from enacting their intentions, at which point they must pay the price of being dominated.
Secondly, war can only occur when a group willing to wage war acquires the means of waging it—the power and resources, in other words. And that is the second common theme of each act of war I listed; they all involved accommodations of supremacy that provide that power to supremacy without any fight: power-sharing agreements with supremacy by those who might otherwise have opposed it, joining with it instead as a practical matter, in ways that validate supremacy’s core assumptions about whether all people matter, and in ways that empower supremacy to pursue those assumptions not only unopposed but with assistance. I’d call it an accommodating surrender: a surrender offered, not because the resources and ability to oppose supremacy’s intentions had been exhausted, but surrender simply to avoid the cost of opposition entirely, and receive the benefits from having done so.
Surrender is the final accommodation of supremacist sabotage, and, just as the final sabotage of war depends all all previous sabotages, the final accommodation depends on and uses all other accommodations.
Surrender involves an active neutrality about matters that demand perception, an apathetic compromise on matters that need principles, a exoneration of abusers for their abuse that launders their unbelievable denials into common currency, and an appeasing reconciliation of supremacist oppression so encompassing and instinctive that it becomes almost invisible. All of this is ostensibly performed in the name of peace and comity, but is actually designed to maintain a comfortable relationship with a supremacy—which we know, because a comfortable relationship with supremacy is what it actually achieves, even as supremacy wages war against people it deems do not matter, often unopposed by those with the power to do so.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you see ways that people in high positions who claim to know better often don’t do better and sometimes don’t even try even when they could.
Surrender is what happens when we try to progress to repair without making it a higher priority than avoiding cost, and in so doing, remain foundationally aligned with the foundational priority of blameless supremacy, which is to avoid paying costs by making other people pay them.
Surrender avoids the violence of opposing supremacist aggression, and in so doing makes the greater violence of supremist domination inevitable.
Surrender happens when we agree that repair should only be attempted if it generates a profit rather than a cost—which incentivizes supremacists to make sure that any attempt at repair is as costly as possible, and that all brokenness becomes as profitable as possible.
Surrender is what happens when we agree that only those who work full-time jobs and meet certain qualifying metrics deserve support and care and aide—surrendering to the supremacist notion that for most people the right to live is connected inexorably to the act of earning it. And so our support for relief is contingent on every recipient being seen as deserving—which incentivizes those who oppose relief to create classes of the undeserving, and to target and highlight those undeserving people, and to make the process of means testing as complex and impossible and costly as possible.
Surrender only supports the call for justice if that call remains free of strife—which incentivizes unjust supremacists to make every demonstration for justice as violent as possible.
Surrender looks at an oppressive police force larded with white supremacists acting as a brutal and oppressive occupying force, and gives it increasingly more money and resources, trusts it to improve itself, and calls that safety.
Surrender looks at the highest incarceration rates on the planet, at our gulags of enslavement and torture, and worries not about incarceration but crime, seeks to gain more profit from human bondage, seeks to increase the number of crimes and the numbers imprisoned and the excesses of prosecution; surrender looks at our alignment with structural punishment for its own sake and calls that justice.
Surrender looks at an aggressive army used by people of ill intent for wars of convenience, increases its budget every year for less and less security and less and less return, and calls that patriotism.
Surrender looks at a supremacist political party that has spent decades actively dismantling democracy, justice, and every protection of every marginalized class, and tells us that it is not the enemy of democracy and justice, but a necessary opposition, filled with good friends of good will, whose ongoing strength and vitality we must ensure.
Surrender looks at bigotry next to it on the pew and demands nothing of it, while expecting the target of that bigotry to bestow upon the bigot gifts of performative forgiveness and exoneration without confession of wrong or expression of regret, expects the person suffering brokenness to extend reconciliation without reparation; surrender does all this, and calls that unity.
Surrender looks at people marching in common cause with Nazis and gives them credit for not being a Nazi. It acquits them because they found a non-Nazi reason to join with Nazis, and because they didn’t join all the chants, or maybe just mouthed the words.
Surrender teaches supremacist aggressors that people will abandon the effort for justice if the demand turns into a fight—incentivizing oppressors to turn any attempt for justice into a fight.
Surrender teaches oppressors that their threat of war will always be treated as valid and reasonable, and that their acts of war will always go unopposed. Surrender teaches those who suffer supremacist acts of war that their fight against blameless supremacy will be a fight they must engage without allies, and encourages them to surrender, too.
It teaches people struggling under oppression that they will be abandoned, and so encourages them to give up on their convictions and surrender to the passive violence of domination.
It teaches bullies who want to avoid the cost of a fight that there exists no appetite to fight them, which incentivizes further bullying.
Surrender claims to seek justice, then sets itself against the demand for justice, against every tool we use to fight for it. It frames witness as bias, hope as naïveté, moral clarity as sanctimony, and solidarity as divisiveness.
Surrender values not peace for all but comfort for itself.
Surrender doesn’t distinguish between aggression and opposition.
Surrender wants not justice but respectability.
Surrender always negotiates against itself.
Surrender agrees with supremacy that the worst thing possible is cost.
Surrender agrees with supremacy that only some people matter.
Surrender refuses to fight sabotage, so that it can join it.
Surrender encourages war. No—it’s even worse than that. Surrender to aggression incentivizes war. It makes the cost of waging war low. It accepts the offer of surrender on behalf of other people, who have not agreed to surrender, or who will never be given that offer.
You’ll know that repair has been sabotaged, because you’ll find that even very fine people who seem to agree with progressive motion toward repair begin to accept a blameless society’s framing: seeking to change around the margins of the picture without ever changing the picture itself, respecting the boundaries of a framing set by others without ever thinking to move it.
Supremacists sabotage our attempts to repair with suppression and oppression, and if that doesn’t work, then they wage war on people who suffer most from brokenness—war on disabled and sick people, on racial and religious minorities, on women, on queer people, on impoverished people, and so on and so on, a machine designed to eat people that will never run out of people to eat.
But the accommodation is the supremacy, and our surrender to aggression is the accommodation that makes war successful.
Once we’ve agreed to occupy the frame of the blameless society, we remain inside their picture. We never take the journey our compasses have set, because we have seen that repair needs a fight, and we have decided not to fight it.
So now I want to answer the big question, which is what do we do about it?
I want to talk about a tool available to everyone. I want to talk about defiance.
Question: What do I mean by defiance?
I think a reminder is appropriate: this is about reparation—the actual act of repair. More, it’s about becoming people who repair in a society optimized to defend unsustainable brokenness. It’s about being people who are committed as a first priority to repair, no matter the cost, because we are people of repair, not people of cost-avoidance.
Sabotage, at its core, is the act of making repair unnaturally costly. Because it’s animated by the belief that only certain people matter, the sabotage we’ve been contemplating is a supremacist act.
I think defiance of cost-avoiding sabotage must involve paying the cost of repair.
And, long as there are people willing to make that cost a fight, then the cost of repair will mean a fight.
There’s a type of person who when I say “a fight” immediately thinks I’m calling for violent and armed battle.
Well? Am I?
No. I don’t call for it. I would hope to avoid it.
But I recognize that fights sometimes get there.
Can defiance of supremacy involve the sorts of thing we typically associate with violence and war? Armies in fields and pitched battles and guerrilla actions and destruction of property and riot and all that?
It can get there, if supremacy is accommodated to such a degree that it is empowered to wage literal war. I think we all know it sometimes does get there. We stand with Ukraine, I hope, because we can recognize the difference between aggressor and opposer, between abuser and abused. We stand with Black Lives Matter against the violence of American policing for similar reasons, I hope, and would have stood with the Civil Rights Movement against the violence of Jim Crow, I would hope. And I hope we are glad the Confederacy didn’t win its vile war to expand and defend human slavery, and that the Union, despite its own self-interested motivations, was successful at putting it down. And I dare hope we’re glad the Axis powers were opposed and defeated. So yes, it can get there—but we should also hope not to accommodate supremacist sabotage until such grave actions become inevitable. It would be better by far to choose a progressive series of earlier non-violent defiances, which never permit supremacy to gain access to the mechanisms of war.
What else could defiance be? Can it be breaking unjust laws to protect human beings? It can get there. I hope we all agree that the Underground Railroad acted justly. I hope we feel the same way about those who hid Jews and gays and others from Nazis. I hope we feel the same about doctors in totalitarian states like Ohio and Arkansas, who must risk their careers and their freedom to provide pregnant people safe abortions and trans children with life-saving medical care.
Can defiance involve ostracization and shaming? Can it involve separation, and the end of relationships with friends and family members? I think it can get there, depending on the dynamics, depending on who needs to be protected, and from whom.
Yes, defiance can involve a physical fight for those able to engage in it, and it might involve supporting the struggle even if it gets physical for others, but certainly let’s not start there. Let’s hope to avoid that cost, not by pre-surrendering, but by choosing earlier battles that might rob supremacy of the power to pursue war unopposed.
And we must remember that conflict is not the point. The point is repair, if we intend to be people of repair. Therefore, our fight is not primarily against broken people but against brokenness itself. And in a society optimized for brokenness, any act of repair and any payment of any cost is an act of defiance.
I’ll say that again: any act of repair is a defiant act.
And so is any payment of any cost.
So: what can you fix? What can you pay?
There’s a lot that needs fixing. There are many costs.
Contemplating these costs and the enormity of the struggle to repair all that is broken can feel frightening or overwhelming. I know—because that’s how I feel, too. It can feel like shouldering the weight of the world. What can one person do against everything? How can one person change the world? How can I fight what I hate without becoming what I hate?
It’s a lot. It might make you want to give up. It might almost feel like it’s designed to make you want to give up.
Let’s start here: Can you choose awareness instead of ignorance? Can you know about brokenness? Can you listen and learn about abuse and aggression from those who suffer its effects? Can you be aware something that is uncomfortable to know about your country or your society or your place in it? Can you accept that there are ways that your experience is incomplete, and that there are other people who have a deeper and more complete understanding of the corruption and abuse and brokenness of our broken society, specifically because it is they who have been made to suffer the costs? Can you listen to those voices without feeling the need to impose your voice? Can you bear witness to these hard truths, even though knowing it is harder than not knowing? Can you reject the supremacist advantages ignorance gives you? Can you pay the cost of your own blamelessness?
If you can, do you know what that is?
It’s repair. It’s defiance.
Can you be convicted by that new knowledge? Can you choose conviction instead of complacency? Can you believe that repair is both necessary and possible? Can you expect it enough to demand it, even if it seems unlikely? Can you reject valueless neutrality, refusing to accept all the various reasons you’re given to not care, choosing instead to engage in a rugged hope for better things, even though most people believe better things are impossible, even though caring is harder than not caring? Can you pay the cost of your own comfort? Defiance.
Can you proclaim your awareness and conviction of brokenness, simply and clearly, with moral clarity that sees your own place within the brokenness and then refuse to deny it, speaking of it honestly enough that it exposes that brokenness even on behalf of those who refuse to speak, even if it makes for uncomfortable conversations and strained relationships? Can you hear truths about ways supremacy benefits you without making your priority establishing your good intentions and having them validated? Can you accept some of the blame for supremacy even though supremacy offers you blameless reconciliation without reparation? Can you pay the cost of your own automatically presumed goodness? I’ll tell you what that is. Defiance.
Can you change your priorities and your determination, away from comfort and ease and toward the costs of repair? Can you convert your conviction into action? Can you commit to unwavering solidarity with people who are threatened by oppression, and take on some of the threat even though you don’t have to, lose some of your reputation with those who would reward you for staying out of the fight? Can you enter places where space to lead and speak, to be heard and believed, to receive opportunity and advancement is automatically bestowed to you, and rather than claim those gifts allow that space to be taken by others whose voices are seen as disruptions, whose presence is seen as intrusion, whose advancement is seen as a threat? Can you allow the struggle to repair to become one in which you aren’t the primary protagonist? Can you pay the cost of your own supremacy? I’ll tell you what that is. Defiance.
Can you refuse to surrender your commitment to repair even if those who are opposed to repair make sure the price for doing so is high? Can you fight in whatever little way it is given to you to fight, in order to insist on repair? If you find yourself asked to take a bit of the higher costs of brokenness, which usually are given entirely to more marginalized people, can you take it on? Can you support a movement toward sustainable justice even if it temporarily costs you money and property and safety? Can you become more aware, more convicted, more aligned with repair today than you were yesterday? Can you pay the cost of whatever profit you receive from unsustainable brokenness?
Defiance, defiance, defiance.
A willingness to pay the natural costs of repair, and a determination to take on the higher unnatural costs of sabotage whenever necessary. Defiance.
And then there’s this: defiance sabotages sabotage itself, by increasing the cost of every step of sabotage.
That’s what it all comes down to, you know. Cost management.
So: who will pay the cost of your decisions? Yourself, or somebody else?
Who will pay the costs of sabotage? The blameless saboteurs, who insist on avoiding every cost? Or those they would harm with every cost imaginable?
Which way do your decisions guide that flow?
Surrender makes war cheap, and maintains comfortable relationships with aggressors. But defiance demolishes pre-defeated surrender, and increases the cost of waging war—and might move to your cause many already-surrendered people whose only goal is to avoid cost.
Witness makes the cost of ignorance high. It exposes ignorance by speaking to what is without trying enter ignorance’s obfuscating smokescreens to argue over varying degrees of what is not. It exposes the efforts to hold on to ignorance in the face of truth as a deliberate act intended to strangle repair in the cradle of intention. It exposes neutrality between truth and lies as the strategy of enabling self-interested cowardice it is, rather than the open-minded clarity of thought it claims to be. In so doing, every act of witness lowers the cost of awakening for everybody.
Hope makes the cost of complacency high. It exposes complacency by believing that better things are not only possible but necessary. It exposes the efforts to maintain complacency in the face of brokenness as the morally lazy selfishness it is, rather than the pragmatic realism it claims to be. It exposes enabling compromise as a negotiated collusion, designed not to establish a better foothold toward repair, but rather to establish a more comfortable position from which to stop caring about what is broken. In so doing, every act of hope lowers the cost of conviction for everybody.
Moral clarity makes the cost of denial high. It exposes denial as self-interested fraud by always drawing focus to actual results and actual outcomes. It exposes denial’s attempts to cast itself as both victim and jury by refusing to participate in enabling exoneration, beginning with self-exoneration. It exposes the instinct of non-threatened parties to offer exoneration to abusers on behalf of the abused as the self-interested conspiracy of supremacy that it is, rather than the fair-minded tolerance it claims to be. In so doing, every act of clarity lowers the cost of confession for everybody.
Solidarity makes the cost of oppression high. It exposes oppression as a cruel attempt to maintain and expand supremacy, by refusing to abandon those who suffer oppression’s effects. By refusing to accept oppression’s abuses, solidarity exposes oppression as the absolutely unacceptable abuse that it is, rather than the self-defense it claims to be. It exposes all enabling attempts to reconcile with abuse before repair has taken place as what it is, which is a load-bearing pillar of oppression. In so doing, solidarity lowers the cost of repentance—that is, realignment—for everybody.
And all of this, taken together, is defiance, that is: a willingness to fix brokenness and fight sabotaging supremacy, wherever it is found.
A blameless society, founded in supremacy, hates defiance, because it inevitably makes supremacy pay a higher cost for waging war—and supremacy is, above everything, opposed to paying costs.
Or you might say, a bully hates a fight. Even a bully willing to fight hates a fight; what a bully loves is cost-free cruelty, and achieving cruelty without having to pay the cost of a fight is what the bullying is for.
For this reason, I think you’ll know that you’ve entered into a spirit of reparation, when you start to repair what’s broken and notice that the cost of doing so is much higher than it ought to be, and then, crucially, if you pay the higher cost anyway.
Defiance of supremacist sabotage always repairs and refuses to accept anything else.
One other point about war: supremacy only progresses to war when all its other less costly sabotages—ignorance, complacency, denial, oppression—have started to fail to such a degree that repair has actually begun and the abuser is forced to fight to preserve its unjust advantage.
You see? War is not a position of strength. It’s a position of weakness. It’s the last gasp of a failed spiritual movement based on a vile lie. It’s an indication that reparation is near.
All the more reason to not abandon the fight to surrender. All the more reason to choose defiant repair instead.
I think defiance is a powerful tool in our fight against sabotage, available to everyone.
It changes the frame. It changes the atmosphere.
It tells a new story.
And that’s what I think repair looks like.
A parting question: why do we need repair, anyway?
On the surface, this may seem like a silly question. We need to repair what’s broken, because if we don’t then we’ll continue to live in an unsustainably broken world—one that will inevitably eat us.
In a very practical way, repair is its own reward.
But just as supremacy and repair are movements governed by our collective human spirit, I think there exists a spiritual aspect to repair.
We need to repair, because the work of repair is the only path a society founded on brokenness has to redemption.
And I think that’s a good place to end.
See you in a week.
A.R. Moxon is the author of the novel The Revisionaries, available in most of the usual places and some of the unusual places, and co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media. He’s that sucker with the parrot on his shoulder.