How to Rebel Against Oppression and be Politically Correct, Without Pushing the Agenda of the Far-left or Far-Right
Most groups, bound by class, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or some other force have faced oppression with rebellion. Here are tips on avoiding common pitfalls. Human rights have always been hard-won, but the battle doesn’t always require bloodshed or extremes to win. In fact, as Albert Camus eludes, although rebellion is a natural response to the absurdity of sociopolitical alienation, the act of rebellion is much like sisyphus vs. the stone, an uphill and rather Kafkaesque battle at the end of the day. Luckily, we can look to famous fails like the French and October revolutions to avoid making the same mistakes our predecessors did.
TIP: Pitfalls = Such as helping to spur on a rebellion to ensure a certain type of global elite falls out of power, only to realize the environment in which you enjoyed the freedom to strike down that beast was in fact a product of the beast themselves, and thus you quickly find yourself with even less friends in the next cycle where the angry mob’s wind is not at your back, but rather the torches are now at your door. Be you Brutus, Maximilien Robespierre, Julian Assange, Victor Frankenstein, or any other useful innocent. In words, Ron Paul’s Tea Party can become a tool for the far-right before you can even say, “hey wait, this was supposed to be about small government,” or Marx’s revolution can become about Stalin before you can say, “hey wait, did anyone even bother reading Capital?”
Interest Group Formation: Crash Course Government and Politics #43. When you form a group, you have created an “interest group”. Special interests and factions aren’t good or bad, but it does help to understand the history of special interests in America and your First Amendment rights (including your right to peaceful assembly).
FACT: The great existentialist (who didn’t consider himself an existentialist) Albert Camus wrote a whole book on Rebellion vs. Revolution. Camus’ book “the Rebel” looks at the French revolution to see how rebellion in political spheres is an advent of the absurdity of life. This theory is similar to Marx’s theory of alienation and both relate to Kierkegaard’s theories regarding his Concept of Anxiety and the general “end of history” theory (see this pro-western end of history theory for an alternative view). Marx didn’t consider himself a Marxist, Camus didn’t consider himself an existentialist, Saul Alinsky never joined any group, and John Maynard Keynes wouldn’t call himself a liberal… but all understood the relationship between absurdity, alienation, rebellion, revolution, and specifically the French Revolution (any philosopher worth their salt will always contemplate that revolution and its terrors when discussing these concepts). NOTE: This is a case where something, namely the cycle of oppression and rebellion, really is “Kafkaesque“. See “What is the Difference Between a Civil War, Revolution, and Rebellion?” for our thoughts on the matter.
Avoiding Over-Correction and Under-Correction: How to Be a Radical Without Being a Bull in a China Shop
Rebellion is about the oppressed and alienated pushing for correction as a group, and striving for justice as a collective. Saul Alinsky knew this and used to to great effect, but he could do so because he was both brave, level headed, and intelligent. He never blindly committed to a group, heck, he never even joined a group he started. Instead, Saul tread lightly despite his bold approach.
“Under-Correction” (not doing enough) can be dangerous, but “Over-correction” (or overreacting) can too easily play into the hand of extremists and oppressors and have a damaging effect on the image of a group, no matter how righteous their cause. See the French Revolution for instance. It is too easy to drag the name of a good cause through the mud by turning to the radicalism found in the French Revolution.
Every situation must be carefully analyzed in order to minimize the risk of rebellion leading to an even more extreme type of oppression. If you remember the Hunger Games, you’ll note the layers of Complexity Katniss dealt with in her journey. Things are rarely black and white, and emotions almost always are running high.
Political Correctness and Oppression
Political correctness (the politics of how to treat groups) is oddly connected to the spirit of rebellion. This is because it has been used time and time again to oppress groups in a variety of clever ways the average person would never think about.
This includes the concept of “tolerance as a form of intolerance” where those with good intentions are used as “useful innocents” by powerful groups who claim to share an ideology with the group; But it also includes a rejection of tolerance, a rejection of PC, and an ambivalence toward tolerance. You can see the other links for that discussion, or get a basic overview of PC here.
A Twofold Problem with Correction
The point above isn’t to avoid doing what is right for a fear of some PC/Tolerance/Sensitivity paradox, it is to apply critical thinking alongside morality and ethics and to think five steps ahead to avoid the paranoid and rash decisions common with so many uprisings, protests, civil wars, riots, and revolutions.
The problem is twofold:
- Oppressed groups will always rebel as a way to “correct” their situation and overcome oppression. This can cause a chain reaction of resistance, as typically it involves “pushing things too far” (which we call “over-correction”). For instance, this happens when the group riots against something, rather than sitting down at the table to find common ground (which isn’t always an option). Or, when the victorious rebels demand equalizing forces that are later used against them or others. In simple terms, despite the complex mechanics in practice, over-correction by one group causes an equal and opposite resistance by another group, and the results can get ugly fast (see the rebellion in the Ukraine for instance).
- “Being correct” and fighting for equality is arguably a good moral thing, yet this is constantly being used against “the people,” as “an equal society” means there is lots of room for special interests to take over. Many governments have fallen victim to this outside the EU and US.
The Question and Answer
The question becomes, “how can we effectively treat others with respect” and “get others to treat our group with respect.” We need this on personal, social, and cultural levels, despite the fact we tend to fear “others,” need to sometimes “over-correct” to ensure change, and know our good intentions can be used against us?
I believe the answer is, both checking our social biases, being more aware of other people’s agendas, and finding a compromise with the very groups that try to keep us down. There are two reasons to oppress a group, 1. is fear and 2. is wanting power over them. We don’t have to accept others wanting power over us, but we should work to understand any fears that are valid.
As Obama said, “if a group demands something over and over, and doesn’t get it, they feel they aren’t being listened to.” In other words, those groups that try to push for ideas that are too radical set down a slippery slope (a slope that, while not always the wrong path, needs to be navigated with caution). There are 7.2 billion different opinions on earth, and 320 million in America alone, expecting everyone to join an extreme cause is often not a reasonable long-term objective. The real victory is won by sitting at the table with allies and rivals and finding common ground. Consider, when the North won the Civil War Lincoln had the band play Dixie and began reconstruction to ensure the unity of the states, and compare that to the radical Northern Republicans who wanted to hang the Southerners after the war. Consider when MLK sat down with LBJ around the time of Selma, and compare that to Malcolm X and his methods. What is right at one point in time, is not always right; when it is, it isn’t always the most effective way forward.
TIP: The hippies, the Suffragettes, the Civil War, the World Wars, Gandhi, Stonewall and the fight for LGBT rights, or the coal fields of southern West Virginia. Whether the oppressor is Margaret Thatcher, an employer, or the state, class, race, and socioeconomic status are typically at the center of the story. People don’t give up power without a good fight, that fight can be a fight of words or fists, the better organized the group, the more chance others will listen, and the better the chance for non-violent revolution. Here is an overview of the master-guide on Saul Alinsky’s community organizing strategy.
TIP: One might see capitalism as a form of oppression, but capitalism is rather democratic. Unregulated capitalism has its drawbacks, but even the great Athens was a capitalist society. Learn about wealth inequality and how Athens overcame this without turning to National Socialism or Communism like their neighbors in Sparta in the video below.
Famous Greeks Series Solon. In around 600 BC Solon liberated Athens (without violence) and created one of the greatest nations of all time. Athenian Democracy is always a guidepost for what is correct in society. Athens valued liberty, justice, and (for the time) equality. They did this while retaining a form of capitalism.
Rebellion, Oppression, PC and the Over-Correction V. Under-Correction of Bias
The over-correction and the under-correction of behavior (and often “bias”), and the enforcement of either through political or cultural means, are equally dangerous to a progressive society.
- “Over-correction“, or suppression of behavior can be a form of prejudice and oppression (as equality implies equal respect to limit oppression), this means enforcing correct behavior can be a divisive form of oppression that is just as bad or worse as the original oppression. This, by any name, including Communism in practice, is a form of Fascism.
- Conversely, “under-correction” of behavior can lead to a similar type of division by alienating groups who require some sort of protection to ensure an equal footing.
Equal respect for other humans and groups is at the core of truly being “politically correct” in the purest of humane and moral senses. Placing any one person on a pedestal (including one’s self) due to inherent features of race and gender, or even chosen traits like a political group affiliation, is a form of prejudice since it implies inequality. Likewise, not protecting those who need protection is a form of oppression. If we put a Lion and a Kitten in the same room, and do nothing else, it is not equality; it is slaughter.
Examples of over-correction and under-correction by political philosophy include:
- Communism = Over-correcting behavior and being “too equal” has never worked in practice. It is too easy for one group to take over.
- Pure Libertarianism = Under-correcting behavior and being “too unequal” has never worked in practice. It is too easy for one group to take over.
Let’s apply the related concept of being Politically Correct to the “over” and “under” correction of behavior in society either by the demand of a group or by the state.
- “Politically correct” is used as a criticism of pushing “correct” behavior on society through cultural or political pressure. It implies oppression by the left through oppressively liberal policies. This can theoretically run the danger of becoming “totalitarian” when it is “over-enforced” by society and culture.
- “Politically correct” is used to describe the proper compensation of bias, and appropriate understanding and tolerance, shown to “out-groups” (groups we aren’t a member of). It means treating everyone with equal respect and using the correct terminology of the time to show one’s intention of this. This can be “gently” reinforced by society and culture in a healthy way that respects differences and understands that humans have hardwired biases. However, “over-correction” runs the risk of creating more oppression.
Nonviolence and Peace Movements: Crash Course World History 228- Crash Course PBS.
TIP: Want a better understanding of prejudice and discrimination. Check out Simply Psychology.
Almost All Groups Have Faced Oppression
The thing to remember is that the entire history of humankind is filled with oppression whether it’s the Jews, Christians, Islam, Women, Dark people, Light people, People with glasses, gay people, people are inherently biased toward their group and against other groups. Being accepting of an out-group, like it is your in-group, is a learned behavior. This means it takes time, effort, and communication to bridge some gaps.
Attempting to treat a group correctly will often result in the over-correcting of behavior. Teaching correct behavior to a society sometimes even requires an over-correction. That means it would be natural and effective to be somewhat “overly politically sensitive” as a society and, at the same time, state intentions clearly and remain on guard of the real danger of the state using that sensitivity to limit free speech and oppress people.
We know from human nature that we are hardwired to fear out-groups, and we know from human history that any people can and will be oppressed at every opportunity.
There is no simple solution, but one thing is very clear. If we don’t keep an open dialogue and we allow the pendulum to swing one way or another we will quickly find ourselves with more oppressed groups seeking to rebel. Rebelling won’t typically be considered PC, and here, even at the end of the page, we add another layer of complexity.
Oppression 101. Just about every group has had a long history of oppression and rebellion. It’s easy to see one specific group as “bad”, but that is a form of oppression itself. To understand PC, we must understand oppression.
- Human Rights as Moral Rebellion and Social Construction
- Rebellion, Revolution, and Armed Force: A Comparative Study of 15 Countries
- Chaos, Oppression, and Rebellion: The Use of Self-Help to Secure Individual Rights under International Law
- Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields