Everyday Tips for Surviving Tyranny: Anonymous

Guest Post by ANONYMOUS

Suspected Banksy mural in London in support of environmentalist protest. 

As authoritarian right-wing populist leaders across the world unleash a reign of tyranny and hate, there is a need to think together about everyday strategies of survival. As an individual, it can get a bit overwhelming. Everything could look pointless. Many friends talk about how they find it impossible to write or work in an atmosphere of hate and violence. However, it is important to remember that what might look invincible today may not last for even half a decade. But while it lasts, how does one live under tyranny and what are the ways of building non-violent resistance?

Some important resources to map possibilities of  survival and resistance under authoritarianism are:

  1. Masha Gessen’s  Autocracy: Rules for Survival’ . Her ten rules include

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you

Rule #4: Be outraged.

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises.

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever.

2. Smruti Koppikar’s post on resistance. and fighting back darkness

3. From Turkey’s jailed journalists, How to survive tyranny: 10 pieces of advice from Turkey. The most important reminder in this list being:

Never assume democracy is the default mode – it needs constant protection

The following list is an effort to contribute to this body of writings. Please add your own tips to the comment section. Since authoritarianism has different colors across the globe, strategies of survival and resistance need to be responsive to the situation at hand. This list responds to the situation in contemporary India.

  1. Spend at least 2 weekends per month to be a part of a local group which works against the atmosphere of hate. It is important to build more spaces for face to face interaction. Getting dragged into ‘WhatsApp wars’ with relatives or old classmates may not be the best way to respond to the situation at hand. Face to face communication is a key element which sustains the networks of Hindutva groups. Try forming a book reading group or film screening initiative which can create a space to talk about progressive ideas. Such spaces are very important to resist diverse modes of state and vigilante censorship. The success of groups like UK’s grassroots network Momentum shows the importance of face to face communication.
  1. Try to build a coalition of like-minded people and networks. Engage with already existing groups like National Alliance of People’s Movements. At the individual level, host dinners at home which will allow people working in diverse areas to meet each other. Try doing country wide events where resources are pooled together. The Hindutva groups have worked for almost a century to build independent organizations which are part of a strong central network. Progressive groups need to build stronger networks amongst themselves.
  1. The work you do is very important. You could be anyone- a worker, student, activist, historian, writer, artist.. It is easy to feel disheartened. Find a time of the day when you concentrate on what you do. That work can help in forming modes of resistance. Even as we are surrounded by tyranny, we need to write, work, sing, study, draw and do the many things that needs to be done.
  1. Cultivate strong friendships. Do not neglect mental health which could be one of the first causalities in an atmosphere of fear and hate. Practice self-care. Build a community of like-minded people around you who will help each other.
  1. As Masha Gessen points out, expect the worst from the authoritarian establishment. Be prepared for things to get worse than they already are. Change your strategies according to the situation at hand. In a country like India, the spread of hate and fear is bound to be uneven. Build collaborations with comrades in states which do not have right-wing governments.
  1. Travel. As you move around the country, you will notice that not everyone is a hate monger. Unemployment, lack of healthcare, water crisis etc. are real problems which concerns everyone. Hate becomes a tool to turn attention away from such issues. Visit civil society groups which work on such issues and learn from their experiences.
  1. Question the way in which right-wing groups construct ‘THE Hindu’ and ‘THE Muslim’. These groups rely on crass narratives. Look for ways to disrupt such narratives. The sayings and work of figures ranging from Buddha and Kabir to Savitribai Phule and Tagore provide a firm ground to oppose right-wing constructions. Resist the ‘cult of idiocy’ by forming social spaces which encourage critical thinking.
  2. Corporates which control media infrastructures play an important role in sustaining the authoritarian establishment. Find ways to support alternate media. Dedicate a portion from your income to support media outlets that refuse to toe the line of the establishment.
  3. Find money to support organizations, NGOs and collectives which work against the tide of hate. It is important to raise funds from within India; it is easy for the establishment to choke foreign funding. Try to build sustainable models of crowd funding which draws from Indian models of charity.

Most of all, write, draw, film, sing and do whatever you can to form a narrative of love, harmony and peace. Hate might be the hottest commodity in the current scenario. The WhatsApp forwards, inflammatory speeches, lynching and state violence become possible because an ecosystem of hate. A better future can only emerge through strong networks based on a philosophy of love, comradeship and non-violence.

Each of us can contribute to build that future…with our words, money, time and friendships.

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