All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.John Steinbeck
All heroic action can be categorized into either reactions or revolutions.
You either protect against something that threatens the existing order, or a rebel against injustice.
- Heroes react to threats that seek to harm the innocent. They step in ready to take action, fueled by empathy and compassion, willing to make sacrifices in order to protect people from harm.
- Villains react against any movement that seeks to disrupt their power. They see themselves as the victims of harmful aggression, by those unworthy and undeserving of power.
- Heroes lead or participate in the revolution that seeks to free people from suffering. They fight against tyrannical power in order to create a world where all people can be free.
- Villains see their fight as a revolution with the end goal of reclaiming the power that was rightfully theirs, and bringing “justice” to those who sought to deny them.
What separates heroes from villains, is whether the triumph results in liberation or subjugation.
Right now, we are in the midst of several reactions and revolutions as we stare into the face of Fascism spreading throughout the United States. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon us to know which side we’re on. So, today, let’s pick a side.
Picking Sides: Neutrality
In my post The Business Ethics of Neutrality, I outlined some of what’s going on in this country.
If you missed that one, catch up on it here.
In short, if you pick neutrality, you side with the oppressor.
Unfortunately, many of our superhero narratives are little more than thinly veiled neutrality.
I absolutely love superhero movies, but…they can often be a bit milquetoast in their revolutionary spirit.
More often than not, superheroes confront villains who are evil to the point of absurdity. Stopping a villain who singularly wants to rule the world or wipe out half of the life in the universe is obviously noble, but the banality of evil is the more realistic ever-present threat to humanity.
The essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them.Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
The status quo is fertile soil in which to sow seeds of division and polarization. Therefore, there is nothing heroic about preserving the status quo and both leaving behind those currently suffering under it, and providing the conditions for villainy to grow.
If we wish to be heroic and create a world for all humans to thrive, we cannot settle for the status quo.
Picking Sides: Villainy
The irony of this section — and, honestly, this entire post — is that villains never think they are picking “the wrong side.” If someone whose politics obviously conflict with mine were to read this section, they would think I was talking about the activists fighting against police brutality, against voter suppression, or for the liberation of all people from the grip of White-Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy (shout out to Bell Hooks).
This is because no one is the villain in their own story.
In nearly all cases, everyone thinks of themselves as fighters for a better world. This is partly because all one has to do is reframe a narrative so that the people being victimized are really the perpetrators, while the perpetrators are really the victims.
Throughout our nervous history, we have constructed pyramidic towers of evil, ofttimes in the name of good.Maya Angelou
It is a manipulation of the perception of harm.
When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.Franklin Leonard
Virtually no one picks the side of villainy. Instead, people find themselves participants in causing harm to others by failing to engage in critical thinking or empathy. This means that some will fall into becoming a mere cog in the machine; a part being used by an operator with a grander ambition. In other cases, they are those operators who lead a fight for the preservation of the heirarchies that place them at the top.
If you want to choose villainy, ask yourself whether some lives or identities matter more than others. Ask yourself if there are natural heirarchies in which you are conveniently located at the top. Examine what sort of harm results from the conflicting ideologies — which results in emotional discomfort and which in bodily/existential harm?
Picking Sides: Heroism
I’m assuming that if you are still reading, this is the one you want to choose. You want to protect people being harmed. You want a kinder, safer, and more equitable world. So, I’ll cut to the chase.
A heroic revolution requires people at all levels.
- Some create friction
- Some provide financing and resources
- Some are willing to sacrifice everything in order to lead grand changes
Some have more to lose than others but, everyone can play a role. We need everyone, so find your role.
We need wealthy financiers, rebellious activists, propagandists and creators, and people on the inside slowing down the apparatus.
Fascism thrives on bureaucratic functions. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is disrupt that apparatus.
Under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not… No more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Some concrete plans
- If there are forms to report “incidents” such as people exercising autonomy over their bodies, or expressing their identity that doesn’t harm anyone, we need to develop solutions that jam up those forms with junk data. Consider using voter rolls of the oppressing party for people to report.
- If there are phone numbers to call to report, we need to flood the phone lines, manually or with robocall campaigns that keep those lines jammed up.
- If you see someone harassing a person coming out of the bathroom for being suspected of being trans, report THEM for being trans. Make sure they know that “you can always tell.” Since they won’t like having their gender questioned either, make sure to misgender them — for good measure.
- If you see a black person being harassed and stopped by cops, gather around and record the event. Get as many people as you can to join you.
- If you see Proud Boys, Patriot Front, or other white supremacist hate groups, record video of them. Get pictures of their faces. Take pictures of their license plates. If you’re driving Lyft or Uber, bring them to the wrong location, act confused, report them to Lyft and Uber.
Do everything you can to slow the wheels of operation.
- We need people to finance these solutions.
- We need developers to build these solutions.
- We need organized action and solidarity to ensure we have people everywhere operating in lock-step.
- We need educators to help people to think critically about the world and spark curiosity to learn more
- We need journalists to expose the corruption and hold people in power accountable for the harm they cause
Do everything you can. Be part of the heroic fight, in whatever way you can.
Remember this: Freedom is a pure idea. It occurs spontaneously, and without instruction.Nemik’s Manifesto, From Andor (on Disney+)
We cannot grow apathetic. We cannot give up. We cannot cede ground.
This fight will keep coming back.
Keep pushing back. Keep protecting one another. Keep finding ways to create the world we all can live in, safely.
Oppression is the mask of fear. Remember that.Nemik’s Manifesto, From Andor (on Disney+)
Special thanks to By Maria Popova of The Marginalian for the remarkable collection of curated quotes and excellent breakdowns in the post: The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt on the Normalization of Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It.
Sincerely, thank you! I could not have written this without your work.
Some of you may ask: What does this have to do with business? Why is this on a professional blog?
Maybe something. Maybe nothing.
That’s for you to think about.
But consider this: what does business have to do with our lives, and the society we live in? How ought we to think of what we do professionally and whether it stands apart from the sea of injustices? Keep in mind that at one point in time, human beings were seen as property, similar to livestock, and the movement to abolish that practice was seen — in some contexts — as a business issue. Now think about how prison labor is still used as slave labor today, right here in the United States.
Business is not separate from the world we live in, it serves the world we live in. This is a business blog, and the fate of the world is our business.