The last lesson in “On Tyranny” is to be as courageous as you can. Do you actually care enough about freedom that you would take risks? Do individuals actually care about freedom? Think that through. I think if enough of us take the little risks at the beginning, which aren’t really that significant, this will prevent us from having to take bigger risks down the line.
Lyotard shifted attention away from the content of free speech to the way certain topics restrict speech as a public good. Some things are unmentionable and undebatable, but not because they offend the sensibilities of the sheltered young. Some topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms.
When one person’s “free speech” is a dismissal of others’ humanity or a demand that others justify their humanity, the latter are either treated as non-participants in the debate or have their participation limited to defending their right to be there–which means they don’t truly have free speech themselves. Thus:
It has been regrettably easy for commentators to create a simple dichotomy between a younger generation’s oversensitivity and free speech as an absolute good that leads to the truth. We would do better to focus on a more sophisticated understanding, such as the one provided by Lyotard, of the necessary conditions for speech to be a common, public good. This requires the realization that in politics, the parameters of public speech must be continually redrawn to accommodate those who previously had no standing.
Regular citizens can only do so much to help the ACLU, primarily donate to the organization so its lawyers and other experts can work within the legal system to do what the rest of us can’t.
In the wake of the 2016 election, the ACLU saw the untapped passion of its many new members and took its record donations to a new project, a mobilization arm called People Power.
People Power is, at its core, a grassroots member-mobilization project. Through People Power, the ACLU will engage volunteers across the country to take action when Trump or his administration attempt to enact unconstitutional policies or trample on people’s constitutional rights. By mobilizing in defense of our civil liberties, volunteers will build local communities that affirm our American values of respect, equality, and solidarity.
If you’re still looking for the right movement or activist coordination group for you, and if you appreciate being part of something backed up by the history and expertise of the ACLU, take a look at People Power’s website and events map.
Resistbot is a pretty sweet little tool that takes messages you text and turns them into hard copies to send to Congress via fax or mail. Aside from a few tweaks as users get more experienced, that’s all there is to it–which means that if you hate making phone calls, it’s never been easier to share your thoughts with your representatives!
The Intercept has produced a three-minute video of tips to protect your identity, location, and communications from authorities who might surveil protestors or try to access your phone during arrest. If you’re off to a protest, even what you expect to be a peaceful one, it couldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes preparing.
The video is the beginning of a series, Cybersecurity for the People, that will cover other privacy and security measures regular folks can take as activists or to retain greater control over their everyday digital lives.
Resistance School is a free four-week practical training program that will sharpen the tools we need to fight back at the federal, state, and local levels. Our goal is to keep the embers of resistance alive through concrete learning, community engagement, and forward-looking action.
Resistance School was created by a group of Harvard graduate students who found a lack of education for would-be activists: What really are the most effective ways to get people organized, convince others of their positions, and keep activism rolling through time and challenges?
I’ve watched the second (two-hour) video myself–though it’s an option, no signup is required to watch–and I found it both illuminating and easy to understand. Any group can learn from the Resistance School lessons, including those affiliated with other organizations, making it an ideal companion for both new community activists and longtime veterans.