Orion Digest №44 — Ignorance and Oppression

The present is a strange and chaotic time. For a child to be born into the fiery swathe of politics and crisis, it must be confusing, no matter where you end up, to try and understand oneself and their relation to the rest of the world. Depending on what kind of family you are into as well as what you look like, you may be hated for any one of a number of aspects, and the friends you make will steer you into one faction or another in the game of fear and strife that is deciding how to handle the future of this world. Context aside, it must be a mentally draining ordeal to place on the shoulders of new generations, and yet, this Gordian knot has no clear way out.

It is understandable, given the knowledge of history and the ravages of the world today, why many people would be so dug in deep into their individual factions. Those who have historically been disadvantaged live in fear, hesitant to trust because the assumption of danger is safer than the assumption of safety. On the other hand, those blind to the problems and fears of others are so often misguided and twisted into the monsters that prey on the fearful, welded into shapes by the great and terrible machine that makes up our social consciousness. At birth, no one is set to become this way, but the self-perpetuating cycle has kept up the production of an oppressor class that lays waste to the oppressed.

Out of the two, the oppressed is to be more deserving of sympathy. To be robbed of the opportunity to fully live life is a horrific fate on many levels — once said life is over, what has been taken can never truly be given back or repaid, merely avenged. Illogically, and entirely out of deep-seated discrimination within the minds and conditioning of the oppressors, the oppressed are barred from entry to many avenues of work, recognition, and respect, and worse yet, are made to live in fear by physical and social violence. From childhood, they have to learn a different and more difficult path in life, by no fault of their own, and live in a world made and catered to people other than themselves.

For the youth of the traditional oppressor class, this concept may seem confusing, for it is a worldview entirely outside of their own. Growing up, the world seems fine to them, and the grievances for which they are blamed seem to have little grounds — after all, they specifically did nothing to intentionally breed discrimination. So many things that are, in their own ways, harmful are simply sewn into the fabric of our social consciousness, and with such a wool pulled over the eyes, it is easy to see how the two groups would struggle to see eye to eye. It is understandable that, for someone who doesn’t understand, it must seem confusing to be hated and feared. However, with a mere shift in perspective, how could one not fear the engines by which oppression are propagated? By not being cognizant of one’s complacency in a oppressive system, they help to create said system by playing their trained part within society.

Worse is that there have arisen, in the past few years, many of the latter class that, in response to the hatred and grievance of the oppressed, become themselves angry and vengeful towards those that hate them, creating the start of a cycle of violence. The actions of the oppressors in years past left the oppressed resentful, and in their anger and fear, they show hatred towards the descendants and symbols of the oppressors, and in response, those descendants strike back, using the retribution as an excuse to fuel antiquated habits of discrimination. The treatment of the oppressor by the oppressed is in no way equal to that which had been done to them, especially because there is not the wide-scale threat of force behind it, and yet, once again, the ignorance of the fact that this anger is caused by grief and fear rather than unfounded malice causes even more harm.

Let it be known that humanity has no true enemy other than ignorance and fear. Our ignorance of how to conduct ourselves respectfully lead to a domino chain throughout history that created numerous atrocities and mistakes; all of which have helped us learn and improve after the fact. Nevertheless, we are still trapped within the cage of our own design, lead forth by nationalist and capitalist ideals that many still believe in. Fear, too, is our enemy, because it causes us to act irrationally and hurt others, in an attempt to gain our own security. Even if one can recognize the system around themself as corrupt, not playing the game of labor and business means to risk one’s survival, and breaking the rules paints a target upon one’s back.

Just the same, it is ignorance on the part of the oppressor class that breeds fear in the oppressed, and it must be understood by all that neither side themselves is “the enemy” — it is ignorance we should combat, and fear we should assuage. The latter cannot be so easily dissuaded without proof of safety; it is the responsibility of the oppressor to combat ignorance, not simply by not contributing to the overall problem, but by actively listening and seeking the education of their peers. It must be understood that the plight of the oppressed is to endure the grief of generations past while also struggling to break through the ceiling that has been placed upon them, and even it requires effort and discomfort on the part of the oppressor, it is worthwhile for the future prosperity of all humanity.

To all those that hold privilege by virtue of their place in the system, while having responsibility on your shoulders may seem confusing, the weight is far too common for others, and the task at hand is one far too long owed to them. If you have valued happiness, or shunned pain, then you know that others would want to reach for happiness and get away from pain, just the same as you. It is not simply a matter of money or resources; they are oft denied the inherent opportunity, no matter how hard they work, that you have been given. It is not bad for you to have the chance to be happy and to enjoy your life, but until everyone has that same chance, those that succeed will do so on the backs of others.

The privileged are not evil, but they hold in their hands a responsibility. One may complain that they have to go out of their way for others, but that argument lies only upon their perspective; if they were to see the vast ocean their fellow humans have to cross, the pond would not seem so deep. The ignorant are not irredeemable, but they must understand that everyone deserves respect. Those who breed hatred and discrimination are human too, as uncomfortable as the truth may seem, and their lives and surroundings have twisted them into the shape they take on today. That being said, they must take responsibility for their actions and serve penance as best as they can, in hopes of undoing the damage they have brought to people’s lives.

While some of these matters are legal in nature, discrimination and oppression are often societal things, and therefore there is not always a clear, unified structure to be implemented in order to address this issue. Nevertheless, it is vital that, for the survival and prosperity of humanity, we ensure that when we march, we march together. The greatest weapon against ignorance and knowledge, and therefore there are multiple ways to combat the ignorance that has overtaken oppressors. Societal conditioning starts from a young age, so for developing minds, understanding in better detail how to act respectfully towards others, as well as coming into contact with stories and people from outside their own experience can both shape future generations into more integrated members of society. This greater knowledge and sharing can also give underrepresented children a chance to feel belonging, to live within a society that is built for more than just a select few groups.

It is important to understand the role of listening in terms of mending the gap and reducing the effects of hate. Every conflict is a result of misunderstanding and miscommunication, so the best thing that can be done is to listen and let those who have been oppressed speak on their experiences, and to support them in their drive for greater recognition and respect. If there are aspects of society that disadvantage them, it is important to let them speak their mind on such matters, and to work to fix and tweak to build a better foundation for future generations to interact with. Those that harbor unwarranted hatred towards others for a factor of their identity have little to no idea of the lives and perspectives of those they target, insistent on remaining in their own little world. Theirs is a curse of stubbornness, but no matter the difficulty, they cannot be excused or forgiven.

The world is a terrifying place, especially for those just now emerging into it, and the mess of politics can be confusing. However, confusion and ignorance are no excuse to allow, let alone continue, the suffering of entire swathes of the population. We, as humans, have a responsibility to help each other, for in the lives of others can we see ourselves. There may be differences between us, but far too long have we focused upon what divides us rather than the shared truths and desires that unite us. Now is the time to listen and understand the anger of those who live in different worlds, so that we may better our world for all the people within it.