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Monday, October 09, 2017

All the incidental irrelevancies that make up oppression

Reading some of the outrage generated by Rachel Aviv's infuriating New Yorker piece, "How the elderly lose their rights", I've come across some a wide spread of responses.

Some assert their absolute refusal ever to be victimized this way; for instance writing in the Hacker News thread:

I'm shocked at how docile and accepting those old folks were! I mean if someone comes to my house and tries to kidnap me and my family against our will, they better come armed.

That comment prompted this excellent reply by HN user JohnicBoom:

I am reading The Gulag Archipelago, and in it, Solzhenitsyn says about the mindset of one who is facing unjust arrest by the authorities:

"...But as for you, you are obviously innocent! You still believe that the Organs [of state security] are humanely logical institutions: they will set things straight and let you out.

Why, then, should you run away? And how can you resist right then? After all, you'll only make your situation worse; you'll make it more difficult for them to sort out the mistake. And it isn't just that you don't put up any resistance; you even walk down the stairs on tiptoe, as you are ordered to do, so your neighbors won't hear. At what exact point, then, should one resist? When one's belt is taken away? When one is ordered to face into a corner? When one crosses the threshold of one's home? An arrest consists of a series of incidental irrelevancies, of a multitude of things that do not matter, and there seems no point in arguing about any one of them individually - especially at a time when the thoughts of the person arrested are wrapped tightly around the big question: 'What for?' - and yet all these incidental irrelevancies taken together implacably constitute the arrest."

I think same kind of thoughts go through peoples' heads in all manner of less serious circumstances. They might know it doesn't feel right or that it's wrong, but they feel that surely someone will help them correct the mistake. And if they just go along for now, they'll be in better standing when they finally find the right time to raise their objection.