Fighting Fascism 1: A Better World is Possible

There’s lots of (understandable) gloom and doom these days, and very little advice about what to do about it. Despair is very tempting, especially when you feel powerless, but remember: they want you to despair.

So I’m going to suggest some stuff you can do. I don’t know anything about organizing effective protests, so I’ll leave that stuff to the folks who know about it. My ideas are not meant to be exhaustive; they’re just some things I’ve noticed that embolden the good guys and infuriate the bad guys.

My first one is for people who make art of any kind. And it is to make art that shows a better world is possible.

Bruce Sterling’s story “Dori Bangs” was a huge influence on my thinking about how much power we artists have. We get to literally create a world in which things work out the way we want them to. (This is true of all arts; not just fiction writing.) Things are bad, but you can make art in which things are better and help people see that we don’t have to settle for what we have. That we can dream big and fight hard for a better world.

I’m not just talking about science fiction here. An example from my work is that I’ve written 2 books in which people who commit sexual assault face terrible consequences. These books aren’t any kind of blueprint for action, but they’re reminders that we don’t have to settle for a world in which men do terrible things with impunity.

But you can imagine a better world—or just highlight the parts of this world that don’t suck—with any kind of art. Don’t think for a moment that this is a useless endeavor. If it were, fascists would not be so fixated on restricting people’s access to art. They don’t want anyone to see, read, or listen to any kind of art that doesn’t reflect their world view because they are afraid that people will be emboldened to think bigger. Pay attention to the works of art they want to restrict people’s access to. They include things that call attention to injustice, but also things that show differences being accepted or even celebrated. What’s the fear of, for example, Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Self Portrait with Whip” (you can look it up, but probably don’t do that at work)? Even if people in great numbers started sticking whips up their buttholes, that’s essentially a harmless endeavor. See—it’s not what he’s doing. It’s that he’s not ashamed of it. That he’s willing to look right in the camera lens while wearing only chaps and a whip stuck in his butthole and say, effectively, “yep. This is who I am and this is what I’m into.” That’s what fascists find threatening.

So if you make art, make as much art as you possibly can (I know it’s hard when you’re stressed, but I often find making art helps me relieve my stress) and show the world that exists in your mind. The one we can maybe bring into existence if we don’t accept people telling us why it’s impossible. Here’s where I quarrel with Rocky Horror (another work of art that enrages fascists): I would say dream it and then be it.

Next time: Let Your Freak Flag Fly!