Hegemony and Deflection
As of the writing of this piece, the full-blown war between the Ukraine and Russia is a week and half old. In that time, we have borne witness to both the capacity of the lower classes, artists, and public to do good (raising money to aide Ukrainian defense, hacking of Russian government servers, a global movement for the moral right). Simultaneously, we have also seen the full reach of hegemonic powers to skew and manipulate those same well-meaning parties. While I can only editorialize on the entire situation from a geopolitical standpoint, as a philosopher I can speak to the ways in which this situation acts as hegemonic control over the public and opinion and that same public’s ability to latch onto a new atrocity quickly and jump into action to maintain control over evil and fear.
It must be noted, before jumping in, that what is happening in Europe and the action taken by the Russian government and military is atrocious, as all war is at its heart. The sympathies and support shown for the people of Ukraine is right and necessary, but fully shows the disproportionate response given to euro-ethnocentricity considering a world constantly ravaged by imperialistic incursions. Witnessing the public jump in support of the treatment of BIPOC in this country, to support for Palestine, and now to Ukraine, it rips any thread of authenticity away from their message. Those ‘previous’ battles, and many more, still rage on every day, remain necessary of attention and dedication; dedication that is lost by whim of the news cycle.
This is no fault of the people, generally. It remains difficult in times of crisis to maintain focus, more so when faced with multiple crises at once. This difficulty is what allows the powers of this world to maintain control and, well meaning or no, allows the global public to be so easily swayed.
Story as Deflection
Trauma and atrocity are difficult to swallow. The way we, as humans, deal with such occurrences are as varied as we are ourselves. Some medicate, others mourn, while there are those who prefer a shared narrative—a version of the ‘truth’ that is far more palatable for consumption to allow for a continuation of life as they have known it to be. This is, in some form, the way most of us have chosen (whether consciously or not) to deal with the evils of the world.
“True it is bad, but…” replacing the irreplaceable with something that the mind can reconcile. Hope in the face of the hopeless. These are the stories, the lies, necessary for life to not only continue as many of us are lucky to know it, but for the powers that life is built around to maintain their hegemonic hold. Hegemony, the power held of one group over another, relies on this, thus it controls the story in the face of global catastrophe.
This most recently begun act of atrocity has shown how this need for story is necessary for the status quo to keep its grip on society. The proliferation of courageous stories, regardless of their reality, have been widespread as a cry of hope. Shirts made based on these stories for the purpose of fundraising show that good can come from such stories existing . Necessary as they may be, they serve no further purpose in time other than a temporary reprieve from a focus on the horror of the reality.
We have rallied, as a people, around the ‘small (good) taking on the big (evil).’ The parties change faces, but the story is as old as time. While this serves as therapeutic for those lucky enough to not have to face this evil head-on, it also keeps the eyes from turning inward and seeing this struggle as their struggle. The ‘other’ needing to be fought against, but us? We remain just fine. The deflection ensuring that the powers here at home, guilty of the same atrocities we are witnessing (though on a vastly more global scale, with vastly more devastating outcomes), are allowed to continue their actions as they see fit.
This is how power breathes and perpetuates, reliant on the populace’s inability to turn away from external duality, a nationalist narrative inbred by hegemony.
Running Up That Hill
“Hope springs eternal,” as they say. The general thought being that it does so because it must. Hope, as it exists, is only perpetuated by its maintenance. Hope springs eternal because we make it so, because the alternative is too grim for many to stomach. Courageous stories, along with the belief that peace and our nature can at this point be reconciled, have become necessities to be protected at all costs, existential comfort being needed in lieu of reality.
Perpetual need for hope has led us down a path of exhaustion, the most hopeful and optimistic among us being pushed to their limits. And yet, considering this, hope remains, not because it exists, but because it must. Just as with the generational belief of prosperity being available to all “if you work hard enough,” so too does the spring of everlasting hope remain full. The idea that you must remain hopeful in all things is blinding and, in its essence, detrimental to the possibility of change.
Hope is seen as something that is possible to maintain, given the state of the world. Hope being the immovable guiding light that shines in defiance to any suffocating darkness. This ideal of hope is folly, however. This ideal of hope makes the presumption that it can remain, unchanged and immovable, within a system designed in opposition to it. Hope, as it stands, is the promise of a tomorrow that can not be. For there to be any semblance of ‘hope’ as we understand it to be, we need to change the world and reality in which that hope operates. Otherwise, we face the ineffable visage of a reality that will stop at nothing to test and deny that hope.
Hope only springs eternal so long as there remains a possible eternity to spring into.
Solve et Coagula
Recognition of well-meaning shortcomings is a path to real change. We all possess them, and we all have the ability to look beyond their narrow view. Hope, as it stands, is fruitless and disappointing, for the shining promise it exists for is unattainable. We need to deconstruct not only what our hope promises, but the very system in which it exists.
The alchemical idea of “solve et coagula,” the notion that elements can be deconstructed to be remade into something bigger and stronger, is necessary here. The need to change the very context within which we hold our hope, our very idea of hope itself, needs to be dismantled and changed to even attempt to attain its goals. This is the only chance for relief from the existential exhaustion that currently plagues us.
We are creatures of habit. We need systems to feel grounded and we need to feel confidence in our place within those systems. The struggle with generational and hegemonic pressures to perpetuate what always has been as what always will be is the root of this heartache. Our battles can be focused but must have a sense of global relevance if anything is to change. If hope stands any chance of being anything other than a fruitless endeavor.
Show your support for the suffering in whatever way you choose. But refrain from trying to pull hope from an empty vessel. Deconstruct an existence that holds no place for hope and replace it with something stronger, possible, and eternal.