Our Responsibilities as Citizens and Residents of Violent Empires

Empires will, as empires have, weaponize every thing they touch to maintain power. Every. Thing. Including you. The ability to look at a true thing, to hold it and proclaim it, is a power not many people with empire’s privileges have and our responsibilities as residents and citizens of a violent empire is to seek, speak, and teach truth every chance you get.

Those of us with privilege get to unsee things almost immediately after we’ve looked at it. Those of us in the American empire arrive at a piece of privilege by merely existing within it. The American empire stretches far, over space, time, and realities. We are each a product of it in many ways, for better and for worse.

There are true things hiding in the margins of its power, where the force of its violent mandate destroys realities and rips through human life. The margins, it turns out, are also the core of this power and citizens of empire who bear empire’s privileges must seek the truth at the margins. We have to amplify what the most vulnerable people are saying, have been saying: This empire is rotten. And blood is on its hands. But it’s not too late to change its course.

Truth is everywhere. It’s ugly and beautiful and painful and urgent. Truth is we’re going to need everyone working to fix this mess. Truth is powerful people are invested in keeping it messy. Truth is Black people in America are owed and exhausted. Truth is this empire is responsible for the rivers of plastic running through the global south. Truth is this empire weaponizes democracies in other countries to protect its wealth.

Truth is people are resisting all over this planet. Truth is we are not doomed to apocalyptic endings.

All oppression is connected, as Staceyann Chin says. Meaning: your liberation as a citizen of empire is connected to the liberation of people at its margins. Meaning: the sooner they’re liberated, the sooner we’re liberated. So our responsibilities as citizens of this violent empire is to look and see how truths are connected, to speak, teach, and amplify them, and to organize to take power back to the margins.

The most important of these is seeking and teaching true things. A lot of us don’t know how to search for truth, and the socially-networked web, multiplied by fabricated material scarcities have exploited that weakness in deadly ways. Teaching each other how to search and verify true things is one of the most effective ways we can organize to take power. Because power thrives by hiding itself and its truths, truth seekers become threats.

Think of who state powers kill. Think of the truths that were hidden in the activists killed in the years since Ferguson. Think of the truths hiding at the borders. Follow the blood. Follow the deaths. Follow the institutions that accelerate those deaths.

You may not find much and you may not like what you do find. But truth seekers learn to grab hold to even the tiniest threads of truth and to follow it to its roots. Radical.

And that is our responsibility as citizens of violent empire: to seek truth, to teach others how to seek it, and to amplify it once it’s found.

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