Defeatism has no place here

March 27, 2013
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Glenn Greenwald gets it right again: The gay marriage snowball and political change

It really is a bit shocking how quickly gay marriage transformed from being a fringe, politically toxic position just a few years ago to a virtual piety that must be affirmed in decent company. Whenever I write or speak about any of the issues on which I focus, I always emphasize that a posture of defeatism – which is a form of learned impotence: a belief that meaningful change is impossible – is misguided. This demonstrates why that is true: even the most ossified biases and entrenched institutional injustices can be subverted – if the necessary passion and will are summoned and the right strategies found. [...]

That same type of rapid and previously unthinkable change is visible with other unjust laws: oppressive drug prohibition being the leading example. But one can easily find all sorts of examples from American history and the recent history of other countries which reflect the same truth: radical, positive, and relatively fast political change is always possible, no matter how formidable the obstacles seem.

Defeatism is more often than not a psychological instrument designed to relieve one of the responsibility to act (if change is impossible, then I have no reason and no obligation to work or take risks for it). That is bolstered by the effort of all ruling interests to instill a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness in those they suppress; systemic power abuses are, above all else, designed to persuade people of the futility of opposition, to adopt a defeatist mindset. But it is a mindset that finds little to no support in political history. The rapid and relentless dismantling of the anti-gay legal and societal framework in the US is yet more proof for that proposition.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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