Everyday Authoritarianism: Part I

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“[D]emocracy is not in elections or issues or candidates; not in systems or processes. The heart of democracy is in the human commitment to share power in everyday practices.”

“At bottom, both state-level and relational authoritarianism occur in practicespower is stolen and hoarded by those few who claim authority, forcing those with less or very little power to adapt to that power scarcity and comply or face punishment in some form, the threat of which is directly expressed or implied.

“Examples of relational power-stealing practices include:

  • Microaggressions
    • Passive aggression (offering of inaccurate relational information intentionally)
    • Bullying (repetitive aggression in the form of personal attacks and exclusion)
    • Name-calling (intentional or mindless use of language to reject, condemn, and demean)
    • Weaponized fear (telling unfounded or exaggerated stories of danger meant to scare into control)
    • Willful ignorance (intentional exclusion of commonly accepted or new information)
  • Surveillance
    • Outright watching (in public spaces and around home)
    • Calling the cops (personal appropriation of state power)
    • Asking to speak with the manager (personal appropriation of professional power)
  • Marginalization and Invisibility
    • Gatekeeping (blocking access to community resources or communication channels)
    • Exclusion (intentional lack of eye contact, acknowledgement, and response)
    • Cynicism (intentional disparagement of optimism, hope, and altruism)
    • Lack of transparency (intentional vagueness and informality to hide intent and discourage informed response)
    • Unfounded doubt (intentionally ignoring commonly accepted credentials and qualifications)
    • Stoicism (intentional withholding of emotion, imagination, and creativity)
  • Gaslighting
    • Inaccurate information offered intentionally (lying, selective truth-telling and truth-remembering, pretending not to understand, and faking faulty memory)
    • Passive aggression (intentionally offering inaccurate relational information)
    • Trivialization (downplaying feelings as being too sensitive or events as unimportant)”

“(Racism is a form of authoritarianism. So is classism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and speciesism. Each has as its core feature an imbalanced power relation: each is a function of imbalanced power relations that are entrenched in systems and processes and also present relationally between individual human beings. The health impacts of everyday racist, sexist, classist, and heterosexist practices steal power: they actively slow, stagger, and/or stop dead the ability to generate and maintain forward momentum.)”