To resist

If anything positive at all could come from the dreadful assault on Ukraine, perhaps it is a rebalancing of the narrative on resistance.

For twenty years, as our own nations and allies went on the rampage, ravaging sovereign states, many of us imbibed patriotic propaganda by default, absorbing the new vocabulary for all who resisted on the battlefield: insurgents, terrorists, fanatics.

It has been pervasive, infecting the national psyche, enabling us to shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, wail and shout, as we distance ourselves from the reported barbarity of the defiant men refusing to submit to their new masters.

But all of a sudden, that narrative has been thrown in the bin. Overnight, our state broadcasters found themselves champions of the resistance. On the evening news, we listened to jingoistic reports celebrating ordinary men coming forward to defend their nation from the aggression of Vlad the Mad.

Without a moment’s introspection, our patriotic broadcasters would show us a rabble army following instructions on how to make improvised explosive devices, with which to resist the incoming tanks. Suddenly, the resistance are heroes, their self-sacrifice roundly revered.

Everywhere has this sentiment now been pumped into the nation’s subconscious. Perhaps there is some good in this, in that a pacified people now realise that it is the right of the conquered to resist the conquerors, no matter how they are portrayed by their aggressors.

Despite a childhood spent clambering over tanks at military museums or watching fighter jets screaming past at the airshows to which our father would regularly take us, I have always been by nature innately antiwar. As evidenced by my passive response to assault, I took all I learned in Sunday School literally, thinking Turn the Other Cheek to be a universal imperative.

But the attack on Ukraine throws that discomfort with conflict into sharp relief. At last, we see an aggressor no longer portrayed as the bulkhead of civilisation against the marauding hordes. At last, we momentarily witness to the gory reality, that powerful nations would devour the poor if left unchecked.

So at last we understand the divine wisdom in granting the weak permission to resist the powerful, even though they may dislike it. For now, our propaganda machine is on the side of the ordinary man intent on resisting the armies evicting his family from their home. For now, our media sees the children’s playground obliterated by missiles, and their hospitals blown to smithereens.

For now, we have been allowed to empathise with the humanity of those wronged men and women, whose life has been disrupted by evil men in far-off staterooms, scheming to shock whole populations into awed submission. At last we have been allowed to see the individuals tyrannised by the audacious aggressor, who this time have been given permission to resist.

And so it is that we come to understand, through these awful events, what it means to resist, and why some people may be forced to rise up, although they detest it. Were it not that one group of people be checked by others, then there would have been demolished every institution cherished by the ordinary man. If left unchecked, the powerful would obliterate all things.

For now, until the tide turns once more, for as long as the aggressor is our enemy, there has been a rebalancing. Just keep in mind that it won’t last, and soon enough we will be asked to consider the oppressed oppressors, the innocent guilty and the victims criminals once more. When that happens, remain stable. If you must pick a side, always stand with the oppressed.

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