Daryl Davis is nothing short of an American hero. He is also a social revolutionary in a nation indoctrinated by politics of rejection, tribalism, radicalization, and reactionary division. The KKK and Antifa are two sides of the same coin, molded by a determination to remain ignorant and without common decency toward or true empathy for their fellow human beings. Each side is populated by exclusionary culture warriors, both attempting to sow discord and to utilize said discord to elevate their chosen set of allies to positions of legal and cultural authority. Each side pretends to fight for what is right, by holding another set of people down; both are hypocritical in the extreme. They are all misguided and Daryl Davis, in his own way, is here to challenge that old paradigm of thought. He is here to remind us of who we really are. In these days of reactionary hurling of noise, epithets, bottles, and rocks at each other in the name of political activism, people like Daryl give me great hope. He understands the difference between divisive self-satisfaction and true change. He understands that the more we hate each other, the more we tear at the fabric of America, the more we give in to the momentary gratification of victory over our perceived opponents, the further our society will fall. This is Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate writ large and all too real. Daryl sees the bigger picture and understands that we are all in this together.
There are almost an endless number of questions to be asked about the vicious protests we have all witnessed of late. What are they? Why do they occur? What brings each side out and what convinces these people that different levels of violence are their tools of choice? Why do we feel comfortable utilizing violence against our fellow citizens? Why do we believe it righteous if used for the “correct” cause? These, and more, are all vital to understanding this phenomenon and not only bringing it to an end, but providing the country with a better path at the same time. So, let’s try and break it down a little.
What is Radicalization?
Radicalization: noun: “The action or process of causing someone to adopt radical positions on political or social issues.”
English Oxford Dictionary
Radicalize: transitive verb: “to make radical especially in politics”
Radical: adjective: “2: of or relating to the origin : fundamental
3a : very different from the usual or traditional : extreme
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs”
It is my firm belief that, in order to employ violent tactics in the name of one’s political and social beliefs, one must radicalize to a large extent. Problems arise even when the radical groups are relatively limited in size. The crises occur when large numbers of people within a social structure begin to radicalize and it slowly becomes the norm. One technique used by radicals to spread their perspective is to engage in extreme encounters with radicals of different stripes. This is great marketing: it advertises both groups’ ideologies, garners widespread attention, and hijacks public discourse by reframing it in radical terms. The KKK and Antifa are both radical groups; this is why they so closely resemble each other and why, despite their best attempts, they do not truly represent the views of most people in American society. They are opportunists, seeking to destabilize in service to their own causes. It is also my firm belief that many participants within the groups are unaware of the machinations at work in organized movements such as these. Many do not see the massive amount of financing and centralized planning required to organize these protests in coordination around the country. These are not grassroots protests, they simply masquerade as such. From lurking forums, to discussing ideas and actions with people clothed in movement symbolism, to prodding participants for their own ideas, I have come to believe that the majority who follow these groups are not entirely aware of the way they are being used. Management and workers appear separated by access to information, just like a company.
Don’t be a sucker. Whenever anyone divides you up, regardless of the tools employed, they are not doing it for your benefit. You are only ever divided from other people in your society for the benefit of those seeking control of that society. Division is one of the primary tools of reactionary culture warriors, which is why they discourage communication with the other sides in a confrontation as much as possible. They reject dialectic and prevent thesis and antithesis from ever becoming synthesis. They don’t want a solution to the problem to develop naturally through conversation and individual growth; they want to artificially control the evolution of society. Daryl Davis, by his lonesome efforts to treat his countrymen with the respect due fellow human beings, threatens this paradigm. This is what makes him so special. He has not allowed hate to poison his soul.
Here’s an interesting line of inquiry: why do people fall for the trick? Why do so many let themselves be suckers? In most cases, it isn’t really their fault. We’re all brought up with a certain amount of indoctrination from our parents, schools, entertainment, news, etc. People grow up with different paradigms programmed into their consciousnesses, each acting out their lives through these differing lenses. Every event we witness, every hardship we suffer, every relationship we have is affected by those original perspectives, regardless of how hard we try to change the way we think over time. This is natural. Our brains are organic computers; our programming is partially software and, since neurons literally grow in specific patterns in response to stimuli, is partially hardware. What makes us so special is our ability to sit and self-reflect on our own thoughts. This allows us to see the way we think and, with a great deal of work, alter those mental patterns. The more we choose to think a different way, the more our neurons shift and grow to reflect those new ways of thinking. This is why is it so difficult for people to break out of long-term behavior patterns, but why it is always possible. This is why Daryl Davis is able to slowly teach Klan members to let go of the hate that has twisted their minds up inside. He is basically reprogramming individuals through his words and kindness. These small actions and successes prove that we are truly amazing beings.
Ok, that’s nice and all, but what does this BS about brains have to do with why people find themselves being suckered into dividing up their own society? The answer is pretty simple: they experience or witness crises and/or hardships that they don’t fundamentally understand and a radical recruiter, just waiting for the right opportunity, gives them a false answer that strokes their preconceptions. All it takes is seeing society change a little around you, seeing new faces replacing old faces, seeing things you love disappear, losing a job and seeing everyone around you losing their jobs, living through an economic crisis that saps your neighborhood of its life, seeing politicians promise to destroy industries that have sustained your local and regional communities for decades, hearing people blame groups you identify with for the decay, witnessing upticks in crime, losing loved ones to broken medical systems, and so many more potential triggers that it’s nearly impossible to catalog them all. If the idea the radical sells the potential recruit fits closely enough with the ideas and paradigms of thought that they have grown up with, the idea sails smoothly through the brain and gets them hooked. If they can blame a scapegoat ethnic, age, class, philosophical, sexual preference, or gender group, they will. ‘It’s the Mexicans! It’s the white males! It’s the gays! It’s those entitled Millennials! It’s the Boomers! It’s the Immigrants! It’s these feminists! It’s the blacks!’ Scapegoats are always just scapegoats. Like a fish on a hook, the new recruit may wriggle and struggle a bit as they are pulled in, but the experienced radical fisherman knows exactly the right triggers and arguments to use to seduce the naïve. Once they’re reeled in all the way, they are surrounded by others who have already accepted the new paradigm and their new beliefs are reinforced until their mind reshapes itself to think that way on its own. Recruiting is an art form. Spend enough time lurking activist groups, internet forums, and physical political gatherings and you will see the artists at work. They are very good at what they do and are always ready to stomp out dissenting voices that threaten to free a catch.
These groups of indoctrinated and fearful individuals are then sent out to clash with perceived opposing groups. Many times, violence is a foregone conclusion because it was the goal in the first place. Blood and fire make the news because they attract attention. News corporations love eyeballs because viewership means money and money is what ultimately drives every corporation. These radical groups are very aware of these relationships and will exploit them time and time and time again. If a few have to die along the way, it seems, so be it. So what is the cure? Is it joining your chosen group of “allies” and screaming, cursing, and hurling objects at your perceived opponent until they go away? Is that, perhaps, just a result of your unconscious radicalization? Shutting “those people” up for a little while might feel great and righteous, as did the Two Minutes Hate, but it only makes the problem worse in the long term. It further entrenches the beliefs of the opposing group, makes them more assured of their radical beliefs, makes you more assured of your radical beliefs, divides even the least radical in society, and pits neighbor against neighbor. When these groups shut up, they don’t disappear. They are still active, climbing into government, the police, courts, media, etc. Don’t be ruled by fear. Don’t settle for what feels good in the short term. Don’t be tricked by self-satisfaction. Don’t be a sucker.
Be your own person. See the power a single individual like Daryl Davis has. Change your society through a revolution of the mind.