There is no hierarchy to oppression. Oppression just is and it’s always wrong. What changes is our response to it whenever we find it because we want to rank things in terms of nastiness. In this neoliberal age we seem destined to rank everything, including ourselves against our fellow workers, the schools we might potentially send our kids to and the four Labour leadership contenders on a scale of shit to shite.
The terrible things that happen in the world are ranked on the basis of our prejudices and the things we consider important. Cecil the Lion getting shot caused an uproar and quite rightly so. My view on it is that we should be in uproar every time an animal is hunted but let’s just bear in mind the fact that this killing created such a stir because Cecil was protected and lured away from safety. He was a significant lion. Basically the uproar and anger has been influenced by our respect for a hierarchy amongst the lions! We love hierarchy that much.
The backlash to the uproar has been astonishing. I’ve seen anarchists calling anyone a hypocrite if they are angered by Cecil’s death and yet they’re not a vegan. The stupidity of such an argument is astonishing. I became a vegetarian in 2008 and found it easier than I thought but I’ve not yet made (what seems like a) leap to veganism. As someone who thinks that the only way to eliminate oppression in the world is to start at home I’ve made some pretty mega steps but it’s a journey I haven’t completed yet. I’m not a hypocrite for starting that journey in a society that tells us meat is not simply normal and natural but also correct and necessary.
So much oppression, so little time. There’s so much to get angry about but now we’re getting angry about why so many people aren’t angry about the same things as us. When we separate all the causes and rank them in importance we run the risk of dividing and yet these oppressions all have their sources in the ruling class and the hierarchy of government and capitalism, or at least they are exacerbated by them.
Solving them is going to take people to come together rather than have a go at each other. Yes we have to stop people hunting and eating meat. Yes, we have to stop racism in all its forms, sexism, homophobia, transphobia… the list is fucking long. In short we have to stop capitalism and the state and be mindful that oppression could still continue in some forms once we have.
Once you reject the idea that there is a hierarchy to oppression a much more pertinent question emerges: what can I do about oppression? We all have a different reach and a different influence. We all have different abilities and energy. Fighting oppression wherever we see it shouldn’t mean we put as much energy and effort into all the problems we see in the world. Some people will want to focus on oppression in the workplace, others might focus on animal rights, others might focus on fighting against racism. There are endless opportunities. When you add the fact that some will focus on local issues and others global then what we have is an amazing network of oppression fighting warriors. maybe we can all learn from the different fights and maybe we can all convert each other to our various causes.
When people recognise oppression and seek to counter it we should applaud and help them. It’s not a competition.