We Can't Beat Them if We Run Away
I'm currently obsessed with the Star Wars TV series Andor. Writing, directing, acting, cinematography, music, story – all brilliant. It resonates with me on many levels. I'm watching the first season for the second time and paying close attention. In Episode 7, Announcement, a conversation between Andor and Maarva got me thinking.
Andor is trying to convince Maarva to leave Ferrix with him.
Maarva: I'm staying.
Cassian: But it's... it's not safe.
Maarva: I know all that.
Cassian: I can't be here. You said it yourself, “It's all come undone.” There's an Imperial barracks on Rix Road.
Maarva: Good luck to them.
Cassian: You wanna live under that?
Maarva: It's happening everywhere.
Cassian: Well, we'll find a place they haven't ruined yet.
Maarva: I'm already there. That place is in my head. They can build as many barracks as they like, they'll never find me.
Cassian: What's left to keep you here?
Maarva: The Rebellion.
Maarva: Ferrix has been hiding long enough.
Cassian: So now you're taking on the Empire?
Maarva: Laugh if you want to.
Cassian: Who's laughing? This is madness.
Maarva: No, it's not. It's overdue, and probably doomed, and I'm too old, and I don't care anymore. For 13 years, every time I walk down Rix Road, I turn off before I get to the square. I take the long way around so I don't have to think about Clem hanging there. Then yesterday, I heard about this attack at Aldhani. Have you heard about this?
Cassian: What about it?
Maarva: Well, Bee played me the news. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Cassian: Yeah, yeah, the garrison at Aldhani.
Maarva: I heard that, I put on my best coat, and I walked across the square with a smile on my face. If there are heroes brave enough to take on a whole Imperial garrison, I'm brave enough to stick it out here. I... I don't expect you to understand.
Cassian: Aldhani was just a robbery.
Maarva: People are standing up.
Cassian: Yeah, and getting killed for it.
Maarva: But there's work that will need doing.
Cassian: Yeah? What is that?
Maarva: Whatever it takes. I've been lying around waiting to die long enough.
Cassian: You can't beat them, Maarva.
Maarva: Not if I run away.
In the context of the show, the stakes are much higher than they are in my current reality. But the principle Maarva is trying to teach Cassian rings true for many different circumstances.
Social media has been on my mind a lot lately (and the past several years). I think of how it is being used to exploit and manipulate people. To spread misinformation and hate. Being a peacemaker by nature and one who avoids conflict and toxicity, I have almost completely stopped using the popular social media platforms for anything but a few Facebook groups and the occasional faith-related post.
And now we have a wealthy, power-hungry man (Elon Musk) who has swooped in to purchase Twitter, revoke much of their content moderation standards, including their COVID misinformation policy, and reinstate most accounts that were previously banned for violating those old moderation standards. I haven't used Twitter regularly in years, but the latest news reports claim there has been a notable increase in hate speech and misinformation on the platform.
I have been using Mastodon for the past few years and have witnessed the dramatic surge in people leaving Twitter for the Fediverse over the past couple months. And until very recently, I wondered why anyone who disagrees with what Elon Musk is doing would possibly want to stay on Twitter at this point.
But after watching this episode of Andor again, I think I get it. Even amidst the wave of fascist, racist, hateful, and other toxic content on Twitter, good people I know are staying. They continue to post thoughtful, positive, fun, uplifting content. They continue to post what they believe in the face of all of it. The chance of making a difference for good seems pretty slim right now if good people stay. But there is no chance if they leave.
And what is the result of running away? What is the result of ceding the public square (and for better or worse, Twitter is still an influential space in the public square) to hate and misinformation? And how long can we keep running until there's nowhere else to run?
Maybe instead of running away from Twitter, good, decent people who have had enough of this nonsense should be running towards it.