The places some call home often are synonymous with the very places they fear and are burdened by. Oppression is unique to each person, and the perception and its effects are wholly different and varied from place to place. What remains common, however, is the recurrent theme of the remembrance that one does not quite belong, or should not belong in their uniquely human way. Some have thought that the modern understanding of oppression has been done away with for the most part, with some semblances of minor tyranny occurring in pockets of certain regions and limited to a few.
The reality is somewhat grim and the means by which oppression is understood today takes on many new forms beyond the past envisions of an Orwellian regime. The range of oppression in 2020 proves that time is not kind to those who repeat its mistakes, from the inauspicious, to the brutally macabre, we strive to find some meaning in the following examples.
For those unfamiliar with Bolivia, it is a mountainous land-locked country composed of a myriad of ethnicities and indigenous tribes. Bolivia is the poorest of the South American countries.
To understand Bolivia and its issues one must first understand that the country has ,for a long history, been focused on the country’s exploits rather than the country’s people–specifically the native populations. The indigenous people of Bolivia had long faced oppression and misrepresentation, if any representation at all, through the forms of gubernatorial negligences. In 2006, hope was overwhelmingly served for the native peoples of Bolivia when Evo Morales, a fellow Aymara native himself, was elected as president. One must begin to shift the paradigm ever so dramatically to imagine having no sense of connection to the government representing their homeland, a distant disconnect so intense, that hope seems futile and one’s origin feels alienated. The significance of having a Native president was a promising symbol, a symbol of promises for the disenfranchised. Evo Morales was the hero so long awaited, the game-changer and mythical new founding-father.
Initially, there was a lot of good Evo Morales brought to the people of Bolivia. He was indeed the native voice incarnated in the political realm. His promises to kick out the foreign imperialism and American opportunists who exploited their country were well and true. His work to reduce poverty was exceedingly successful and impressive by any standards. Uniting and organizing the natural resources the country contained and bringing in money for the country helped many seek the new beginnings they needed. Evo Morales was working for his people.
Power can corrupt even the greatest of men. Corruption is a force as old as man itself. Every human faction spanning hundreds and thousands of years knows well at least one story of someone who flew too close to the sun, who peered too close to the waters, or who campaigned too far from home in virulent and greedy ambition. Evo Morales soon found himself slowly losing touch with his base, and walking a fine line of dissonances.
One of the major dissonances faced comes with regards to the rewritten constitution of 2009. Having set a term limit to two five-year terms, Morales found himself breaking it through his connections with congress. When he consulted the population, and did not win approval for a third term attempt at presidency, he relied on his friends and loyalists in congress to approve it. This is a major form of oppression for the native people and general population of Bolivia. Once again, the mindset is utterly imperative to understand why this event was so impactful. For the first time a president was voted to represent those who never had a voice, and a president who was going to do right before all else it seemed.
The reality of being ignored completely, and having the same person revoke their promise of ethics was the bad omen to follow many events. The president approved of a major and massive highway, the Tipnis Highway, that would cut through native lands, despite the indigenous people having spoken against it. There was corruption of funds for native projects in the millions of dollars that were embezzled, with no actual projects being carried out. There were native lowlands that were approved for mining, displacing many people and disfiguring permanently their home and landscape. Major construction projects were approved that did not first consult the general public. Amongst these were a twenty-eight story presidential building, and a museum largely revolving around Morales. The most clear form of direct oppression has been protests where the military and police have responded with violence, injuring many and killing several. The oppression in Bolivia in 2020 is finding balance in the broken government since Morales left in late 2019, and the costs of fighting for a voice again.
Sudan is a beautiful country laden with a rich history of human civilization, and in the last several decades, tragedy and conflict. From civil war and division, the country has not been without hardship that creates oppression in many forms to the many inhabitants of the country.
A great and spotlighted oppression rests heavily for the Sudanese women in the tightly politicized Islamic country. Women had long been subjected to rule under men, and their daily lives were regulated and their opportunities stifled by their inability to be fully independent. In Sudan, if a man deemed a woman not appropriately dressed, he could arbitrarily have her arrested or detained. This rule largely came about because of authoritarian leader Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, who presided over the country for twenty-nine years up until 2019.
Another form of oppression was through the loss of resources that followed the split of Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan and South Sudan had separated in 2011, leaving Sudan in a difficult financial situation given that its greatest source of income prior had been from rich oil reserves that were gone following the secession of South Sudan. As such, the authoritarian Omar Hassan Al-Bashir was credited with doing very little to repair the country’s economy, which placed many in or below poverty. Unfortunately, following the split, the country faced a downhill in regards to infrastructure, education, and agriculture. This trend downwards, along with the heavy rule over women and the general public’s conduct left much of the youth feeling unable to succeed in their home country. The oppression here is having nowhere to go, and seemingly nothing to do in one’s own home country due to a lack of opportunities.
In the three decades of Al-Bashir’s rule, over five million Sudanese emigrated from the country due to harsh rule and control, as well as tensions the country faced and the lack of economic opportunities. In 2020, the struggle continues following Al-Bashir’s banishment. Although the authoritarian leader is gone, now there is the lingering effects of decades of rule over women, and the challenges for establishing a more representative democracy without violence. Oppression often happens in the minute forms by which one’s opportunities and growth are stifled. While Sudan is heading towards freedom, the road is still being paved, and the rough trails still ache the feet of those who continue to pave the future.
How important is a sense of identity to a human being? How relevant is the language one speaks, the traditions one carries, or the government one belongs to? The answer is barely rhetorical and a strong “very.” The Ukrainian people have had a long history of adversity and invasions in the last hundred years, going much further back. Saving for a lesson on Ukranian posterity and its adversities, this will focus on the current oppressions faced by Russian presence in Ukraine.
Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, leading its expansion in Ukraine, which led to the start of a great conflict that has plagued the country for many a decade, and continues into 2020. Following the fall of the USSR, Ukraine began to restore their identity and sense of independence. The question of identity is incredibly important. What does oppression mean if someone does not directly threaten with violence? Can Oppression take a different figure? Oppression for the eastern Ukrainian populations comes in the form of a dismembering of identities on behalf of Russian troops and loyalists in the area. The language one speaks is fundamental to identity. It shapes the thoughts and realities of how the world around one is understood and perceived. Russia has been placing a stiff hand for hundreds of years to smother and stifle out the Ukranian language and as of 2014, has been found doing the same once again. In an effort to promote the idea of unity, the Russian language is found taking precedence, especially in Kyiv (Kiev in Russian). Russia tampers and weaponizes language for the purpose of justifying gradual invasion and to promote the notion that Ukraine is actually “small Russia,” a theme that has been attributed to the country for many a generation.
If the disassembling of identity were not a clear sign of oppression, there is also the military presence of Russia and the conflicts in Donbas, which have led to a diasporic 1.6 million and more fleeing from their homes and homeland. The armed conflicts have also cost the lives of over 10,000 people in the last six years.
China is the subject of many human rights violations, and has had a troubled history with the treatment of its people for the last several decades. Being a regime of incredible authoritarianism with incredible influence over the modern world, it has been secretive about much of its involvements, but to little avail.
Hong Kong is at the forefront for 2020 and its series of struggles. For over a year now Hong Kong has been fighting for independence against China. The conflicts kicked into high gear when protests debuted against a rule that would allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to Mainland China. The challenges being faced come as a result of demanding more rights and autonomy. The oppression being faced is the most common thought when one thinks of oppression. For months on end, including amidst the covid-19 pandemic of 2020, the protests have continued, and been met with increasing military violence. The Chinese government has been quick to suppress information about Hong Kong from being released or documented, and detention of protesters and attacks have been increasing. From water-jets, to rubber-bullets, to troop stormings of areas of potential gatherings resulting in civilian beatings, danger and control have not been short in Hong Kong.
The Uighur population has faced some of the most brutal and macabre oppression, resembling the Jewish masses during the rule of Nazi-Germany. Gaining more worldwide traction is the reality and situation the muslim Uighurs are facing under Chinese rule. The Uighurs have been rounded up and relocated to designated internment camps across China. The situation in the Xinjiang region is not for the faint of heart. The Uighurs have been targeted in official efforts to “re-educate” the muslim population as of 2014, with the camps appearing around 2017. There has been little criminal backing or reasoning for detainment other than simply being muslim. The Chinese effort has been to eradicate Islam and as such requiring by force the renouncing of religion and former language, being replaced by learning Mandarin. There have been limited reports on the ongoings of what actually occurs within the walls of the camps, but leaked information has provided insight of rape, sexual abuse, suicides, poor living conditions, and forced sterilaztions of men and women.
China has been one of the biggest threats for safety, and a huge fomentive entity for oppression spanning far outside its mainland. The events and situations are self explanatory, and require little stretch of thought to imagine just how harsh those realities must be. Life cannot go on peacefully when one no longer is themselves, but an object being directed by a government with absolutely no interest in those being squashed.
United States Of America
A brief aside into the very complex situations in the United States in 2020. The abridged information is more of a segue to a greater conclusion of this article. The content matters not as much as does the symbol for this particular essay.
The United States of America prides, and indulges itself with laudable notions of Freedom and Social prosperity, a cornerstone and pedestal example for all countries to look towards, the ever-effervescent American Exceptionalism. A complete incarnation of Freedom and Liberation.
Still, the United States finds itself amidst some of its greatest conflict with its history and oppression still — racism, wealth, and government power. The conflicts and skirmishes are broadcast readily, and the police brutality and corruption of government are present in a clear divide between the two major political factions in the country. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has been a divisive character that has been the catalyst for tensions erupting, and the main delivery for police and military involvement with protests throughout the struggling country that prides itself as the example of enfranchisement for the oppressed
Finding Meaning in Oppression
Oppression brings a sort of existentialism and depression over those who read it. What is to be done when there is nowhere that seems to have a population that is not oppressed and facing the hardships of life under the power of someone else? Is there hope for the countries and peoples that haven’t found a voice yet? Is there hope for the countries that serve not as examples of freedom, but as tyrants and tumultuous harbingers of struggle, pain, and death?
Rest assured that the greatest problems and hurdles humanity has faced all began with an approach. Without an understanding of the gravity that holds humanity down, it would have hardly been possible to venture beyond this large elliptical life and landmass that plants us to itself. Without understanding the cells that make up life around us, humanity would seldom have found a way to the riches of life and wellness found now. The future is easy to fear, but more difficult to find motivation and initiative in willpower. As important in 2020 as in 2020 B.C.E. is the human pursuit of learning. If gravity is the force by which we are held down, and the gravity of humanity’s mistakes are what keep us down, we must understand and look closely. With a perceptive eye, and a witted mind, seeking how to overcome the challenges of oppression is what will take humanity beyond, in every sense.