Oppressed people have something I call “war mode.” I call it war mode, partly because of my son. He plays various military type video games and has for many years and he was playing one day and offhand made some remark about shifting into some mode. In that mode, the weapons, the rules, the procedures for success were different than in the regular game. As a sociologist, I think of much of the work that was done by Goffman and Mead and Cooley on this whole question of how our social identity is in part a construction of others external to us in a dialectic relationship with how we wish to be “seen” in a particular social context. There is much about social roles and all of it addresses this shifting were we go into professional mode or father mode or husband mode or whatever depending on the circumstance that is called for by the responsibilities, “theaters,” and “players” in the particular social realm we have to deal with. But I suggest for oppressed people, there is a role that most don’t have it is what I call “war mode.” I am aware that I shift into it and have for most of my life without contemplating it and I have begun thinking about writing about it. It is not recognized and understood by even many of our own people.
So what is “war mode?” Its not merely fighting oppression since you can and must do that in every role if your are oppressed, but war mode is triggered when the oppression is reconfigured in a way where it moves from the passive existential day to day incursion on your psyche to particular incidence of repetitive attacks on your humanity, and your dignity. These attacks come from, obvious, external social persons and forces, but come most strongly in my experience from encounters with your own people who perceive you as not playing along with the oppressive script and who believe that your not doing so is a threat to their comfort. I think of the reaction of many slaves to a runaway or a slave who dares to rebel. While a few might join, and some might want to and just be afraid, there will be a critical mass of those who actually work very hard to organize and counter the rebellion. They will as Malcolm said work harder to put the fire out on master’s house than the master will. Being among the oppressed they recognize the rebellion and its true nature, long before the power structure and so like a negro immune system they will act in word and deed to try to root out this threat to the system. Why would they do that, you might ask. They are those who have bought in to the system of oppression for one of two reasons, either they truly have come to believe in it (usually some elites) or they have carved out a survivability, a “comfort zone” within it involving a “good job” with benefits, a “nice house” and some social status above their own people. The condition for the survival of either cohort is that the system not be disturbed, much less unturned and in fact an unwritten condition of their ability to maintain their status is based on their complicity in the status quo.
The threat posed by social change and by the revolutionary who would bring it is that the comfort zone must be destroyed. It is part of the oppression and although they see it as “home,” the revolutionary sees it as part of the edifice of oppression itself. So the attack begins. It is intensive because the attack comes directly from many of the people for which the revolutionary is fighting. That’s a unique kind of attack, different from the attack of the traditional enemies. In the latter case, you expect it and that attack strengthens you because it fulfills the expectation. But the most brutal attack on the revolutionary is the attack by a particular subset of his or her own people, desperately committed to maintaining collective oppression for their individual gain. This attack is predictable but usually unexpected, it is personal and hurtful, and it threatens the commitment of the revolutionary to the cause. Why should I be trying to help people that don’t want to help themselves? Should I not be like they and just carve out my own realm of “comfort?” Of course as appealing as that might sound and even feel, to do so is to become THEM and a true revolutionary cannot do that.
A true revolutionary goes into “war mode.” War mode is not insular. It is a kind of “me against the world” but not the Eurocentric me against the world for me. It is a me against the world for us in spite of us mode. In this mode, the revolutionary must not only cultivate strategies for fighting the traditional contradictory and counterrevolutionary forces, but also their own. How do you fight your own people without destroying them? And you MUST fight because when they enter the battle they are as intent on destroying you as your external challengers. In this mode, you are as my father, a Korean veteran says “butt naked behind enemy lines.” If you imagine that, from a soldier’s perspective, the implication is that first of all you are in a place where attacks are all around at all times, there is no retreat position behind enemy lines. In fact, to stop and not fight immediately is to be destroyed, or worse to be interrogated and turned into a weapon to be used against your own people. Secondly, you are naked. that means in that theater, you don’t have the traditional lines of the support of the people to help you. supply lines friendly to you do not generally extend that far. So you have to develop the weaponry, outfit yourself, WHILE fighting and then formulate a plan for victory.
The first thing you do is war mode is to learn something I learned from a brother in the Nation of Islam. He said something along the lines of “if you act like beast, I don’t have any problem turning you over to them.” He was referring to those Afrikans who preyed on their own people and he was speaking against the idea that the community was supposed to protect these fools in the name of some errant “unity.” Its like “no snitching” when you have a child molester and a murderer preying on the people. So the first thing I noticed about my war mode is that I have to see the Afrikans participating in this fruitless plot to destroy me as they ARE. They are the enemy, not the “same” as the usual suspects, but enemies the same and I have to prepare to neutralize them as well. This is not a comfortable psychological or personal place to come to, but if you fail to get there, you will fail in the mission. You cannot win a two front battle with limited resources, so you create conceptually one front. The mission or the goal, is in enemy territory and you conceptually and cognitively put the negroes over there with the enemy because though they are not in the same army, they are defending against the same target. In the past few days, the hardest thing for me, and it always is as I transition into “war mode” is to recognize that many of the Afrikans around me, must themselves be casualties because they have chosen to stand against the mission. Its not that they have chosen against me but that have chosen against the mission and the mission for the people must be achieved. And so as you must get the battering ram and knock down the walls of the Eurocentric Bastille, so to you have run the bulldozer through the line of pathetic, brainwashing Afrikans who are trying to prop it up. When you get to the point that you can perceive the enemy in their consciences, then you have entered WAR MODE.
When in war mode, there are also strategic changes. In the regular mode, the diplomacy with your own people is used to create a united front against the larger systemic forces that oppose you. Doesn’t work in this scenario because your own people, at least those around, are as committed to your failure as the external forces. They are not, however, united in any real way. Each member of the resistance in your troops is totally self-interested and the only thing they share as a unity is the notion that you are going to interfere with their hard-earned “comfort” at the expense of their own people. Step one in war mode is to focus on maximum discomfort. Since their power base is in their capacity to carve out a realm of power and authority for themselves that is undeserved, disturb it. You can do this without the fear of retaliation because they’ve already declared war on you. You were just not fighting back because some part of your Afrikan consciousness wanted you to believe they were on your side. Disrupt, destruct, disable, and undermine all vestiges of “comfort.” In doing so you expose them to the circumstances that the masses encounter and give them the option of either joining the cause or continuing to choose incorrectly.
Second, assuming they continue and you cannot move from war mode back to regular battle mode. Mobilize your larger systemic enemies. These larger enemies are the ones that allow the comfort of the resistance among the people. Those who have status have it because the system has granted to them, but at a price. The price is silence. Keep the negroes passive and quite and you will go far (in the designated sandbox). So your job as a revolutionary is to disturb the peace. Take action to alert the system that the bargain has not been kept. That is your goal via these capitulators was to keep the peace, the mission has failed The system then is confronted with three alternatives: One, as always they could eliminate you, but that action comes with some consequences, for in removing you they would reveal that they were never serious about desiring progressive change in the first place. Second, they can fight the resistance on your behalf. they don’t WANT to do this and will avoid taking on their own planted stooges at any cost, but may see this as lower than the cost of having YOU “go rouge.” As they begin to undermine and remove the infrastructure of the comfort of those who have resisted you, it gives them again the option, join the cause or continue to fight. If the system is moving against them, that decision will need to be made by them quickly as they soon will be exposed in front of the people with none of their status or power and given their treachery prior, their fortunes are not likely to be good. Finally, the system may in its hypocritical nature, deputize YOU to eliminate what THEY created, providing you with ammo and munitions and intelligence equipment and other elements to wage this guerilla war against their own. This is a hedging of the bet for them. If you are defeated, they can blame everything on YOU, the usurper and the status quo is restored. If you win, they can claim that they supported you all along and that this proves they were committed to the change. Of course, that’s not true but you allow them to say it as you move towards the next objective which is to deal with THEM.
I have come up with a phrase that I use when I am FORCED to enter WAR MODE. “Welcome to the realm of he who has no permanent friends and meets with his enemies engaging in diplomacy with them and intelligence upon them at all times.” Better bring your A game, devil.”