As life becomes more complicated, finding a refuge from the onslaught where we can rethink, recover and regroup is essential if we are to begin creating community. While Indigenous communities fight to hang on to the remnants of theirs, those of us who’ve been displaced from ours must start from scratch.
Internally displaced persons are a special category under international law due to the fact that, although refugees, they have not exited their country of origin. Usually applied to those fleeing ethnic or religious conflict, they are increasingly displaced by economic circumstances, often as a result of deliberate state and institutional policy that excludes them from living a stable life.
As an internally displaced person resulting from institutionalized and culturally sanctioned greed, I find it difficult to accept that millions like myself within the United States have no alternative. Knowing that for the rest of our lives we will have to fight just to survive makes me all the more determined to oppose those who have caused this humanitarian tragedy.
Displacement, initially geographical, soon becomes social, leaving us outside the mainstream, and given the American propensity to blame the victim, over time becomes a stigma. In the ambience of austerity, this means those ostracized for not conforming to the brutal reality of market-oriented morality become further brutalized. How they will respond to this cruelty depends on how they perceive themselves and their environment; given the misanthropic attitude of America’s rulers, our resentment, if mobilized effectively, could generate either social reform or civil war. For now, it’s too soon to tell.
Writing in Guernica magazine last December, Rebecca Solnit discusses displacement, democracy, and the generosity of the Occupy movement. Impressed by the striking learning curve of dispossessed Americans, Solnit discerns that those engaged in revitalizing citizenship have become what activists in the Civil Rights era termed a beloved community.