With the nation and the world mourning the total lack of human compassion and common sense concentrated primarily in the Bible Belt of the United States, let us try to find one silver lining through it all: times of political oppression and unrest have always spurred on great art–granted, most of it by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Let us look back upon extreme times of historical crisis that ultimately produced some of the best works in literature and philosophy.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft: The late 1700s: not exactly an ideal time for women in the U.K., or anywhere really. Enter Wollstonecraft’s treatise on urging the availability of education for women as equals to men. Rather than being seen merely as decorative pieces to the home, Wollstonecraft argued that, because women were in charge of raising the children, they had a responsibility to be well-informed in order to secure a future populated by intelligence instead of ignorance.
Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank: What more notorious time of oppression is there than the Holocaust? While Nazi occupation overtook the Netherlands, the Frank family went into hiding in 1942, and so began Anne’s expression–delivered with the purity that could only come from a thirteen-year-old girl–of loneliness and the simple desire to feel a connection to the outside world.
Guerilla Warfare, Che Guevara: Released on the heels of the Cuban Revolution, a movement that landed Fidel Castro in power, Guevara shared his, essentially, manual for how to revolt against a government that causes one or more of the three following categories: an inability to prompt necessary change through legal means, failure to suppress violent tensions among a restless people and/or the leader of the country’s overall illegitimacy.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe: At the height of slavery and the tensions caused by it in the United States, a white teacher–Stowe–managed to synthesize all the problems with this mode of thinking (albeit it through a rather maudlin Christian lens) into Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852 and largely attributed as being a catalyst for the Civil War.
Notes From Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Exiled to Siberia largely for his association with a group known as the Petrashevsky Circle, many of the works released after his freedom from imprisonment speak to this harrowing time period in his life. While Crime and Punishment is the obvious choice for most bleak, there is something just faintly more tortured about Notes From Underground‘s protagonist, Underground Man, who represents the first inkling of Dostoyevsky coming to terms with his years of maltreatment in an unimaginable hellscape.
So when you’re feeling the weight of a Trump-run United States and you can’t seem to manage to get approved for a visa anywhere else, remember to channel this into your very own novel or treatise on suffering. It might be useful to subsequent generations that need help coping, too.