This film was, of course, a reflection on the political situation in the Soviet Russia, a pessimistic take on the fight for freedom from Soviet ideology. As such, it was rooted in the time when and the place where it was created. However, the movie’s metaphors can be effectively used to illustrate today’s situation in countries where, it seems, everybody is free, and tyranny is no more. I want to use the story of the dragon within to talk about a concept important for the exploration of power relations and inequalities: hegemony.
The theory of hegemony emerged as a development of the Marxist theory of power. In Marx’s interpretation, power is achieved through domination. According to the theory of hegemony, power is maintained through consent. In other words, people don’t want to change things, because they like how things are! How can it be?
When things seem to be getting better, and when people don’t have enough information about the situation, they can easily start celebrating the change. And, while things might indeed get better, if nobody sees this change as only a stage of the journey to the social order based on justice, equality and freedom – then the positive transformation just gets stuck. And sometimes even turns into regression.
I would like to give two examples to illustrate this statement. I won’t go into detail here, as I plan to explore this topic in subsequent posts. My two examples are sexism and racism. There are many people in the U.S. who sincerely think that these two don’t exist anymore. Women can work outside of the house, have their own business, be independent and explore their sexuality. Black people are free, there is no slavery, there is no segregation. Yey, we won! Not so fast. Inequality between men and women is still a sad reality of the U.S. world. Women have lower salaries, there are still many professions where women are not welcome, and they are often judged more by their appearance instead of by what they actually do in their jobs. As for African-Americans, we might not have slavery, but for some reason the majority of people in U.S. prisons are Black (interesting coincidence, right?); and there are too many stereotypes connecting Blackness with crime and delinquency. Here you can read more about color-blind racism.
So what is this dragon within? I think it is this feeling of complacency that too many of us have: things have improved, so now they are fine, so I don’t have to question my actions or try to make things better. They have changed, but there is still a long long way to go. And to reach the destination, we should be all in it together. Without our dragons!