Opinion

The myth of the Trojan Horse in dismantling the system 

If you have studied Greek history and mythology or are aware of the types of viruses that can infect your laptop, you will have certainly heard of the Trojan Horse. This wooden horse was used by the Greeks to enter the town of Troy and win the war against their enemy. Some people use this example to show that we can fight the system from within and win.

However, what are the conditions that make infiltration a viable tactic and a successful strategy? Why did the Trojan horse work? It worked because the Greeks were armed and organized while the Trojans, who so naively believed their enemies’ good intentions, were defenseless, distracted, without weapons, and not organized. 

We can already see two major lessons here.

Lesson one
Never trust your oppressor/enemy, nor their intentions 

Lesson two
Stay ready and keep your guard up (no need to get ready if you stay ready) 

The institutions and systems we want to infiltrate are solid establishments and they are prepared to counter any attempt at destabilization. They have set measures to protect themselves, their privileges, what they benefit from, and they prevent anyone from transforming, changing, and challenging them.

Why haven’t the Black faces in high places been able to make any important and long-lasting change that has a direct and positive impact on the people? It’s either because they don’t want to since they’re loyal to the high places, or because they are shut down as soon as they try. 

Look at companies, even your workplace, and think of how hard it is to challenge them and their racist and discriminatory cultures. Do you really believe they will let us take over in making the change? Do you think that if we expressed more or less explicitly the ambitions we have to make a systemic change they would let us climb the corporate ladder and give us that much power? And even if one person makes it to the top, they’re still just one individual.

Assata Shakur said:

“It would burn me up every time somebody talked about Black people climbing the ladder of success. Anytime you’re talking about a top and a bottom, an upper class and a lower class, a rich class and a poor class. As long as you’ve got a system with a top and a bottom, Black people are always going to wind up at the bottom, because we’re the easiest to discriminate against. That’s why I couldn’t see fighting within the system”

Let’s use another analogy. Imagine that I decide to get a job at McDonald’s, my goal was to change the menu to a healthier one. There is an open job position, I apply, and I’m hired. Now I work at a local McDonald’s and as a new starter I prepare French fries and I am serving at the counter. I am within the system but how will I ever be able to execute my plan since I am at the very bottom of the ladder? It will be impossible from my position at my local McDonald’s to change the menu, let alone influence and change the entire franchise.

I am, however, passionate and I believe in my mission. All I have to do is work my way up and eventually I will be in a position with enough power to change the menu. What are the possible outcomes now?  

I can see three possible outcomes here.

Outcome one
I give up after a while because I'm not progressing fast enough, or the establishment prevents my advancement. 

Outcome two
I get promotions and access to higher positions, but I get used to those privileges and I forget my mission (my loyalty now is to the high places and the system successfully assimilates me). 

Outcome three
I get to the top but although I seemingly have power now, I am alone. The people around me either want to keep everything as it is and/or are still more influential than me. 

A note: in the process I could also be accused by the people outside of the system of working for my own selfish interests because they only see me trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder and they could also jeopardize me and label me a sell-out.

It’s important to fight on different fronts, playing the outside / inside game and there will always be people who will continue and prefer to fight within it, but if we want to achieve ultimate victory we must destroy the unjust system and build alternatives to it.  

We’re too far below the chain in most institutions to make any significant revolutionary change. Besides, the institutions were designed to prevent us from reaching certain key positions and realizing those changes. Transforming the system from within isn’t a strategic move. Quite the opposite, it’s a waste of time and energy. Dismantle the system. 

Whatever example or mythical analogy we have from the past, whatever economic or political concept we can come up with needs to be deeply rooted in reality. We must be pragmatic and scientific, we have to examine, study and understand those examples, the circumstances, the context, and the history surrounding them. We can’t talk abstractly and have ideas and theories that are based on fictional scenarios and parallel universes. Look at what is happening and has happened, what you can see, hear, touch, perceive and base your theory and practice on these tangible facts. 

The Trojan war is a myth. The need for liberation and freedom is a reality. 

1 comment

  1. The trouble with Black/African Academics, is their slavish belief and reliance on Europeanisms to explain reality, even when they profess otherwise. In your case, it’s the use of ‘myth’ to illustrate or debunk existentialism or historicism. Thats pure intellectualism. The better or best approach, is to simply let history teach or guide you. The fact is that so many British intellectuals do not know their history; or know very little of it. Please read materials on the Haitian rebellion, slave rebellions in the Caribbean, and Africa’s national liberation struggle. Then, lets talk about ‘dismantling the system’ inside out; or outside in.

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