In Our Knitting Roots Book Club on Facebook, over the last weeks, we’ve been discussing Timothy Snyder’s short book, On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century. This week’s chapter is “Lesson 12: Make Eye Contact and Small Talk.”
Rachel, who is leading the discussion says,
This lesson is a reminder of how simple resisting can be: Eye-contact and small talk. In totalitarian regimes, people withdraw because they are afraid. They don’t know who to trust, so they just avoid people. So, we can counteract that by connecting in small ways. This can also help those who are being ‘othered’ because we show them that we still see their humanity.
We must keep our connections to other people alive and real. Be friendly when you’re at the grocery store or at a restaurant, or getting your car fixed, or picking up take out for dinner. That’s the American way. My friend, June Hall (also co-author of Lithuanian Knitting), always told me she felt like she was in a play when she visited the United States because everyone was so overtly friendly and made eye contact and small talk. She wasn’t used to telling the server at a restaurant how her day was going!
I think that is one reason that knitting groups and other kinds of crafts get togethers are really important. There’s one part in this book where Snyder talks about getting together to make craft beer. Of course, he’s a guy so he’s thinking of “crafts” that men typically do. But I think any kind of hobby get together can be equally important to holding society together.
There are two ways we can get together as knitters: 1) as a resistance knitting group (where politically like-minded knitters get together and 2) as a general knitting group (where all kinds of knitters get together). I think it’s still important to use knitting as a way to connect individuals of differing viewpoints and find common ground.