Social media has made a big impact on these situations in recent years. Oppressed peoples have been able to expand their voice through social media.
Recently, the #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreath hashtags have unified movements across many cities over a short period of time. You see the same message on the placards across the country. A movement that would have taken months to organize happens the night after the acquittal in the Eric Garner case. The fact that people have unified around Twitter and other social media gave this movement almost immediate coherence.
So, in that sense, maybe it's easier.
In another sense, it's harder in modern times. Oppression is not always as clear cut--or at least as unified--in its attack on human rights. Oppression may still happen all over the place, but it's changed from fighting a large, obvious enemy to combating mindsets, both in ourselves and others.
One thing I notice, though, is that it is the social media tools used to combat oppression are most available in the most modern, affluent nations. As I think about the people in Bhopal trying to get reparation for the horrible industrial accident that occurred there, I realize that these people's voices are rarely heard. They do not all have iPhones or an Internet connection to make their voices heard. Is it fair that we are so able to organize and so many around the world are not? Is it right that John Stewart expressed so much exasperation over the Eric Garner case but not over the hundreds of people worldwide who suffer torture, rape, unfair trials, forced abortions, imprisonment, disappearances, and executions on a daily basis?
I also wonder about the place of art in the midst of all this. Can I bear witness in a way that doesn't fit into a hashtag? What we can sometimes see in certain hashtags is an oversimplification of complex issues. Some might think this is necessary to make forward progress. But if the reality is complex, how does attacking a simplified reality (a "straw man") help matters?
Can a poem, though it may be misunderstood, better capture the complexity? Can a story, though it may be left open ended, better embrace the fullness of that reality?