"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jul 24, 2011

Resistance

However we can, whenever we can, to the best of our ability, to whatever limit we can tolerate, for as long as we can hold out, so long as we do not betray, and can continue to bear the weight and the burdens of any friend, comrade or stranger.

That's how we resist.

What we resist is not simple, nor simple to describe. In fact, its greatest virtue (for those who rule and benefit from it) is its appearance of compounded complexity.

It's part of who we are. We are raised to belong to the thing which consumes us, to experience doubt as a double bind, to labor to overcome our own resistances as a matter of responsibility, pride, membership, morality, self-respect, vanity or honor. We have our personalities organized for us, to collapse under the weight of that bind made obvious. We are organized towards self-betrayal at the first hint of obstruction, or realization.

The essential point, if there can be one, is that the whole of society is organized to consume us. I don't mean that as a statement in the abstract. I mean it literally. When your boss's boss orders a thirty dollar glass of wine, it is your suffering he drinks. It's our suffering.

Our private agonies and alienation are not in competition. Some obviously have it worse than others. I know my own good fortune in escaping Lawrence, or not being born in Burkina Faso. I also know that there are days that Burkina Faso and a childhood without abuse would seem like a temporary paradise.

At the point of resistance, where we meet others who want to struggle, who want to fight, who have reached the apex of a necessary question, our origins matter less than our aims.

"What is that question? " you might wonder.

I'll gladly tell you. The question is, "Why shouldn't everyone have it easy?"

I mean, everyone. If you can ask this question, I kindly submit to you that you are all the way there.

So why not take the next step?

Why not resist?

Perhaps your involvement will not resemble my own. I am comfortable with hatred. I'm good at it, and I know that there are plenty of people whose only merit is that they are on the receiving end of my practiced enmity and life-affirming malevolence. I cannot look at my oldest child without knowing this for an exact truth. I cannot wake up in my own poisoned body and foreshortened life without reminding myself that an entire catalog of persons live their lives with greater ease because I broke myself to feed my children, according to a set of enforcements which guaranteed either compliance, or criminality. And I was long a criminal. It's rewarding, in so much as disobedience is its own end. It's also the sort of life which selects for the worst, and the hardest. I have kicked a man's nose almost completely off his face because, in the end, he had the audacity to sneer at the obvious poverty of my friends and I. We nearly killed that man, because we lived lives which demanded a terrible hardness.

Perhaps you also live that life, but call your hardness "career" or "family" or "self-preservation." It probably does preserve you. That's the price of entry to our collective existence. We select for cruelty, or for an involved detachment. We learn to blame victims for their conditions, turning against those honest enough to break with sanity, or sobriety. Villains we might honor, if only from afar, but everyone hates the drug addict and the welfare mother. Especially those who turn their self-preservation into charity, or worse, the plastic hatred of a comfortable pity.

You may not obtain the same hatreds as I. I suggest that this is no obstacle.

We have a common enemy.

It has thousands and thousands of faces. Yours might even be among them.

I know mine once was.

Let's agree to be honest about our complicity. All those points of connection with the machinery of our degradation are points of entry, as well. It's a trick of self-deception to believe that disengagement will stop its operation. It won't, because every slot one of us vacates will be occupied by an equally, or even more desperately desperate party.

The machinery is organized to consume us, to break us down, to constrain our thoughts towards a narrow focus and to run us as separate and isolated platforms, using whatever operating systems keep us divided, which keep each of us from turning our positions into loci of resistance, sabotage and revolution.

The trick isn't to escape. The needful thing is to capture the machinery, the tools, the wealth of our oppressors and turn it against them. There are so many of us, friends, comrades and strangers.

We are legion. We are the many.

And we can do it.

I'm willing to stake my life on that.

[If you have any doubt that our lords and masters understand the stakes, see the post directly below this one.]

(It's impossible to spell out how many people owe to this stupidly simple expression of a thought. But, most every one of you who have been generous enough to comment over the last year or so, and especially this week. Thank you.

The stupid simplicity is my own. The credit and inspiration, due to each and all of you.)

14 comments:

mp said...

jack-
this is mighty fine work.

"why shouldn't everyone have it easy?"

it's way better than "who is john fucking galt?"

Abonilox said...

Gives new meaning to term "Consumer Culture". We are not the ones consuming, we are being consumed.

Great stuff.

Jack Crow said...

Thank you.

Cüneyt said...

It's not stupid, Jack. It's the one truth we must all accept before we move on. Divided we fall. It's how the owners want us.

Keep up your brilliant thinking. You are doing Man's work.

Justin said...

I have some philosophical disagreements here, and maybe I'll get to them sometime, Jack.

As far as what I am saying about withdrawal, its a self-concious fantasy. Western civilization has systematically rooted out, extinguished, or assimilated every alternative to its rapacious, bottomless avarice and culture of natural death as a measure of material progress. To believe that we could construct an alternative beside it is ahistorical and a bit naive. Nonetheless, I choose to believe. My self-conscious hope is that just because things have always been does not mean they always will be.

However, we don't live in the world of philosophy and naive hope, we live in the real world. And yes, I am willing to stake my life on it too, all of us already are one way or the other anyway. More importantly than leaving some words of support, I am doing everything I can to prepare for living in and dealing with the real world, not just the philosophical one, and everything goes above and beyond leaving comments here or a few moments of daydreaming in the day.

Jack Crow said...

Justin,

If every person who opts out is replaceable, and replaced, what does opting out accomplish?

Justin said...

Jack,
If every CEO is removed only to be replaced by another, what does removing him accomplish?

Similarly, if every worker goes on strike and is replaced by a scab, what does going on strike accomplish?

As stated, I do not disagree with you. I would also say that in my own words above, I am damning my own position as naive and ahistorically optimistic.

To answer your question; what it accomplishes is to withdraw whatever support that person offers. Will it be replaced? Yeah, that is the point. The system does not have infinite resources. It just appears to have overwhelming resources. Withdrawing support is an attack on the system, just as reallocating those energies to attack.

Let me put it this way, if X represents the total man power of the system, then X-1 is exactly what you cost it by withdrawing.

I'll put it another way as I see it. Our system has evolved with a devilish feature; no one has total responsibility for its evils, so no one can stop it, and so no one tries. Another way of saying this is that our system is the sum of all our participation, a direct way to undermine this system is to cease participating. Just the same as a way to undermine it is to work for its end.

I would argue that to attack the system requires one to both withdraw your support, and reallocate your energies for its removal. I think this is why I don't understand your dismissal of what I mean. I suspect that you think I mean to spiritually withdraw or some other pacifist inspired nonsense about how all that is needed is to give love or peace a chance.

As for your post, consider that most people spend almost every waking hour contributing to this mess by going to work and functioning as contributing members to the society. Imagine that everyone ceased to do this, what would be left? At some point between remaining the same and total withdrawal, there is a critical mass that would undermine it enough to begin critically weakening it.

Justin said...

And to reiterate; my comments are meant in spirit of agreement. We are the many. we are already staking our lives on its continuation by continuing as functioning/contributing members of the system. Its time we stake our lives to its destruction. I don't think that means offering a good post Jack, I think it means real world action. I think the first part of engaging in real world action is to first stop contributing and depending upon the system, and then to spend those energies on attacking it.

Jack Crow said...

Justin,

I keep questioning the tactic because I think it avoids the problem, not because I think you're making a case for it in bad faith.

If there are more workers than jobs available, and if jobs are still the property of owners, then what does withdrawal accomplish?

Are you aiming for a theoretical breaking point? If so, where is it?

Justin said...

Ah, I see.

I am aiming for a personal breaking point. A personal declaration of independance. Withdrawal is a first step, not the last.

Almost everyone I know agrees that shit is fucked, but they follow that agreement up with some form of "what are you gonna do?" or "I wish I could change it, but I can't, so I guess I'll just keep on."

Why is this?

An observation: people are so materially dependant upon this system, meaning they depend upon it to provide all their physical needs, that they cannot break their physical behavior of support. To do so would be tantamount to suicide.

When I say withdrawal, I mean to begin finding alternative means of supporting oneself physically. If the supermarket is your only source and understanding of food, you are not going to want to shut down the oil dependant supply chain that stocks its shelves. If carrying a mortgage is your shelter, you are not going to cheer the collapse of the bank holding the note. As you withdraw from the system, your willingness to engage in more comprehensive attacks against it increases. That is what I mean, its an attempt to bridge the gap between thinking and feeling to acting.

There are always more workers than jobs available, that is a feature of the system, and it is meant to do exactly what you are saying; to teach people that resistance is futile.

To get from here to staking our lives on exactly what you are saying is first going to require that the individual reclaims their life. What I am saying is that right now, most of us are staking our lives on the system and, by extension, the interests of the elites. To begin staking our lives on something else requires that we first begin doing the opposite of what the system expects of you.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Jack,

are you suggesting that Justin is, or I am, obliged to stay within?

If not, apologies for the misread; but if so, what creates the obligation?

I see my life as my own, not something anyone else can claim a right to control, not directly nor through guilt-handing!

Jack Crow said...

Sorry, folks - family stuff.

Justin,

Perhaps my calculus is really just a matter of numbers. I don't see how opting out in ones and twos pressures the system in any way, and I don't see how people can afford to opt out in large numbers.

Karl,

I don't think anyone should do that which makes them miserable. As with most shoulds, it's conditional. But, I'm not sure obligation is the best approach.

To share obligation, some trust has to be established, I think. That's too much to expect from strangers.

My objection to opting out isn't a matter of obligating people to stay in. It's that I think it's futile, if we really do want life to be easier for everyone.

Justin said...

Jack,
The only thing I've ever been certain of over time is the fallibility of my own positions. Very little of what I believe today is what I believed yesterday, or the day before. So, perhaps I am very wrong about this, and I aim to find out one way or the other anyway.

In the spirit of your post, perhaps what I am really trying to get at is how you propose we move from what you are saying in words to actions. Instead of asking that question, I keep supplying my own answer, but as I admit above, its not like my answers have ever been very solid, not even for me. I should stop doing this and just ask the question.

I think what we have right now is a dependancy of short term considerations and a conflict of long term health. For instance, nothing could be more beneficial in the short term for the stability and continued health of our system right now than suddenly discovering a huge reservoir of fossil fuels. Equally true, nothing could damn us to almost certain extinction in the near to long term. Another way to put this is that the stability and health of our economy is directly related to the destruction of our environment, so what can we do to get past that?

I honestly would like to hear more of your thoughts on how we get from where we are now, staking our lives on this system and our own immiseration, degradation, and impoverishment, and seizing the tools of the machinery. In this post, you make a very clear declaration of revolution in spirit, now what?

The revolutionary rhetoric of your posts, such as suggesting the guillotine for the austerians, does not put me off in spirit. In practice though, I wonder how it will amount to anything better than what we saw in Norway recently. I am quite literally ready to dedicate my energies and life to siezing the machinery and dismantling it, but I don't think I want any part of a massive bloodletting. If that is the only way, then I am personally willing to accept the consequences of the choices our species has made and go off on my own and struggle for as long as I can. Maybe your response will be that massacre of the innocent is unavoidable. You would certainly be backed up by history.

That is where my suggestions are coming from, indirect attacks on the premises of the system from a personal standpoint. I really would like to hear from your point of view how to go from rhetoric to concrete action, not just what the concrete action is, but how you go from wage slavery and stirring rhetoric to actually seizing the machinery. From there, I would say that it is not enough to seize it, but to re-purpose it, at the least, and decommission it, at the most.

Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Jack, sorry to hear there's other stuff keeping you away. Hope it improves.

I wonder what, if not a guilt-fed obligation, informs this sentiment:

It's that I think it's futile, if we really do want life to be easier for everyone.

The 2d clause is where I sense a guilty obligation.

I tend to agree with Justin's sentiments just expressed.