Friday, July 28, 2006

A reflection on resitance and revolution

I found this journal entry of September 21 2002, in organizing some old files. It is from before I started bloging so I thought I would post it since I think it continues to have relavance.

Thoughts upon recovery from an illness.

What is resistance and revolution in our time? What was it ever really? This week while I was sick I saw a documentary series Adventure Divas on PBS about women in Cuba, director and host, Holly Morris is in search of what she calls “Divas”. The premise of the series of documentaries is interesting. But I was struck by the image of Cuba this gave. The movie maker’s product was not particularly ideologically motivated, neither a defense of communism or Castro and the Revolution, nor propagandist for Americanism, that is to show how great American values are in contrast to how bad it is under a revolutionary regime. Her perspective was unrepentantly American, and thus not ideologically communist. I think though that the woman she sought out were points of resistance within a revolutionary and communist regime; some within the system, i.e. a party member and others outside the system, i.e. a Santeria priestess, and those in between. All these points of resistance to a regime, to the suppression of life, within a regime that is itself a point of resistance to the hegemony of Americanism and Freedom imposed within a particular ideology of freedom democratic free capitalism and consumerism. This type of freedom cannot allow other versions of the dream of freedom to exist. So there are various forms of resistance manifested in the few women this moviemaker hooked up with while filming in Cuba, all in one way or another at odds with Castro’s regime, and regime at odds with the reigning power of the World, the US. Is not resistance in this scenario made ridiculous? What is resistance after—in a world that is after so much resistance, the Avant Guarde, the Hippies, after Punk, after that great movement of resistance and progress Modernism (or was it really Modernisms, Communism, Capitalism?). In this sense we are in a time that is simply after, not just Modernism but post-resistance and revolution, post-progress.

Resistance and revolution seems now quaintly nostalgic. What is there to resist after Martin Luther King Jr., after Vietnam, after ‘compassionate conservatism”, after Neo-conservatives, after the New Democrats? In a world that is after we find ourselves in a world of appropriation. The dominant system appropriates the images, the icons, and the language of resistance. But was not what was sought before. In the US at least one can say that the resistance of the Civil Rights movement has humanized the system. Yet in a post Civil Rights era, the need for resistance has not ended but the means of resistance have been appropriated by the system.

In a sense can any one resist the system without the sort of schizophrenia that is the center of the book Fight Club. I think that was part of the point of the novel. Resistance to a system in which we are complicit, simply by participating in it on whatever level, makes resistance an impossibility. Resistance as it was once conceived, revolution as it was conceived, required the sort of self-hatred exhibited in Fight Club. And yet we know we long for something like “Project Mayhem”, for revolution. America has a cause, a revolution, as the main proponent of Freedom and civilization in the face of Islamic terrorists. But I digress.

Fight Club and the movie about the “Divas” in Cuba show the reality of the complicity of any resistance. This is what we have come to know that even in our resistance we are complicit with what we resist. There can be no whipping the slate clean without schizophrenia. There can be no resistance but from within. All resistance all struggle is from within. The old mythologies, which remain current and thus create the problem for resistance in a world that is after all revolution and absolute resistance, declare that only the pure will do. Absolute loyalty is the demand, complicity is treason to the cause. This is the position both of crass Americanism and the strict Islamists. Yet, resistance by those who are complicit with that which they resist seems without hope aimless and powerless

This would be true if in a world that is after, revolution and resistance were still about competing ideologies. Perhaps true revolution and resistance has never been actually about ideology. At bottom what do the various ideologies claim for the human being- a more humane and beneficial way of life. That is life. All our ideologies our religions and philosophies claim to lead us to life. At bottom then all resistance all revolution is in fact seeking life. The problem is that ideology has failed to bring us life. Yet life grips us and so the spirit of resistance lives in Cuba or the US. It lives now in a world that is after in those who recognize that life is not found in ideology, that life is not found in the victor of the war between two ideologies, but is found in living. Life is itself an act of resistance. Life is itself struggle the very thing that ideology wishes to draw into itself and claim is only found in itself. In Cuba, Castro and ideological communism continue to claim that life and resistance and struggle only properly belong to itself. In the US, Americanism claims that the only life worth living and dying for is the American dream of freedom and life. The American vision of democracy and wealth and life is the only force that can resist the power of death. In its pride it laughs at us who wish to resist and simultaneously benefit and are complicit with its vision and reality. Yet it too is complicit with death and has been from its birth as a nation. In the United States its vision of Freedom and life and been achieved only by complicity with death and oppression.

The issue then is not complicity but the denial of complicity. Americanism denies any complicity with death and oppression. Any who in a world after wish to resist death and struggle for life can only do so while admitting complicity with the system they resist. All other resistance and struggle in a world after is nostalgic nonsense.

The other side of this that exposes another form of nostalgia is the desire that resistance remain underground that its images and icons and language of resistance be free from cooption by the system and larger society. Yet resistance means nothing unless it affects and effects the larger system. Cooption of the language of resistance in its manifold forms actually shows the power of resistance. The despair over cooption is a petty desire to be absolutely different: Nostalgia for a time of ostracism and absolute rejection.

In a world that is after, there is no longer room for the myth of purity, of the non-complicit culture of resistance. We look out on a world and can say with the apostle Paul “There are none righteous not even one” (quoting the Torah) also we can say with the apostle John in his Apocalypse “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals” and no one in heaven or on earth was found to open the scroll or read what was in it. All are complicit with the forces that seek to stamp out life and freedom. This insight is the beginning of Wisdom and discernment, and the truth of any resistance worthy of the name.