I resist violent resistance

There’s an idea going round now, inside all the rest of it, that anything short of violent resistance is, at best, appeasement, and at worst, tacit collaboration. It’s the language of extremes that admits of only two distinctions (what is formally called a false dilemma): those who are with us — where you’re only truly with us if you’re with us in full — and those who enable the enemy, in whole or in part.

This view orients the world and everyone in it by their perceived proximity to the enemy. We are, of course, furthest away — meaning there is no one further (no one more righteous). Everyone else is “in the middle.” So we yell at them, because if everyone “in the middle” was doing as much as us, the enemy would already be defeated.

I get it. I mean, so many of us feel legitimately powerless right now. That powerlessness turns to frustration, and frustration will always find an outlet. Sort of like blaming all Muslims for terrorism. Or Mexicans for low wages. It reduces a complex world to a simple one. It provides a clear prescription for action. And it reassures us we’re the good guys.

As ideologies go, it hits the fuckin’ jackpot.

And to the degree it’s cathartic for you to fantasize about assaulting strangers on the street, fine. I’m a novelist. That kind of fiction is my stock in trade — that the struggle is worthy, that you can always tell the good guys from the bad, and that the wicked get their comeuppance in the end.

But this isn’t fiction. Captain America isn’t going to drop from an airplane and punch Adolf Hitler on the jaw. In fact, punching anyone on the jaw isn’t — Well. I’ll put it this way. If YOU got punched on the jaw by your enemy, what would you do?

Seriously. Think about it. What would you do?

Give up?
Call your mom?
Curl into a ball on the floor and cry yourself to sleep?
Or would you use it to spur all your friends to fight that much harder?

If we’re going to overcome, we’ll have to work together, and to work together we need, first, to understand each other, and second, to coordinate. That’s not going to happen while you’re barking above everyone with bits of spittle flying from your teeth.

I’ve found in life that the right thing is often the most difficult. I’ve found in history that violent resistance invites reprisal. And if whom your resisting is in power, it invites repression — and justifies it. History tells me that what actually works is quite a bit harder, that doing the right thing is different than doing what feels good.

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4 thoughts on “I resist violent resistance

  1. Well said.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a cause. And while punching Nazis and barking above everyone is great for that quick burst of satisfaction and “making a difference”, nothing done now can transition this into a quick win. This will be a long game.

    Unity, cooperation, observation, listening and critical thinking will keep the momentum going far better than handing out black eyes and exhausting ourselves from the start. Better still, they don’t create ammunition to further compromise the foothold in place now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your timing for this blog could not have come at a better time. We’ve just experienced horrible violence here at home in Quebec, if you’re up on the news, for one, and during the week-end I wrote some posts on social media that did not help the hype on the other side. I have since edited my posts and took to heart Robb Willer’s approach to listening and showing respect for opposing views.
    It would help if both Trump and the press had a truce on their war. The press has a job to do and they do need to do it better, more like Reuters and less like CNN or Fox, while the president has to stop the name calling and the hyperbole. Besides the press should not have skin in the game and the ‘prez’ and his minions should not go looking for a war (of words or popularity).
    I detest protests for the reason you highlighted, and nowadays we have petitions (online) and rules that give weight to them, while we wait for the next elections. And we need to stop reacting and take the time to listen and factcheck on our own; the web is awesome for that if you have the patience to look for reliable sources.

    Like

  3. To me, violence is an end point. It is what happens when all other paths have failed. It should be the last resort because it causes so much destruction and collateral damage that it almost always creates as many problems as it solves, extreme response being one of those problems. It legitimizes extreme response. We’ve already seen that response in the Patriot act after 9/11 and now in several states where lawmakers are attempting to put in place laws to criminalize protests, and in some places to excuse violence against them. The more violent the protests, the more likely it is that those laws will be passed.

    It’s also worth considering that provoking government crackdowns using violence in order to cause popular uprisings and destabilize that government is the method favored by terrorist groups.

    Liked by 1 person

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