Readings on Resistance

Readings on Resistance

“A certain amount of resistance is good for anybody. It keeps you awake.”  Joan Didion 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community.” Susan Sontag

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. …
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

There are times when disobedience heals a very ailing part of the self. It relieves the human spirit’s distress at being forced into narrow boundaries. For the nearly powerless, defying authority is often the only power available.
Malidoma Patrice Somé

To offer a proposition: the state of resistance as a state of life itself. Since like it or not, this is the shape of things. We will not again know sweet normalcy in our lifetime. What seems outré now, outrageous, disruptive of routine and pattern, is simply the obscure shape of things unknown, as far as we can discern any shape at all. (We can.) Shapes we can no longer cringe from, run from (very far), bribe out of sight (for very long). All of which, it seems to me, once the admission is made, clears the air. When the future needs no longer be resisted, the true form of resistance can be spread out before us, analyzed, dealt, losing hands and winning. All to the good. It being pernicious and lethal and against the right order of things that we should cling to the past, sanctify what we have known, give our hearts to it, sell our souls. No.
Everything begins with that no, spoken with the heart’s full energies, a suffering and prophetic word, a word issuing from the nature and direction of things. No. A time to tear and pull down and root out. A time for burning out the accumulated debris of history, the dark noisome corners of our shrines, a universal spring-cleaning. …
[This is a time] of moral process. Not of escalated ethical improvement, or social engineering of American dreams, or exportation of techniques. We have had enough of that; we must speak of something other, closer to the dark roots of our existence, to beginnings, to the heart of things.
Daniel Berrigan

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

“After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.”  Terry Eagleton 

from The Low Road
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people can join to form
a committee, a wedge. ..
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter,
ten thousand, power and your own paper,
a hundred thousand, your own media,
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they say no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
Marge Piercy

It is resistance, I realize now, that keeps hinges in place. I resist poverty and keep someone else poor; I resist love and always hate something or everything; I resist war and fight little wars of daily life; I refuse to trust and instead welcome fear into my life.
Claire Krulikowski

Pain exists only in resistance.
Joy exists only in acceptance.
Painful situations which you accept heartily become joyful.
Joyful situations which you do not accept become painful.
There is no such thing as a bad experience.
Bad experiences are simply the creations of your resistance to what is.

Trouble is caused by people who think they are smart enough to improve things. First they try. When there is resistance, they push. Then they push harder until their intentions are lost in struggle and discord. Cunning and ingenuity make things worse.
Go softly in the world. Place the smallness of what is known beside the greatness of what is not known. Understand with humility. Honor what is known. Honor even more what is not known. Trust the natural way of things. Ordinary simplicity is infallible.
Let everyone find their own way. Teach reluctantly. The same secret is different for everyone. Tell no one but keep no secrets.
There is a limit to a lifetime but not to the mystery in a lifetime. What foolishness then trying to catch the unlimited in the limited. How presumptuous to understand! Understanding, therefore, should not get in the way of each thing’s way.
Ray Grigg

Nonviolent resistance … avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.
Martin Luther King Jr.

from Still I Rise
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”  Assata Shakur 

“Where there is power, there is resistance.”  Michel Foucault


Longer Texts

On Being columnist Courtney Martin considers love and resistance.

From Orion Magazine, provocateur Derrick Jensen on just how far environmentalists may need to go to effectively resist.

At the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the Rev. Meg Riley explores the language of resistance.


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