Resisting resisting – the abyss stares back so well…

So damned tired.

It is hard to care, when it seems so very late, when resisting seems so very futile.

This is what those determined to kill us all (they see it differently, obvs) want. They want us to desert the field. It’s so much easier for them, then.

There’s a quote from near the end of Alison Lurie’s fine novel “The Last Resort” (nb spoilers) that I want to share.

After the doctor had left a cold wave of rage and depression had washed over him. For years more… [h]e would have to continue writing and speaking: shouting about all that was going wrong in the world. Greed, stupidity, waste, the exploitation and extermination of species, the destruction of the environment, it’s happening now, you’ve got to do something about it! he had shouted for nearly fifty years, his voice growing weaker every year. Most people who heard him didn’t give a damn. The few who seemed to care were mostly either lying or incompetent. Now he could go on shouting for years more, while the world continued to spiral downward, into the dark and muck.

(Lurie, 1999: 229)

I feel that way almost all the time, and it’s only been half that time for me, really.

And I catch myself in such maudlin self-pity and instantly know what retort will come back (and it’s one I mostly agree with) – “dude, check your privilege – many people don’t have the choice to bail, to resist. Every day is this, merely existing is resistance. Quit your damn whining and get ON with it.”

I suppose my main resistance to this, well – I will quote from my reply to a “we are doomed/sauve qui peut” vs “that’s ridiculous” exchange on a critical geography forum email recently.

These sorts of discussions always frustrate me mightily, since there never seems to be any space/appetite for a discussion around
“Gee, for the last 30 years we have been doing campaigning using information deficit model, sage on the stage, emotacycles, the smugosphere, and it hasn’t worked.  Maybe before we despair or just shout “onwards” we ought to think about what we need to start doing *differently,* and who we is anyway.”

“But then, I am the guy who had a vasectomy in 2004 because we absolutely definitely are not getting out of this alive.”

As with many things, perhaps it is also a question of which metaphors we use. 

A simple/simplistic one often gets trotted out is that this is a “marathon not a sprint” and that we could/should see “activism” as a relay race with a passing the baton to younger folks. I’ve perpetrated that metaphor, but am quite uncomfortable with it now.  It locks in the idea of it as a race a linear thing, where you know where the end is, and what the track is (1).

One alternative is to think of it as a tag-team wrestling match, where when you have taken some particularly nasty hits, you can call on someone else to jump into the ring in your place, while you recover, recuperate, maybe even learn some new skills (but probably won’t, because, well, reasons (2).

Of course, this is only slightly better – there’s still a defined ring an arena where you are fighting a relatively stable “enemy.” Maybe if you took that tag-team notion and the enemy you were up against was a T-1000 shapeshifter, not an old-fashioned T-800?

Better, but I reckon closer still is the fantastic tip-tilting, spikey disc over the abyss thing in the delirious 1980 camp-tastic Flash Gordon (3).

That’s what we are on, in my opinion, with some bad actors able to tip and tilt the arena, dial up (and down) the spikes whenever they want. 

And we competitors could learn that only co-operation, ganging up on those who “hold the controls,” gives us even a sliver of a chance. But that requires intellectual courage and curiosity and I am sorry, but I just don’t see it (maybe I am looking in the wrong places, maybe my middle-class eyes can’t/won’t see it, or on some level don’t want to see it when it’s there. Buggered if I know any more.

Footnotes

(1) On the linear race thing – there’s the climax (spoilers, obvs) of the film 1979 Breaking Away, where the central character climbs back on the bike and gets his team back up and over the line with one mighty effort.

(2) Mel Brooks’ experience in World War 2 is instructive. He was initially held back because he aced a bunch of IQ tests and was to be trained for tricky stuff. And then there were personnel shortages and he spent the winter of 1944/5 digging up landmines in France and Germany (thus earning the right to do The Hitler Rap).

(3) There’s that other Flash Gordon scene that sticks in the mind – the sticking your arm in the gnarly tree trunk which is home to a deadly fanged spider.

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