Aires) A book by the dean of Argentine writers, the 96-year
old Ernesto Sabato, bears the title, La Resistencia, though the word
Resistance itself is used sparingly in his 150-page book-essay. Yet,
his message is clear: man must resist against injustice. I began this
essay from that point.
begins in doubt. Then it grows into the adolescence of skepticism and
matures into defiance, confrontation and struggle. Resistance is above
all the determination to say, no. No! to euphemism and deceit. No! to
falsehood and lie. No! to promises of comfort and ease and assurances
that ours is the right way of life.
is real life as opposed to virtual life. Resistance is the precise opposite
of acceptance of what society offers and the resulting retreat into
comfort and ease, into the assurances that your lifestyle is the right
one, that your way of life is the right way of life. Resistance is the
rejection of Power’s version of life. It is rejection of wide-eyed
acquiescence to Power’s lure.
Grand Inquisitor points out that man usually chooses submission. Dostoevsky
believes that man prefers comfort, or even death, to the freedom of
choice. Man only wants to be happy. He wants earthly bread. And that,
his Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov tells Christ-God returned
to earth, is the Church’s job, that is, Power’s job: man’s
happiness on earth.
that is, Power, the Grand Inquisitor claims, loves man more than does
the creator who placed on man’s shoulders a burden too heavy for
him to bear. Christ-God overestimated the strength of his creation when
he gave him the freedom of choice: ‘You acted without pity for
him, you demanded too much from him.’ Religion (or Power), the
old Inquisitor claims, must be on the side of the masses. It must comfort
all, the ignorant and the weak and the mean and the sick. It must be
vulgar. Instead of the uncertainty and spiritual suffering of the freedom
of choice, Power offers happiness. Since the weak and hungry and mean
masses are not interested in heavenly bread, Power promises earthly
Inquisitor and his Church opt for man. The earth is thus the reign of
mediocre happiness. None of your great spiritual aspirations! Oh yes,
men will have to work, he says, as modern Power continues to say, but
for men’s leisure time Power will organize their lives like a
game, with childish songs and dancing, Suvs and TV and Sunday football.
Power even lets them sin a bit.
thus describes the tragedies of the human condition. In his revolutionary
attack, he attacks the Grand Inquisitors (that is, Power) in every church,
in every state, in every time. He dealt with the universal truth that
most people do not want freedom. Most are afraid of freedom. The limit
of freedom is the drive “to be happy.” In American society,
it is “the American way of life” that is to guarantee the
mysterious object that is happiness. But since happiness is forever
ambivalent, elusive, vague and subjective, the result is fear of not
achieving it, which means failure.
Fear is thus
a symptom of our times. Fear of non-achievement. And today, it refers
also to artificial fears such as the fear of terrorism, ironically,
of terrorist acts executed by ourselves against ourselves. Does one
not talk openly today about the next institutionally organized terrorist
act permitting the arrival of martial law in the land? All talk of the
threat to the “future of our children” terrorizes American
Resistance requires company. It requires companions in order not to
be alone. Otherwise, fear wins out. But once you are on the inside of
resistance, once you are involved and committed, each step becomes easier,
your step becomes lighter. Resistance gradually comes to feel normal.
You are not crazy; society is.
those who arrive at even the entrance door to the world of resistance
are few. Most stand outside the door. Worse, many believe they are inside
what is considered “real life” without realizing that they
are outside of life, that they are walking on air. They are tamed by
obedience to a way of life that does not respect human beings. Power
says it is better not to get involved, better not to commit yourself,
that anyway everyone and everything is corrupt.
is the result.
is more than just acceptance. Resignation, as Sabato notes, is “cowardly,
the sentiment (born from fear) that justifies the abandonment of that
for which one should struggle.”
to resist. It is not necessary to be a hero to resist. It can be much
less than throwing Molotov cocktails at Power, or going to prison. It
is smaller than that. But resistance is counter-current. It is easy
to look around and pinpoint where to resist in everyday life. A first
step is to abandon the WalMartian massification of society that “they”
want to keep us in. Not to buy a SUV from a General Motors that marks
a turnover 20 times the GNP of the country of El Salvador should not
be seen as revolutionary. But it is! It is resistance. To demand decent
public transportation instead of more Suvs and an efficient national
health service for all is resistance. To reject programs based on assurances
of comfort and ease, of our way of life, of the future of our children
and the promises of the good for mankind of globalization is a program
step is refusal to be a tool in the lurid machine of “their”
assurances that we are “happy.” Resistance is to refuse
to be a cogwheel in the great machine of Power.
second step is to abandon concepts of American and European centrism,
which is no less than the view that the real world begins and ends in
the United States of America or in Europe. We know that the USA and
Europe are a small part of planet earth. But we easily forget. The reality
is, the rest of the world is out there.
I have quoted
in articles about Latin America the progressive French sociologist,
Alain Tourraine, a specialist on Latin American affairs. By one of the
coincidences that occur in my life with increasing frequency, I recently
saw and followed on Buenos Aires television an hour-long meeting with
Tourraine, whom I had never seen before.
says the same as Ernesto Sabato: fundamental resistance must be directed
again globalization and its gobbledygook language and to the inequalities
it creates in the world at large.
is thus counter-globalization.
resistance thinking, leads you in unexpected directions. For example
one grasps that the opposite of peace is not necessarily war; the opposite
of peace is also the abundance of social inequalities, the lack of respect
for fundamental rights; it is all the situations of injustice; it is
everything that widens the abyss between rich and poor, whether nations
is counter-globalization because globalization is a “culture of
exclusion,” eliminating jobs universally, instead of creating
them, especially in the world of the have-nots. Resistance is directed
at market economy thinking and globalization that have threatened planetary
economy since the Industrial revolution: it then took the advent of
US Imperialism after the fall of Communism and the technological revolution
to achieve it.
The economist Joseph Schumpeter defined the technological revolution
as “creative destruction” and in a like manner equated it
with globalization. Tourraine—who notes that the majority of people
in the world are saying, “I want to be respected, I want to be
recognized”—equates globalization with the bourgeoisie,
that old name for the capitalist exploiting class. Globalization is
a plot of capitalism.
of technological revolution, free market ideology and the expansion
of US imperialism has created and fomented the “culture of exclusion”
and its gradual and massive death toll among a great part of human society,
a culture defined by free market exponents with the glowing term of
as the antithesis of Marx’s dialectical process, appears the word
resistance. The antithesis to exclusion must perforce be the reappearance
of neo-socialists or some kind of neo-socialist thinking. Am I wrong,
or is that long-banned and politically incorrect word not appearing
more and more in public in the USA? Is Socialism not again becoming
salonfähig? Socialism and other forms of resistance such as genuine
modernity of thinking also provoke the rabid reactions of neo-religious
fundamentalists with their culture of fear and death, a most dangerous
ally for exponents of globalization who hopefully will soon have to
Resistance to injustice should not be seen as revolutionary. But it
is! Yet, as a rule, resistance to injustices does not have to mean to
block the efficient uses of national resources of any country or to
limit individual freedoms. It doesn’t even have to mean support
for Socialism. But in my opinion resistance does mean rejection of savage
capitalism that worships the market as an absolute, as if it were the
end goal of human behavior and human society.
By pure chance
sitting in a Buenos Aires cafè I read in an article in the conservative
daily La Nación about the visit to Argentina of Professor Dipesh
Chakrabarty of the existence of “subaltern studies” at the
University of Chicago, of which the Indian scholar is a professor. The
professor’s book Rethinking Working Class History: Bengal, 1840-1940
is described as a history of the margins of history, a history from
and for the periphery, a rethinking of universal terms such as democracy,
capitalism, equality, human rights, social justice and globalization,
which, in Chakrabarty’s words is the residue of colonialism. The
US invasion of Iraq is the clearest example.
A few days
ago I was again disconcerted, though not unduly surprised, by the views
on globalization of an educated Argentinian, from a rich landholding
family, back in Argentina after twenty years on Wall Street. His definitions
of globalization were reduced to matters like the bothersome fact that
international travel is not what it used to be, now that airplanes are
packed and that everybody can travel around the world. In the final
analysis he equated the equal chance to travel of a still small minority
of the world population to globalization, as if globalization had nothing
to do with the methodical destruction of national industries in the
margins, in the huge peripheries, all across the subaltern world.
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