Friday, March 11, 2011

Fighting fire with fire is a good way to get burned

So a resistance movement organizes itself into a hierarchy with layers of authority so that its resistance can be more highly coordinated and the results can be more disruptive.

What we are fighting is a machine.  For a resistance movement to make itself into a machine in order to fight the machine might seem to make sense on the surface.  But we aren’t fighting the surface.  It is not a territorial contest.  It is not a power struggle.  Power is the struggle: the presence of power and the “legitimacy” of authority is the issue.  All other issues are secondary.  All other problems, humanitarian, ecological, and otherwise, emerge from power and its uneven distribution.  This is anarchy 101.  To fight the machine on its own terms is to lose before we start. 

In a fight there are usually only two possible outcomes:

(1) We win.  Although the least likely outcome, winning means that the resistance machine is now in power; so we have simply traded one machine for another.  Yes, you say, but it is a kinder and gentler machine.  OK, but the problem from the beginning is not what kind of machine it is, but that it is a machine at all.  And disassembling the machine once the battle is over flies in the face of historical precedent: somewhere I’m sure someone has made a list of all of the oppressive regimes that rode into power on the backs of a liberation ideology.  So winning gets us nothing.

(2) A more likely outcome, we lose but in the process we have made the machine stronger.  We have shown it where its nodes of vulnerability are so that it can now take steps to remove them.  The next machine we assemble will have to be much bigger and much stronger.

There is a third possibility, probably the most likely outcome of all if recent history is any indication.  The resistance machine is simply assimilated—in the way that conservation movements have been co-opted by corporations over and over again—and the resistance movement becomes just another product line or t-shirt design.   

To fight the machine, we need to learn how to start thinking like humans.

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