Saturday, August 20, 2011

Resistance (Part 1)

Resistance is essential in a machine made of metal.  Without contact between resistant surfaces, without pushback and friction, movement of the gears would be impossible.  But resistance has to be tightly controlled and kept within a specified range of tolerances.  The machine of civilization is likewise dependent on the presence of a certain range of controlled resistance among its component parts.   But unchecked resistance is not “tolerated.”  Open refusal to respect the machine’s operation, either by resisting in ways that threaten the structural integrity of a one of the machine’s components or by simply refusing to appropriately engage the system’s powertrain, is a potential death sentence. 

Note that “refusing to respect the machine’s operation,” is not the same as “breaking the law.”  Crime is part of the machine’s design, and criminals serve a variety of vital functions.  A thief, for example, by his or her very act of theft, demonstrates open respect for the idea of private property.  The risk of theft also provides justification for police “protection,” surveillance, and other restrictions on personal movement and privacy that enhance the machine’s control.  Also, criminals make excellent diversionary scapegoats, redirecting attention and preventing scrutiny of the system itself: society’s problems are not part of the nature of the system; rather they reflect the deviant activity of a criminal class of people.  Drug dealers, arsonists, vandals, shoplifters, child molesters, fraudulent realtors, and axe murderers are as much part of the machine as are lawyers, ballet teachers, and air traffic controllers. 

But by stepping outside of the machine, by refusing to acknowledge the machine’s legitimacy, by resisting engagement in the machine’s operation, you become like the rest of the natural world: external material to be either exploited and consumed or eliminated.  If you refuse participation, if you offer nothing of value, then, from the machine’s perspective, elimination is the only option.

It rarely comes to that, however, because true resistance seldom occurs.  And when it does, the media machine is careful to recast it in terms of psychopathology or screen it entirely from public awareness.

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