Thursday, 23 April 2009

Resistance - pointless or purposeful?

A few months ago someone said to me "resistance is pointless". I think it was their way of saying we all just needed to submit to the inexorable march of change and that there is no point even crying out against injustice.
I thought about this conversation yesterday when I came across this book in the WCC library and realised that whatever else I believe about resistance I do not believe it is pointless. You can find details of the book here and read the contents here.
Thinking about it a little more I realised that I am also not very good at resistance, it's easier to be liked, to get on with one's little life, to play self-preservational politics or even the politics that destroy others. It's also easier to get lost sometimes in the red heat of moral outrage and lose the energy for the long tough struggle.
I suppose somehow for me resistance is about trying to hold fast to some kind of moral compass - often failing but trying to start over doing it again, calling myself, society and the systems and organisations I am part of into question.
Yesterday's quote from Bonhoeffer opens a chapter in this book on "Poisonous Inequality". The book begins with why and how to resist, looking at the call of the Bible to resist and the life of prayer as offering the strength to resist.
Resistance is a complex and multi-faceted term. Interestingly managers are taught to recognise and "deal" with resistance. (As I write that the image of olive trees and bulldozers in Palestine comes to mind.) In management terms resistance is often seen as a negative thing. If we cannot reform we can resist, says the introduction tho the book. Within myself I recognise both positive and negative forces of resistance. Resistance that wants to hold on to my own power, privilege and comfort; resistance that tries to do what is right, hold on to what is good, point to the values of hope integrity and the future. I'd like to kid myself that I'm more involved in positive rather than negative resistance but as they say life is lived forwards and understood backwards. Resistance and its importance is often only fully understood afterwards, years or decades afterwards.
Résister, as I have written before several times, is a key element of my assumed French Protestant identity.
So who is willing to plant and protect real and metaphorical olive trees, to protect them and to say that they have always had a right to grow?