The Cost of Resistance

By Chris Hedges and cross-posted from Truth Dig

Resistance entails suffering. It requires self-sacrifice. It accepts that we may be destroyed. It is not rational. It is not about the pursuit of happiness. It is about the pursuit of freedom. Resistance accepts that even if we fail, there is an inner freedom that comes with defiance, and perhaps this is the only freedom, and true happiness, we will ever know. To resist evil is the highest achievement of human life. It is the supreme act of love. It is to carry the cross, as the theologian James Cone reminds us, and to be acutely aware that what we are carrying is also what we will die upon.

Most of those who resist—Sitting Bull, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.—are defeated, at least in the cold calculation of the powerful. The final, and perhaps most important quality of resistance, as Cone writes, is that it “inverts the world’s value system.” Hope rises up out of defeat. Those who resist stand, regardless of the cost, with the crucified. This is their magnificence and their power.

The seductive inducements to conformity—money, fame, prizes, generous grants, huge book contracts, hefty lecture fees, important academic and political positions and a public platform—are scorned by those who resist. The rebel does not define success the way the elites define success. Those who resist refuse to kneel before the idols of mass culture and the power elites. They are not trying to get rich. They do not want to be part of the inner circle of the powerful. They accept that when you stand with the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed.

The inversion of the world’s value system makes freedom possible. Those who resist are free not because they have attained many things or high positions, but because they have so few needs. They sever the shackles used to keep most people enslaved. And this is why the elites fear them. The elites can crush them physically, but they cannot buy them off.

The power elites attempt to discredit those who resist. They force them to struggle to make an income. They push them to the margins of society. They write them out of the official narrative. They deny them the symbols of status. They use the compliant liberal class to paint them as unreasonable and utopian.

Resistance is not, fundamentally, political. It is cultural. It is about finding meaning and expression in the transcendent and the incongruities of life. Music, poetry, theater and art sustain resistance by giving expression to the nobility of rebellion against the overwhelming forces, what the ancient Greeks called fortuna, which can never ultimately be overcome. Art celebrates the freedom and dignity of those who defy malignant evil. Victory is not inevitable, or at least not victory as defined by the powerful. Yet in every act of rebellion we are free. It was the raw honesty of the blues, spirituals and work chants that made it possible for African-Americans to endure.

Power is a poison. It does not matter who wields it. The rebel, for this reason, is an eternal heretic. He or she will never fit into any system. The rebel stands with the powerless. There will always be powerless people. There will always be injustice. The rebel will always be an outsider

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