09 December 2008

We salute you, Aunty Miriam

Ten years ago, I used to think Starhawk was so cool you could keep a side of organically-grown slaughtered-with-appropriate-ritual-and-respect meat in her for a month, and I still have a lot of respect for her. Here's a good article she wrote a few years back, when it really did look for a while like it was 1968 again (rather than 1929 again, but never mind). One important point she makes - and one which raises her above all the other hippies and New Agers out there - is extracted below:

In New Age circles, a common slogan is that "What you resist, persists." Truly spiritual people are never supposed to be confrontational or adversarial -- that would be perpetuating an unevolved, "us-them" dualism.

I don't know from what spiritual tradition the "what you resist, persists" slogan originated, but I often want to ask those who blithely repeat it, "What's your evidence?" When it is so patently obvious that what you don't resist persists like hell and spreads all over the place. In fact, good, strong, solid resistance may be the only thing that stands between us and hell. Hitler didn't persist because of the Resistance -- he succeeded in taking over Germany and murdering millions because not enough people resisted.

Good point there. I would hazard a guess that "what you resist, persists" isn't from a spiritual tradition at all, but from pop-psychology. Basically, it's all excellent advice for dealing with childhood bullies (or online trolls, for that matter) - basically, such people want to know that they've had an effect at all, and if you fly at them like a breezeblock of butthurt that's one of the many desired reactions. But of course the forces of the capitalist state aren't trying to troll us. They're trying to control us. Idiots looking to justify their own passivity suggest that confronting the state just gives them an "excuse" to beat the shit out of you. But... "excuse"?

Let's unpack the proposition here - that the state prefers to use brute force whereever it can. In a word, bullshit. If that were true they wouldn't have mass media, mass education and all the other handy means of brainwashing. Brute force is expensive, difficult, and tends to lead to disruptions in production. That old bastard Bobby Mugabe his own self would, I assume, much prefer to be winning elections fair and square than having to pay real non-inflated foreign money to keep his battalions of cops and soldiers happy, and when the state cracks out the brute force, it's a sign of desperation, not strength. (This is, BTW, exactly why Dubya Bush was not a fascist - because there was no need for fascism, with opposition to him not even being able to see their way to a clear and coherent strategy beyond lining up behind one corporate-backed Democrat or other.)

On the other hand, we must avoid the opposite trap of supporting violent confrontation with the forces of order for its own sake. That's not politics, that's leisure activities for the downwardly mobile middle class. Someone who gets involved in that kind of thing for the lulz is not thinking of liberating the world, they're thinking of liberating themselves - "Temporary Autonomous Zone", and all that deliberately-induced quasi-autism jazz. Now if you could think of some strategy to encourage Joe Sixpack to stop supporting Sarah Palin and join in the rioting, you might have something. Or some kind of unapproved social production, in any case.

And on the third hand, in some cases the state will use disproportionate force against a radical minority of protestors, just to terrify normal people away from their cause. This is a real aim. But sadly, the radical minority do a pretty good job of terrifying normal people at the best of times. We must learn to do memetic jiu-jitsu against the forces of order - use memetic science to combat their ideas with more appealing ones of our own, that will catch on of their own accord. To some degree, "the propaganda of the deed" (NOT assassinations, but showing what is possible by force of example) is required here.

That modern method of magick known as CBT suggests that the way to deal with negative mental images is not to ignore them, but to challenge them. Works for politics, too. All that is left to decide on now are the most effective strategies and tactics for doing so, she said using ironic understatement.