This piece is part of a blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich, called "Stages of Resistance." The series welcomes reflections on themes related to making work for live performance in political and aesthetic resistance to forms and systems that oppress human rights and censor or severely limit freedom of expression. We are in increasingly hostile, volatile times around the world, and this salon hopes to serve as a space for considered, thoughtful, polemical articulations of practice and theory on the subject of resistance, the multiple meanings of political art, and the ways in which progressive, wholistic cultural change may be instigated through artworks. Stay tuned for more!
I think it’s best I take this opportunity to tell you a story.
And because I’ve been asked to share my thoughts about resistance.
I think it’s best that the story be mine.
I was born of parents who were themselves children of refugees.
A generation who had no voice.
And didn’t expect one.
My parents were, then, immigrants.
Who had no voice.
And didn’t expect one.
My inheritance is wrought in silence.
A kind of sharp muteness
First alivened by the words of others.
Novels and poetry. Incisions into the dense cloth of consciousness.
I first felt that flash of recognition in dark rooms squinting at yellowing pages.
My mother’s marginalia cluttering the sides of her books that breathed life.
When her life was unbearable.
My inheritance, you see, is resistance.
My birth might as well have come with a small note of apology.
It might well have said ‘we’re sorry for taking up more brown space, we’ll try our best not to’
It’s not that I was unwanted. At least, I don’t think so.
It’s more that they were unwanted. My parents. My grandparents.
Unwanted by the countries who took them.
Unwanted, in some way, by each other.
It turns out quiet runs in the blood.
I was raised in resistance.
A cloudy negation of life itself.
It’s what I learned.
As a considerate child, I reviewed my options.
And felt it best that I say nothing.
Nothing came to feel natural in my throat.
(They took my tonsils anyway)
So I didn’t speak. For a long time.
Until someone put me in a chicken costume.
On a stage.
I began to speak and it was a torrent.
All the lines in the school play flying out of my mouth.
I’d stolen them from the other children.
Like the best thieves, I was a quiet one.
The revelation that I could speak brought the house down.
My body told me it was okay to speak when I pretended no one was there.
And so, willfully, I pretended. I pretend.
I pretend about a lot of things.
Creativity is the opposite of resistance.
I learned this. From Rilke first.
Then from a friend who saw me in my cage.
Who hauled me out with her teeth.
And smacked the breath back into me.
If you resist who you are, it comes for you anyway.
Words came for me, dragged me out of my sleep.
But resistance, well, it’s in my nature.
Like an alchoholic, I’ve come to depend on it
As a way of understanding myself.
I have a lot of liberty now.
But I know that silent, darkened place of no
As well as I know my waking body.
All this to say, I have a long acquaintance with resistance.
And have some thoughts I’d like to share, if I may?
I think resistance is a fact.
Like fear, it exists.
It’s best to know that you are not dealing with a malleable thing.
You may have to move other things around it.
So if we are collectively, in our resistance, hard, like a fact.
Then the hope is, other facts will change around us.
That our given circumstances will mold around our intractability.
The problem though, as we now know, is that facts are no longer real.
Our subjectivity changes what we are looking at.
And then there’s all that fake news business.)
So if resistance is an attitude and not a fact.
And I am wrong and it is, in fact, malleable.
Then it’s our subjectivity that’s important.
What is the correct way to see resistance?
Is it a living force of opposition?
A dense muteness?
Or as Gandhi said, passivity.
To resist, he said, is to lay down resistance.
To stop fighting.
In stopping, you change the terms of the conversation.
In stopping, you cease to locate the subject of resistance as an outside force.
The subject of resistance is not the opposition.
It is resistance itself.
So, now I think this is really the key to our survival.
Not just mine.
But all of ours.
Trust Gandhi to solve a paradox. And make it actionable. Smartypants.
This is a long process.
We have to give up reacting.
And say yes, to what’s coming at us.
Even to what’s coming for us.
Because the best resistance is acceptance.
A radical disengagement, a revolutionary breath in.
Unhooking from the hooks that trigger us.
This is how we’ll win the war.
This is how we’ll win the peace.