In my years as a political activist, I often heard the expression: “I am not going to do that, I am a pacifist.” When people spoke these words, it was with a sense of pride that, by not acting, by not speaking up, they were in fact making a very loud statement. Many of these for instance refused to vote, because they did not recognize the political system as valid, so they believed that not voting, by remaining silent, they were casting a vote. It is the same with passive resistance that many people implore; by remaining passive, yet resisting, they are in fact sending a message to the “powers that be.” In the activist tradition (and in political discussions) this is seen in contrast to violent resistance, a form of resistance that often has more physical consequences for those participating, for instance as seen in riots where people get beaten or incarcerated by the police. In Danish we have a saying: “voluntarily forced” that refers to the acceptance of force, for example in how we cannot chose not to go to school as children, but at the same time does not have to like it. Children that do not like to go to school but do it any way, are passive resistant and any teacher will most likely recognize the class room full of unwilling participants.
Another expression goes: “non-action is equal action” and that is important to consider in relation to passive resistance as a form of activism. Active pacifists that are passively resisting the system will most often think and speak about what is wrong with the system. They will get angry and sad, but because they see the only alternative to accepting the system as violent, they accept that there is nothing they can do and even experiences a sense of pride in “at least not being violent.”
Not speaking is not the same as having a voice that the void of one’s presence somehow will have an effect. Not acting is not the same as showing one’s stand. Not buying a specific product will not have an impact on what is produced.
Therefore: passive resistance is a scam. It is a form of cowardice that the enabler justifies as heroism by non-action. And it makes sense from the perspective of seeing no (or only a violent) alternative to accepting the system as it is. But by simply remaining passive, one is in fact actively resisting the system and within that accepting the system (or the injustice or abuse) to continue existing. The pacifist has as a pacifier of comfort the belief that by not acting they are in fact changing and thus as pacifists, they are still passing fists, ironically their non-action becomes the very action, they so passively oppose. It is important to note though that “the pacifist” is a label that has been created by the very system itself, to create the false hope that not acting can have some kind of impact, just as violent resistance will end you in jail. It is designed to be redundant, yet provide people with a sense of hope.
At Desteni, we present an alternative to resistance, but we also investigate for ourselves the nature of resistance, from the perspective that: “what you resist will persist.” – What this means is that because we are responsible for the world and ourselves in it, by resisting a point or a system, we are in fact resisting our own responsibility.
This will often be within a polarity of accepting oneself as less than the system and therefore incapable of changing it (or self) and accepting oneself as more than the system and as such believing that one can simply step out of the system and not participate and as such participate in changing the world. Passive resistance is active acceptance, because in not acting, we are in fact acting. By not speaking, that IS what we are speaking, that we don’t need to speak or act, because we are apparently more or less than the system. As long as we live as such, nothing will change. Turning the other cheek will only ensure you one thing: you will be slapped on the other cheek as well. If you keep turning your cheek, you will keep getting slapped. There is nothing honorable in that. This suggestion must have been invented by someone that wanted obedient slaves.
What we resist will persist, because all that exist is a part of us and it is only by taking responsible for it, that we can direct it. It is only by standing equal to it, that we no longer are enslaved by it.
Desteni stands for practivism, a practical activism, from where we act to stand self-responsible for what is here and direct the systems of the world as ourselves, in equality. As Destonians we are practivists that live to act in ways that are best for all, where resistance is not needed because we direct the system as ourselves.
Suggested listening for further perspective:
“Open Letter to Zeitgeists recent declaration of Passive Resistance” By Anna Brix Thomsen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63_wkWBnbwM
“2012 Passive Resistance – ZEITGEIST – Ghosts of Time Gone by?” By Anna Brix Thomsen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FhEKUd1iZk
You Stand to be the prime of our time
In opposition to those bagging nickels and dimes.
Now with this declaration of “Passive Resistance”
You’ve advocated patience as a brief intermittence
Encouraging waiting and wishing and hoping
With love as the drug you are pushing and doping.
You tell us to fight with love as a weapon
While we sit here and wait for change to happen
You place yourself as a group, as ‘a-gain-sting’
The system that is here as ‘that abusive, mean-world-thing’
Though conveniently forgetting that you helped create it
Now advocating that we should all abdicate it
By loving our way through passive resistance
Avoiding war and violence from a safe, ‘but loving’ distance
Instead of Realizing that We ARE All in Here
Caught in the same net of suffering war and fear
Because Resistance is Futile and what you fight creates sequels
Because All that is Here, is Living One and Equal.
Zeitgeist does not stand for ‘The Spirit of the Times’
Zeitgeist are merely Ghosts of Time Gone By.”
“Passive Resistance is Just Another Brick in the Wall” By Cathy Krafft http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIDbhx-M8qE
“2011 Why Passive Resistance is Futile” By Viktor Persson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4FErY-TnT0