Arundhati Roy On The Meaning And Idea Of Resistance

It has become fashionable to simply accept, to acquiese to power, to be obsequieous, to kiss-ass, to bend over to be taken from behind, to be grateful that your mortage can still be paid, to look for hand outs, to simply repeat the rhetoric and language of the powerful…to simply exlain the status quo and consider it insight.

Arundhati Roy continues, quietly and incisely, to remind us that dissent, all dissent, is the fundamental platform of democracy and of liberty.

One of my favorite commentators, Mark Slouka, recently penned a piece called Democracy & Deference where he ask, first the Americans, but then the world in general:

Turn on the TV to almost any program with an office in it, and you’ll find a depressingly accurate representation of the “boss culture,” a culture based on an a priori notion of—a devout belief in—inequality. The boss will scowl or humiliate you…because he can, because he’s the boss. And you’ll keep your mouth shut and look contrite, even if you’ve done nothing wrong . . . because, well, because he’s the boss. Because he’s above you. Because he makes more money than you. Because—admit it—he’s more than you.

This is the paradigm—the relational model that shapes so much of our public life. Its primary components are intimidation and fear. It is essentially authoritarian. If not principally about the abuse of power, it rests, nonetheless, on a generally accepted notion of power’s privileges. Of its inherent rights. The Rights of Man? Please. The average man has the right to get rich so that he too can sit behind a desk wearing an absurd haircut, yelling, “You’re fired!” or refuse to take any more questions; so that he too—when the great day comes—can pour boiling oil on the plebes at the base of the castle wall, each and every one of whom accepts his right to do so, and aspires to the honor.

And then leads us to the crucial question on which our democracy may hinge:

What kind of culture defines “maturity” as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and “realism”? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses.

Indeed, what kind of culture is that? We would do well to consider answers.