Anti-Politics: Counterdiscourse and Resistance

In previous posts, I have written about how the fundamental problem of scarcity, has driven the course of human social evolution, how agriculture was ‘invented‘ as a response to this fundamental problem, and, how agriculture formed the foundation of the development of social hierarchies, or the great chain of being, which has its in-built architecture of control, founded on fear, or terror, of divine or temporal authority.

This article ties together some of my earlier arguments, offering some solutions for our existentially challenged age and its multifaceted, cascading dilemma. Again, these solutions are not radical propositions, but merely comments on resistance mechanisms human beings themselves have developed over the turning cycles of human history. The key, or core, of most resistance mechanisms is a reversal of power hierarchies. Now, power, as I have argued before as well, must not be solely interpreted in terms of force, but, perhaps, more importantly, in terms of discourse. Discourse, stripped down, refers to opinion making. It is through shared public opinion that new associations are made, new identities are developed, among individuals, but more importantly, among groups. The most powerful form of opinion sharing is shared histories. The second, and its corollary, is shared destinies. It is on the basis of shared histories and shared destinies that nations are founded. Only as long as the opinions of the nation remain shared, do they continue to exist.

Due to this power of opinions, or ideas held as personal beliefs, rulers throughout history have sought to enforce their own beliefs on their subjects, as a means of social control. The most effective means, historically, has been religion, of course. In the modern age, both religion and its modern interpretation, ideology, remain with us, sometimes fused into even more powerful means of control.

What I have perhaps not discussed as much as I should have before is that along with an architecture of control, there has been a simultaneous construction of an architecture of resistance. I discussed this briefly in my discussion of the history of terror: through the example of the adage that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. The mechanisms of the architecture of resistance have one fundamental method, they seek to challenge the legitimacy of the socio-political order, or the great chain of being. Terror seeks to do this through violence, so a terrorist is one who seeks to destroy any socio-political, or even ideological order. But terror, as I mentioned in the essay I am referring to, more often than not transforms into exactly what it seeks to destroy: that is, it becomes another socio-political order, founded, again, on the basis of terror.

Fortunately, fighting the terror of the regime through the terror of the revolutionary is not the only means of resistance. The more powerful weapon of resistance has been, not unsurprisingly, as we will see, simple words, written, said, or sung. This is not surprising since words are the building blocks of discourse. So, when using words to resist, discourse is challenged by counter-discourse. Now, it should be mentioned that even all counter-discourse is ultimately, also discourse, in that it is political. However, unlike the teleological ends of terror, words are flexible, and at least in the immediate effect, physically harmless. (Unless transmitted too loudly, of course.) The pen is not mightier than the sword, literally speaking. But the force of words that encourage one to take up the sword, have a proportional relationship with the power with which the sword is wielded. It is said of Chinese history, that though China was invaded and conquered many times throughout its history, the Chinese, in the long run, always reconquered their conquerors by appropriating them into the cultural systems of the Chinese civilisation. Something similar can also be said about the Roman conquest of the Greeks, and perhaps even of the Greek conquest of the Egyptians, or even the Egyptian conquest of the Fertile Crescent.

The fundamentals of thearchitecture of resistance, founded on the values of counter-discourse, are enshrined in the fundamental principles of democracy, that almost all regimes today at the least vocally ascribe to, even North Korea. Freedom of belief, freedom of speech, and their interpretations, sometimes frustrate us. But they are mechanisms in built in our societies, and which have a long history, in our socio-evolutionary history. In our age, the so-called Information Age, however, some of these values are under threat like they have never been before in past half a century, even in truly liberal, democratic regimes. It is some of these issues I will be discussing in upcoming essays.


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