I was once described as a "beautiful, intelligent iguana".
Liberal attitudes towards the other are characterized both by respect for otherness, openness to it, and an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the other is welcomed insofar as its presence is not intrusive, insofar as it is not really the other. Tolerance thus coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant towards the other effectively means that I should not get too close to him or her, not intrude into his space—in short, that I should respect his intolerance towards my over-proximity. This is increasingly emerging as the central human right of advanced capitalist society: the right not to be ‘harassed’, that is, to be kept at a safe distance from others.
Slavoj Žižek, Against Human Rights (via truthhasamarxistbias)
This is a big difference between theories of the other, as far as I can tell.
Levinas says that the other is transcendent and infinite, and is the beginning of the possibility of discourse and religion.
Sartre says “hell is other people”, but then tends to shy away from an ethics of the other, and instead focuses on an individualistic ethics, from what I can tell.
And then Zizek wants to say the other is hell as well, or even worse is a monstrosity, the horrible kernel of the subject’s generation, and then still have an ethics of openness to the other. I feel like Zizek’s account is a lot better here: the other isn’t infinite, but horrifyingly finite (they’re a constant reminder of our death, and of our finitude in regards to like “other minds” or whatever). At the same time, the unknowable depths of the other, the absolute unpredictability of the other, demand a hyperethical ethics from us. That is, ethics proper for Zizek demands the embrace of the monstrosity of the other. Which is great.
Nonviolence declares that the American Indians could have fought off Columbus, George Washington, and all the other genocidal butchers with sit-ins; that Crazy Horse, by using violent resistance, became part of the cycle of violence, and “as bad as” Custer. Nonviolence declares that Africans could have stopped the slave trade with hunger strikes and petitions, and that those who mutinied were as bad as their captors; that mutiny, a form of violence, led to more violence, and thus, resistance led to more enslavement. Nonviolence refuses to recognize that it can only work for privileged people, who have a status protected by violence, as the perpetrators and beneficiaries of a violent hierarchy.
—Peter Gelderloos, Why Nonviolence Protects the State- Nonviolence is Racist (via thefullmetalbitch)
I would like to have this on my blog again.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m always glad to see people being productively critical of non-violent discourse, but I think there’s a tricky line as well, where it’s turning into “If you choose non-violent resistance, you’re an apologist sell out”, where non-violent discourse is being painted as a purely neo-colonialist phenomenon. What about Native peoples who do believe in non-violent resistance, even now in hind sight, and it’s not apologist politics? I say this after extended conversations with a Mi’kmaq professor and her son, who made me embarrassed about the ways I talked about non-violence. What about Palestinians who think violent resistance is justified but no longer working to their advantage? Non-violent resistance can mean different things. What do we mean by violence and non-violence anyway? When I think of violence, I think of the imperialist/colonial state apparatus that is fueled by violence in both the visible/physical and invisible/systemic/psychological forms, with the latter being key. Which is to say, I actually don’t imagine resistant violence to actually be violence per se, which is why I ask: is there room to think and talk about a “non-violent resistance” that speaks outside of the above parameters, that is subversive and “violent” but not merely in the corporeal sense? Is there a way to engage in so-called “non violence” without being consumed by the foundational violence of the structures we are working within?
These are just impulsively written thoughts, don’t take them as fully formed or anything.
I used to be profoundly anti-violent resistance. And most of that was because I, coming from a position of ignorance and privilege, was taught that violent resistance was not resistance, but generally random explosive violence without cause or purpose. Thus, I should be afraid of it and if ever called upon to participate, instantly refuse. It was generally understood to be the hallmark of an inherent flaw in the marginalized population who had finally had enough—their anger, their irrationality, their inability to reason, etc. The stance on violent resistance ignored historical and social truth, racism and other -isms, to further demonize and dehumanize communities. It still does.
I do not personally believe that certain forms of non-violent resistance are an emblem of the selling out or weakening of a movement. I believe that the privileging of non-violence (instead of viewing it as one of any given number of tactics or strategies or the like) in common modern discourse is NOT an accident or anything other than a calculated move and it is that very same elevation of nonviolence as the ONLY ‘right’/’moral’ way to revolt that is so, so wrong.
I know it is no coincidence that schools in the US revere Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. for their ‘nonviolence’, but will never talk about the violence that was ever present in both their societies and the movements of resistance around them. Oftentimes, it is not the nonviolent act itself that is reactionary but the credence it is given at the expense of all other forms of resistance.
The other questions you raise are good ones as well and I’ll probably be thinking about them for quite some time to come.
^ Everything you said, but I just want to add a bit more. As I understand it, MLK Jr. actually started more towards advocating violent resistance (not as far as Malcolm X went, but still in that direction) towards the end of his life. It had something to do with how he viewed northern racism as being much more invisible than southern racism (in the south, they had segregated fountains; in the north, they just moved the entire black population to a different part of town and forgot them). That’s a side of MLK Jr. I was never taught about in school - but again, I don’t know if that’s actually correct, but it might be worth noting nonetheless.
Also, I think of Zizek’s comment about how Gandhi was more violent than Hitler. Yeah, of course he’s just going for shock value there, but I think the point still resonates: of course Hitler was more violent in the physical sense (no duh), but his point was that Gandhi was more violent at the structural level. The point was that Hitler wasn’t violent here at all - he wasn’t putting the status-quo into question, or trying to subvert already-in-place hierarchies, he just took the status-quo to its absolute logical extreme.
Whether you disagree with that point doesn’t matter (I disagree with it, and it’s an annoying example of Z. just going for jaw-drops instead of rigour): the point is that Gandhi’s non-violence was violent. It didn’t harm anyone directly, but it upset the ‘symbolic order’ as Z. would probably put it. In that sense, there is no such thing as non-violent resistance. It’s always violent at some level. The turn towards non-violence is a turn towards reactionary nonsense - it’s a turn towards the image of resistance with none of the substance.
I can’t believe we have fans that can deal emotionally with [“Street Spirit”]. That’s why I’m convinced that they don’t know what it’s about. It’s why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell every time I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of its meaning, like when you’re going to have your dog put down and it’s wagging its tail on the way there. That’s what they all look like, and it breaks my heart. I wish that song hadn’t picked us as its catalysts, and so I don’t claim it. It asks too much. I didn’t write that song.