Wednesday, January 12, 2005

There is no power without resistance

Listening to reports this morning about the Bush Inaugural, and suddenly aware again of how much power breeds insecurity.

Tom Ridge announces security plans for the inauguration, plans to insure terrorists cannot disrupt this "celebration of democracy" (which is apparently what they are calling it, now). 6000 policeman; 100 city blocks closed down; numbers piled on numbers, grim faces and weaponry and steely determination, all meant to convince us that we are safe, that we are secure.

But the numbers, and their necessity, of course, betray our insecurity. The higher the walls, the sharper the points on the wire, the more broken glass is scattered for our protection, or dogs who are trained for combat, or soldiers are hired to carry weapons for us....the more we tremble, and wait for the inevitable catastrophe, and wonder when the doom will finally fall.

6000 police; 100 city blocks closed. What does that say, except that we are terrified, and that we must be terrified, and nothing can protect us except greater and greater efforts? And when those efforts fail even in a military base in a combat zone, when even a mess tent can be infiltrated and people killed, what can we say except: "You can't protect yourself from someone determined to kill you." And when we ask why they are so determined, we are told: "Because they hate our freedom."

And the irony of posting 6000 police officers and closing 100 city blocks and making the inauguration itself and "invitation only" event, while loudly proclaiming our "freedom," is lost entirely.

There is no power without resistance. Power needs resistance not only to be powerful, but if it is going to exist at all. Without resistance power has no force. It is a blow against empty air, a fierce punch into darkness that meets no opposition. So power manufactures its own resistance, creates its own opponent.

And so we build our walls higher, and put more guards atop them, and curl more razor wire between us and "the world," and buy a few more dogs, and leave on more lights...and wonder why we still can't sleep at night, why we still cannot relax, and why "they" hate "us" for our "freedom."

And never wonder for a moment about what freedom is, or whether we ever had it, or what it takes to keep it. Or about the paradox of power: that to have it, is always to exert it, because you will lose it if you don't. And yet, once you exert it, you have lost it, and lost what power promised to secure for you. All you have left is power, and resistance. And neither of those is freedom; or security.

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