September 25th, 2011

"...And Wisdom to Know the Difference."

The Roman Seneca advised that that which cannot be altered should be accepted.
On the other hand, we think that whicb is unacceptable should be changed..

Terrance Cook's "saints" (who advocate minimization of wants and maximization of equality) are advocates of the powerless who refuse the use of coercive forms of power in the pursuance of their goals.  They do, it seems, not give themselves much of a chance for success.  Cook tries not to minimize the tools available to defenders of the powerless, but he nevertheless provides a very short and unsatisfactory list..  "Enduring, Exiting, and Evading" provide the means of resistance to authority while tyrannical regimes can be "bent" by civil disobedience,  moral regeneration, electoral politics, and decentralization.  To this he adds the acknowledgement that each person is capable of an inner life which is still, at least partially, protected from outside influences by determination, discipline and devotion.  The right to privacy, Cook says, should never be dismissed as trivial.

Although Gene Sharp is mentioned in Cook's bibliography, he is never referred to in the text of The Great Alternatives of Social Thought.  There is no mention of the one-hundred-ninety-six strategies of political resistance which Sharp catelogs, some of which were effective in British India or Nazi Germany, or the USSR, and might be even more effective in countries which are ostensibly democratic., Nor does Cook consider Elizabeth Janeway's Powers of the Weak (love, doubt, community, humor, ect,).  The Chaplinesque technique of the "well-meaning" bumbler who cannot quite carry out orders correctly has been a standby of authority resistors through the ages.  The poor and powerless are not simply beneficiaries of or antagonists to the saints' ministrations; they are a force in their own right who sometimes behave the way saints think they ought to behave.

Before dismissing the Saints' way out of hand, i need to consider, in the cold grey light of dawn, the alternative approaches, especially Capitalism.  Although the capitalist supports democracy, at least in his own country, as long as the economy is running along as he thinks it should, his soul is a greedy one which would, if necessary sacrifice liberty for wealth.  He may say things like "the constitution was not intended as a suicide pact." as though anybody had ever suggested that it was.  While the saint may sometimes tolerate or even support oppressive regimes, his or her "soul is democratic" (Cook)

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi: look at love

...look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

-- from Rumi: Fountain of Fire, Translated by Nader Khalili
(poem fragment.  Please click link for entire poem)

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi: look at love