THE FALLACY OF PERSISTENT RESISTANCE

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I heard a sad story recently. It concerned three siblings, who were due to receive a large amount of money from their mother, who had recently died. Upon discovering the details of how the money had been split up between them, they found that she had left a greater share of the inheritance to the two siblings who happened to have children of their own, leaving the third, childless sibling with a smaller amount of money.

The mother’s reasoning was not known; did she do that with a concern for the welfare of her grand-children? Was there some hidden spite toward the third sibling, finding expression through allocation of a smaller share of her estate? No one will ever know, but  it is fair to say that, given the amount of money being split up, an even share for all would have more than sufficed in guaranteeing the financial health of all concerned, no matter how big or small their families might have been at the time.

The third sibling fought the will, taking the other two to court. That was ten years ago. It has resulted in mutual estrangement, a divorce, and a decade of pain, anxiety and much rancour. Meanwhile, the size of the inheritance shrinks with each passing day, as lawyers on both sides continue to make a small fortune.

This situation is a classic example of an idea that was first introduced to me many years ago by an amazing therapist who changed my life:

Whatever you resist, persists.

It happens in failed marriages all the time: people fighting battles in order to claim an imagined victory whose rewards are usually minute when compared with the emotional and psychic energy that has been invested.

Let’s return to the three siblings. At no time did the two siblings, due to receive the larger share, ever sit down and decide for themselves that, in the interest of fairness and an avoidance of a protracted fight that would destroy their relationship with the other sibling and cost an enormous amount of financial and emotional resources, they would simply split the money three ways once it had been handed out. On the other side, it is astonishing that the third sibling, who was still due to receive a huge amount of money either way, never decided to cut their losses and simply move on with their life, especially after having seen a long and acrimonious fight stretching out before them.

Ten years later, they’re still resisting simple solutions which would improve their lives immeasurably. Their willingness to choose conflict over solution encourages the same choice in their combatant. Nothing changes. Nothing improves.

Whatever we resist, persists.

We see this dynamic playing out both here in America and on the global stage. Iran is becoming  the  locus for the next potential military conflict, as the US and its allies try to ratchet up sanctions which will be harmful to the vast majority of that nation’s citizens, encouraging more anti-American sentiment, strengthening the clergy’s political and sociological dominance and delaying any hope of better relations between that country and the rest of the world. The United States’ resistance to real solutions to the nuclear question in relation to Iran helps to perpetuate the stand-off that now exists. We, with our 10,000 warheads, demand that they have none, even as our client states which surround them in the region have nuclear weapons of their own, with our help.

What are we prepared to surrender, in exchange for them giving up their own nuclear ambitions? But of course this is never mentioned. We must resist them, at any cost. And, in turn, they of course must ratchet up their own aggressive rhetoric, in the face of an intransigent bully who will yield nothing.

The immigration ‘problem’ here at home is another glaring example of persistent resistance. Un-legalized immigrants have been living in relative peace next to legalized ones (the rest of us, excluding Native Americans) for centuries. The only latent unfairness evident in the system right now exists for the un-legalized. It is they who do slave labour for offensive minimum wages, with no worker rights. It is they who continue to keep our public toilets scrubbed and our dishes washed, among other things. Yet we have decided to pour vast amounts of money into ‘fences’ and border policing that not only will fail to solve the ‘problem’, but never addresses the underlying issues which trigger the mass movement of poverty-stricken peoples into other countries. An easier short-term solution would be to open the borders, not police them, freeing up the billions spent for other, more fruitful purposes. Studies have been done on the effects of an open US-Mexican border; many of these studies show potentially positive outcomes. Yet it is never discussed in all of our diffuse media. To do so would mean entertaining the notion of the surrender of resistance.

There are so many examples of this. One only has to buy the newspaper, if you still have a local newspaper in your area; the decades-long “war on drugs”, with its attendant catastrophes of overpopulated prisons and expensive, wasteful military operations in foreign lands, is a perfect illustration of this dead-end way of addressing things. The state of legislatures, both state and federal, here in the US, might be the consummate, real-world definition of persistent resistance. Neither side gives. Neither side surrenders. Both sides resist solution. Nothing of value gets done.

Whatever you resist, persists.

There is, of course, positive resistance, although it takes a fundamentally different form. An recovering addict must resist the temptation of their drug of choice. No one could say that Mohandas Gandhi’s resistance of British rule in India was not a positive action, leading to a very positive result. But, even in those circumstances, it was the transformational power of a special kind of resistance, one that was non-cooperative and non-violent, that achieved the objective. One can only wonder how persistent the British occupation may have been had the Indian people taken a violent and militaristic course.

The good news is that reforming this behaviour on a larger scale can begin with all of us in our own lives. What elements do we resist in our own lives, what arguments and petty battles do we wage with others and ourselves, which might be surrendered? Do solutions exist to problems that heretofore have seemed complex and inscrutable, solutions which may lie just beyond the realm of our ‘normal’ thinking? The only rule which must govern a greater exploration is that every idea must be allowed to float to the surface to take its breath. Nothing can be off the table- except a continuance of the kind of resistance that has repeatedly failed up until this point, draining us of our vitality and sense of peace and well-being, and heightening conflicts that were inherently soluble to begin with.

Pictures, from top:    Mohandas Gandhi.

The criminalized plant that is marijuana.

The US Capitol…. the House of Dysfunction.



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