An image essay by Mark Harris
Beginning with the lead up to the 2016 election, I have been exploring anew the role of resistance in my life and in the political life of the United States. I have, as many of us do, a long history of engagement with resistance against war, resistance against the status-quo of America as a segregated and racist society, resistance against the subjugation of women and the discrediting of minorities.
That engagement assumed that the purpose of resistance was not only negative, but positive. That is, resistance against oppression and violence can be driven by the hope for a different state of affairs, for which resistance is a means. This sort of resistance I call “proactive resistance.”
Informed by examples of the spiritual force (in Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama) that made resistance an instrument of hope, I have begun to map out some of the landmarks on the path of resistance. As a printmaker and poet I have worked to express my resistance to what I saw taking place in America. This work grew into a body of images, incorporating responses to the unfolding political trauma, of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the world-wide climate disaster, and war.
Resistance has become increasingly necessary and resisters will come from every part of society. And, given that resistance is in itself a morally neutral activity, it becomes all the more important to map not only the markers along the path of resistance, but also to make clear the purpose, or destination, of any resistance action. It is not enough to be against what we believe to be oppressive. We must know what any particular movement for resistance has as a destination. Where does this resistance take us, what do we envision as the better place?
The spiritual force of resistance is a product of what the resisters propose as an alternative to the oppressions opposed.
My current project is to name several landmarks along the route of resistance, and to make the case for proactive resistance. Resistance that states where it is headed, was the focus for my time in the 2022 APRIL Colloquium. I am working on a small primer on Proactive Resistance and Hope and conversations with other Colloquium fellows helped me shape my growing body of images and texts. The product of this work will be five art objects/ books of text and prints, and a reproduction of that work in a trade book.
The text of the book is simple, consisting of aphorisms, sayings and short texts, with a substrate of texts to illustrate or expand on the primary text. The relief prints (woodblocks and linocuts) are meant to evoke some aspect of the primary sayings.
Here I offer a first take on the principal sayings and accompanying images. At this point it is, of course, very much a work in progress.
TO MAKE THE DESTINATION CLEAR:
Mapping proactive resistance whose end is the healing of the world.
- Resistance begins as reaction to the reality of oppression. Resisting the oppressor and oppression confronts and impedes an evil. However, negation of an evil does not itself direct us to a good beyond the end of the oppression. That direction is a product of hope or desire, from visions articulated.
- The destination is always there, and its inarticulate name is “better.”
- Inarticulate resistance impedes an evil but does not make personal a way forward. Articulate resistance is personal, it begins to name the alternative to evil.
- Articulated and proactive resistance acts against the oppression as evil and envisions a future good life.
- Oppression is perfected in depersonalization. Resistance is personal.
- There are two forms of resistance:
(i) resistance as pure negation, and (ii) resistance that reaches towards a positive.
- The goal of resistance is to impede the power of the oppressor and finally exhaust the oppressors power.
- Reactive resistance concerns goals. Proactive resistance concerns vision..
- Reactive resistance restores the world. Proactive resistance repairs the world.
- Those who resist must both act, and act together.
ELEMENTS OF PROACTIVE RESISTANCE:
1. Resistance is personal
2. To resist is to change the narrative
3. Resistance is resolve in action
4. To resist is to break the cycle of violence
5. Resistance is spiritual practice
6. To resist is to turn the world upside down
7. To resist is to hope
All work at The Commons is published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Mark Harris is an artist, writer, and activist. As an Episcopal priest, he has been a college chaplain, parish priest, and served on the Church wide staff, and has a D.Min. As a printmaker for 18 years he has explored the use of printmaking as an artistic expression of aspirations for justice and life in a time of social and environmental destruction.
Mark was an APRIL/Auburn colloquium fellow in 2022.