26 August 2011

Attack where they least expect it, he advised

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Reconnected over a cup of coffee, our conversation moved, as I suspected it would, to strategies of resistance outside electoral politics. A familiar topic lately.

The sanctioned political events have been pitched as the sum total of popular democracy because the forces of capital have infinitely more financial and cultural resources to manipulate the campaign/news discourse and ensure that the interests of poor and working class people will get clobbered again. Victories on behalf of the common good are few; apparent gains almost immediately rendered hollow, yes, Obama in 2008, thank you.

I also figure that it is bad strategy, maybe even stupid, to repeatedly engage the opposition at the point of their greatest advantage. “Never attack when the enemy is powerful,” advised Gen. Sun-Tzu. “Advance when they are unprepared and attack where they least expect it.”

I have been imagining other strategies of resistance, other means of democratic participation, in which the playing field is a little closer to level and the chances of success, even modest, are greater. I suspect that favorable terrain is more likely to be cultural. Local popular culture should be more malleable because it relies more on oral transmission, which can be endlessly rewritten, tweaked or subverted to express popular sympathies and preferences. But I have not lived in Albuquerque for while and if I remain here I will have to listen to and observe what is working and why.

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