A taxonomy of resistance: five ways of struggling

The ways humans face adversities are either aware or unaware of the underlying reasons.

The aware ways are divided into those in which people tries a reaction and those in which people accepts to suffer.

The ways based on the acceptance can be functional to a purpose or based on the acceptance of a higher design.

Among the ways based on reaction, there are those in which people complains, chatters, and dreams, and those in which people organizes a revolution or participates in that organized by others.

Among all these forms of approach to adversities, the one preferred by states, tyrants, or common oppressors, is certainly the one in which the oppressed is not aware of being oppressed, and the most common is that of whoever is ‘aware of oppression but acts as if he does not realize it.

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Among the examples of functional resistance there is the doctrine of strenuous life by Theodor Roosevelt according to whom:

‘the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.’

We can find a variation of such a form of resistance in the Chinese culture:

Han Xin (approximately 231–196 B.C.) was one of Chinese history’s most outstanding military strategists. He is most famous for helping Liu Bang take power and usher in the 400-year-long reign of one of China’s most glorious dynasties. And yet, it is a story from Han Xin’s youth that is most often recounted as a lesson in tolerance.

Han Xin was orphaned at a young age, leaving him poor and with little to eat. Seeing how hungry the boy was, a woman in his hometown fed him for several weeks. This left a deep impression on Han Xin.

Not everyone in the town was so warmhearted. Although he was poor, Han Xin loved to practice martial arts and, like most Chinese people who practiced martial arts back then, he often carried a sword. One day, as he was walking down the street, Han Xin encountered another young man outside a local butcher shop. 

“You might look big and tall, but how tough are you?” the bully sneered at him. Bystanders began to circle around them.

The man continued to challenge Han Xin in a booming voice: “If you’re not afraid of dying, I dare you to cut off my head. If you’re too afraid, then crawl between my legs.”

Taken aback, Han Xin stared at the young man, weighing the ultimatum. To kill him would mean that he would doubtlessly be executed in return. To crawl between his legs would mean public humiliation of the worst kind.

Han Xin mulled over the decision for some time. He then slowly knelt down and began to crawl between the man’s legs. The crowd exploded with laughter, holding their belly with one hand and pointing at the faint-hearted Han Xin with the other. (Source)

Han Xin’s mind was focused on more important matters to which he suffered an unbearable humiliation. In the Chinese tradition being able to suffer for a higher purpose often refers to such episode from Han Xin’s biography.

Among those who resist adversities with a deep understanding of the underlying reasons, we have the example of the Stoic tradition. The stoic resists adversity because in life there are things within our control and things outside of it.

For Epictetus:

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .” (Discourses, 2.5.4–5)

The distinction between what is in our sphere of control and what is not, it helps to direct one’s efforts.

In the Christian tradition, we have to endure sufferance because there is a providence in God acts, although such providence can be hidden to men’ eyes. In fact, in Isaiah (55:8-9), God says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

The mechanistic universe imagined by Laplace implies that everything is a natural and integral part of an interconnected universe and sufferance is an aspect of it, against which men can do nothing.

The last form of resistance proposed by history is probably the most vulgar, it is called resilience.

The term originated in materials science to describe the amount of stress a material could take before breaking but in the social and economic framework became a necessary value and turned into an ideology.

It is not based on the pursue of a goal nor on a deterministic principle.

It has its origin in the doctrine of TINA, there is no alternative and the concept of flexibility that is required to the worker.

Since in the late capitalism ‘everything must change for everything to remain the same’ it is necessary for the system to expand in space (Globalization) and in time (High-speed society), humans have to continually change the way they produce and consume.
To the extent that capitalism reshaped itself on the doctrine of shock, and disaster, adopting a governance of permanent emergency, it is necessary that the response value proposed by the institutions have to be accepted by the common man, the consumer, and the proletarian is resilience. The ability to adapt without any advantage, without a real purpose, without asking questions, and without protesting.

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