Guest Post by Gowhar Fazili
Does resistance necessarily have a direct relationship with suffering and inverse relationship with pleasure and happiness? This is a question that is particularly significant for long drawn resistance movements facing a formidable enemy insensitive to and largely unruffled by the exertions of resistance. The engagement with occupation often involves violent and non-violent struggle. Both demand sacrifices that warrant shunning of such mundane pleasures and opportunities taken for granted by the populations reconciled with power. If the struggle extends over multiple decades, it is bound to generate fatigue and disillusionment especially among those who have not voluntarily committed themselves to the life of endless self abnegation even while they may desire freedom from occupation. While all people want to be free from the indignity of living under occupation and dominance, human nature puts limits on how far individuals and populations may be willing to stretch themselves in their denial of bodily desires and material pleasures that life has to offer.
It would be naïve to assume that the occupational state with endless resources at its disposal does not understand the limits of the body and would not simultaneously use trauma, fatigue, disillusionment and the lure of material desire along with the persistent threat of violence, to subdue any possible challenge to its hegemony.
Paradoxically resistance, apart from being driven by certain objective conditions of suffering and humiliation intrinsic to occupation also involves pleasure and a release of some sort. The individuals and populations that rise up against illegitimate and unpopular political orders do experience an inner fulfilment of sorts in the process. Not surprisingly revolutions have been referred to as ‘the carnivals of the oppressed’. There is a certain romance to the freedom struggle which like conventional romantic love revels in pleasure achieved through sacrifice, loss and at its apogee – self destruction. The lover seeks redemption or fulfilment through loss. The enjoyment of such pleasure drawn from loss undeniably animates resistance. To quote Iqbal:
Lutf-e sad haasil hamaari saai- be hasil mein hai!
The pleasure of countless accomplishments accrues from our pointless struggle.
Yet again in Faiz,
Phir hameein qatl ho aayein yaaro chalo!
Let us embrace the death yet again!
Yet resistance may result in heightened suffering as it forces the occupation to reveal its thinly veiled fangs. The resultant suffering is often beyond the expectation of the resistance itself as it engulfs the whole subject population including those who may not be actively involved in subversion; who pay the price for passively hosting seditious feelings or for playing host to the segment involved in active subversion.
I am proposing a radical move to consider pleasure and happiness as an active means of resistance – such pleasurable experiences and happiness around which the subject populations may rally despite the prevalence of occupation, obliterating it through the process of exclusion and ommission. Can happiness and pleasure be subversive? If people were to deploy joyous means of asserting their identity and independence from the occupational state would that add to the repertoire of the possible means of resistance and confound the state? If such practices were to effectively proliferate without degenerating into a meaningless bohemian orgy, would that be like mocking at the limits of power and oppression and thus weaken its stranglehold?
If subversive joy cannot replace subversive pain as the chief mode of resistance, can it at least fill in the gap between two tragic events and thus sustain continuous presence?
Should resistance subsist on suffering or harness joy?
Gowhar Fazili is a Kashmiri anthropologist based in Delhi
This text was originally uploaded as a ‘note’ by Gauhar Fazili on his Facebook Page on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm.