David Bruce: Resist Psychic Death — Activism and Activists

Resist Psychic Death

• In Bikini Kill’s early songs, vocalist Kathleen Hanna tends to repeat lines many times. She had a reason for doing this. The sound equipment Bikini Kill played live with was very bad, and she worried that no one would understand the words, and so she repeated them over and over so that the audience would hear them. Some of the lyrics deserve to be heard over and over — for example, she repeated these lines from the song “Resist Psychic Death” over and over: “I resist with every inch and every breath / I resist this psychic death.” By the way, near the end of his life, the heart of Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco grew weaker, and his cardiologist, Dr. Ignacio Chávez, recommended that he stop the strenuous work of painting huge murals and instead concentrate on the less strenuous work of creating easel paintings. However, Mr. Orozco refused to take this advice. Instead, he remarked to his wife, “I’m not going to do as the doctor says and abandon mural painting. I prefer physical death to the moral death that would be the equivalent of giving up mural painting.” So how does one resist psychic death? Some ways include practicing an art, doing good deeds, paying attention to your soul as well as your body, staying angry at the things that should anger us, and being aware of the fabulous realities that surround us despite the presence of evil in the world.

Activism and Activists

• In 2007, while standing in line in Victoria station in London, a man named Gareth Edwards, who describes himself as a “big, stocky bloke with a shaven head,” noticed a well-dressed businessman cutting in line behindhim. (Apparently, Mr. Edwards is so big that the businessman did not want to cut in line aheadof him.) Some people politely remonstrated with the businessman, but the businessman ignored the protests. So Mr. Edwards asked the elderly woman who was behind the businessman line-cutter-in, “Do you want to go in front of me?” She did, and Mr. Edwards then asked the new person standing behind the businessman line-cutter-in, “Do you want to go in front of me?” Mr. Edwards did this 60 or 70 times, so he and the businessman kept moving further back in line. Finally, just as the bus pulled up, the elderly woman whom he had first allowed to go ahead in line, yelled back to him, “Young man! Do you want to go in front of me?”

• In November of 2010, tens of thousands of students protested in England over cuts in funding for education and higher fees for tuition that could keep them from getting a university education. Some students in London even attacked a police van, but a group of schoolgirls stopped the attack by surrounding the van and linking hands. Guardianjournalist Jonathan Jones wrote, “Some who were at the student protests this week accuse police of deliberately leaving a solitary van in the middle of the ‘kettled’ crowd to invite trouble and provide incriminating media images of an out-of-control mob attacking it.” (According to wikidictionary, kettling is “The practice of police surrounding a hostile mob (usually of protesters) and not letting them disperse.”) By stopping the violent students from attacking the police van, the schoolgirls helped prevent negative publicity about the student protests.

• In 1977, future punk critic Steven Wells and some other punks wanted to go to a Mekons concert. However, the student rugby player who was at the door did not like the way that the punks were dressed and so refused to let them inside. The punks formed a picket line and informed everyone who came by what had happened and asked them not to cross the picket line. No one did. Twenty minutes went by, and the person who had organized the show came outside to find out why no one was going inside. The punks explained to him what had happened. The organizer then fired the rugby player and the punks enjoyed a good concert. (Rugby in England is class conscious. In the South, Rugby Union is played by the posh. In the North, Rugby League is played by the working class. The Mekons concert happened in the South.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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