Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Verbal Inkblot: "To Exist Is To Resist"

This entry is an opportunity and invitation to follow up on this comment in a discussion on my blog, about the slogan on the banner on Adam's summer blog, and which has also received some comments on Adam's main blog Pomomusings here.

I'd like to invite participation in a structured discussion of the slogan "To exist is to resist." If this slogan were said to you by a person with whom you agreed, what would be the message you would hear? If you choose to join in this discussion on this blog entry, please begin your first comment by offering your paraphrase of the message you would hear. I hope that this discussion might be a helpful way to build some bridges of understanding between people who disagree.

When I hear that slogan, I hear it saying that my existence itself is an act of resistance against all the forces that I perceive to be aligned against me. Another paraphrase of the same idea would be that "Living well is the best revenge." I hear this as a life-affirming, positive message that encourages me not to surrender to nihilism and hopelessness. As a pastor of a small membership church in a community that has its share of problems, I would hear this as encouragement to carry on making sure the church is pursuing its mission.

If the English words were turned around so that the slogan was "To resist is to exist," the meaning would be almost the opposite. It would be a statement that resistance is my reason for being, and perhaps could lead to the conclusion that any and all destructive acts of resistance are appropriate. I disagree with such a slogan and condemn the use of terroristic violence by anyone.

Some have made the assertion that this slogan is a Hamas slogan. I don't agree with the goals of Hamas (at least as they are stated at the Wikipedia entry for Hamas last modified 23:37, 23 August 2005). I also have not been able to verify that Hamas is the source of the slogan, but my main question to my readers is "What do these words mean?"

I invite you to offer responses either through Blogger comments directly on the park bench or side comments through Haloscan. But please begin your first comment by offering your paraphrase of the slogan as (perhaps imaginatively) stated to you by someone with whom you agree.

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callieischatty said...

ell what I hear since I already have a negative association with it is a negative.

I can see how someone would see it as a good thing.

I just see violence as always wrong.

As I said, lets hope that Isreal can withdraw from the territories, and that Palestine and Israel can co exist peacefully.

I think thats what all good people hope for.

callieischatty said...

If you want me to invite the folks from my blog I would be happy to.

Let me know.

Stewart said...

I am sorry you have a hard time getting past the negative association. The experiences that people have do affect what they see and hear.

I called this a verbal inkblot because I know that some people might hear something in this slogan that bears no rational relationship to the meanings of the words or to syntax or grammar. I do want to understand what messages people hear, even if those may not be the intended messages.

callieischatty said...

I agree.

To be honest, Adam closed comments to his entry when people pointed out the Hamas slogan. To be fair some were friends of his and not just Jewish bloggers.

To be fair and respectful to his wishes I don't think we should talk anymore about it.

I only just noted he had closed the comments and I think that means he wants no more discussion.

I don't agree with him, but I do think as fellow bloggers "whatever that means" we should respect one anothers wishes and leave well enough alone.

Once again, as I said on my blog I was totally shocked that you commented on the arson at the temple.

It was as you can imagine a devasting experience for alot of people.

Thanks so much for speaking up on it at my blog.

It means alot.

May I say to you, for a Presbytarian you are a good guy! :+}

Kidding! Just Kidding!

A joke! Just a joke!

Come back more we have some livly folks on my blog.

From all around the world.

And we never agree on one thing, thats what keeps us having fun.

- kp - said...

When you ask, "What do these words mean?" I hesitate to reply categorically, for, apart from a community of people to interpret the phrase, it means nothing! In other words, to ask what the words mean is also to ask in whose company does the phrase have meaning?

To illustrate my point, the words "to exist is to resist" mean something very different to a person living in a seminary community, where the words refer primarily to a given theological position -- say, Trinitarian theology or something. But in the Near East, where militancy is prevalent and nearly axiomatic to political stance, the words take on a different, more violent, meaning. "To exist is to resist" becomes interpreted by a community as an expression of overt physical violence in the face of real and perceived oppression. In that community, the words are an expression of revolutionary sentimentality.

I think that this contrast in perceived meanings sufficiently illustrates the reason Callie and Adam see things so very differently. Adam is a seminary student, despite his experience this summer, and Callie sees this phrase only in terms of Near Eastern militant ideology.

I hope I've been clear. All the best!

Stewart said...

Thanks -kp- for joining the discussion. I agree that the words have meaning in the context of a community.

So far I have not strictly enforced the "price of admission" to this discussion, that is paraphrasing what the slogan would mean to you if someone with whom you agreed said it to you. I am interested in hearing others' answers to this question, and I think it is important to be open about the meaning you would hear before engaging in speculation about what someone else would hear.

I understand that I am asking for people to answer more personally, and I suspect that the answers will have some connection to aspects of our lives where we feel vulnerable. But just to make sure that no one starts jumping in with rash statements about what it must so obviously mean to someone else, I do strongly encourage a statement of the meaning of the slogan to you.

Callieischatty has suggested that she should not say more about this, and I am ready to respect her decision. She posted on her blog a description of her experiences of anti-Semitism. They included arson and vandalism against synagogues, anti-semitic graffiti at a condo, and the utterly insensitive treatment of her daughter by an elementary school teacher. And she suggests that her experiences are not as extreme as those of others.

So, hypothetically, if she were to discover a poster with this slogan in a place where it was clearly put up by a member of her faith community, I am curious what message she would hear. (And this is if she is willing to share that.)

And, -kp-, I'm also interested in hearing what the slogan would say to you in the context of a community with which you affiliate.

- kp - said...

Hmm. I'm white, financially comfortable (even though I technically qualify for food stamps), and don't have much but my own selfish desires to resist. Apart from the "systemic evil" I've been told to resist by Marxist theology, I'd say that's about it. To exist, for me, is to resist myself.

I guess.

Oh, and it's Kellen. Take care.

callieischatty said...

I admit it guys, I can't shut up.

Well to be honest, I just don't see someone who agrees with the ideology of Hamas enough to put up their slogan, provide links to their news groups ( check out the links on the side of adams summer blog) and who would activily participate in a demonstration he himself admitted was violent not knowing what this slogan means in the context of his summer experience in Palestine. I am not saying he is typical of Presbytarians or of seminary students. I hope for all our sakes he is not.

Since this has come to be widely understood as a Hamas slogan I would be shocked if someone at my temple used it.

If they did, I would suppose they were trying to make the point that the anti semitism that has taken hold of organizations like the WCC ( my opinion I know you don't agree) and the UN must be addressed.

There are many lettter writing efforts, in the firm belief that the pen is mightier than the sword.

By not sinking to the violence and hate of those who hate us we continue to exist as a people and as a faith community.

Its only by totally rejecting violence we can continue.

As for the checkpoints the bloggers complain about alow me to add this from Haartz today.

First, the Haaretz story:

A 14-year-old Palestinian boy carrying three pipe bombs was arrested by Israel Defense Forces paratroopers Monday at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Sappers were summoned to the the Hawara roadblock and safely neutralized the bombs.

The boy, Hussain Abu Kalifeh, was placed under arrest.

When people like those with that group say only bad people would have check points to search for potential bombers they need to get a reality check.

Sorry to be so long winded!
And kp I enjoyed your post, well thought out.

Stewart said...

I'm glad they were able to stop the boy.