The Power of “No”

Posted on July 10, 2011


An original post from my Tumblr:

In his work, The Social Contract, J.J. Rousseau explains government as a voluntary action. At that point, government would be a consensual agreement of the people and therefore not oppressive.

But then he says that it is at the point that we impose that same form on our successive generations without their consent that it becomes an absolute state of slavery. Rule without choice. The current system and its mistakes of the past are thrust upon our future generations without their knowledge or consent. Every new generation of children is doomed to fix, live, and/or repeat those mistakes.

Overcoming this obstacle has come to be called “Revolution”; a word given much more sanctity and magnitude than it probably deserves. Chapter 2 of his text,Change the World Without Taking Power, John Holloway talks about the nature of revolution. He tells his readers that the revolution is understood by people 2 ways:

On the one hand reform, on the other side revolution. Reform was a gradual transition to socialism, to be achieved by winning elections and introducing change by parliamentary means; revolution was a much more rapid transition, to be achieved by the taking of state power and the quick introduction of radical change by the new state.

But then he goes on to state the misconception that either of these methods carry.

The intensity of the disagreements concealed a basic point of agreement: both approaches focus on the state as the vantage point from which society can be changed. Despite all their differences, both aim at the winning of state power. 

The implication here is astronomical. What if the revolution is not reformation of a system, but at the same time, not insurrection. What if, in order to win our liberation, we simply must walk away from the system altogether? What if all we have to do is say, “no”?

Gustav Landauer said,  ”The state is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of behavior; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one another.”

This is the revolution. Not to change the state or take it over, but to simply stop participating. “The state is us,” Landauer goes on to say. It is only perpetuated by our constant participation and submission.

I propose the solution to be to stop participating in the State and its actions. Stop contributing to the flawed system, thereby prolonging its inevitable collapse. Just say, “No.”

Posted in: Anarchism, Literature