Those of my generation consider the word “resistance”
to be a domestic political term, usually applied to those
who opposed government policies from the left. Some of
my generation were once part of it, some disagreed. Of
those who were part of it, most went on to less radical
views, a few remained on the extreme edge of political
discourse. Today, that meaning of “resistance” has a
quaint and distant tone to it.
For the generation before us, the word “resistance” was
considered an heroic term, usually applied to those brave
European men and women who, at total risk of their lives,
fought invisibly against the unspeakable Nazi degradation
of the whole of Europe, and later opposed clandestinely
the oppression of Soviet communism during the Cold War.
Currently, the term “resistance” has lost much of its
serious cachet, and instead is applied domestically to the
mindless and superficial pseudo-efforts such as “Occupy
Wall Street” and its related ilk.
But the word “resistance” can also be more profoundly
applied to a timeless and natural aspect of human behavior,
the natural resistance to innovation and change.
In an age of unprecedented velocity of technological
change in the worldwide human experience, resistance is
a predictable fellow traveler to the initial awareness of
amazing inventions and scientific breakthroughs.
As matters stand now, individual human life duration will be
extended not only a few years every generation, or even a decade
or so (as in the recent past), but close to the limit our physical
bodies can accommodate --- certainly past 100 years of age.
Our abilities to communicate with each other, to travel to see
each other and the rest of the world, to understand the
stupendous complexities of the world we live in and the
worlds far beyond us --- each have a truly and temporary
numbing effect on our consciousnesses. In terms of behavior,
most of us, in varying degrees, resist the new as we perceive
and less consciously, attempt to translate and integrate its
impact on what we do, how we think, and what we believe.
This is a very big subject, and much of it is beyond my own
understanding, so I want to concentrate here on “political”
transformation, particularly American political transformation
in the near future. We have many “wise” men and women,
high tech “gurus” and savvy writers who have been discussing
innovation and transformation in very recent years, but almost
no political figures.
Part of the reason virtually all innovation is resisted is that the
status quo includes many forces which stand to “lose” from
new technology and new thinking. In American political life,
this is intensely true, especially in today’s highly partisan
atmosphere. One of the most interesting new concepts now
being introduced to the whole range of government bureaucracy
is the notion of “transparency,” that is, the ability using the
internet to view almost instantly the conduct of how tax money
is spent, and government programs applied, at the local, state
and national level. The technology exists, but the application is
being resisted at all levels by bureaucracies either jealous of their
“invisible” power or, in some cases, their corruption taking place
outside public view.
One of the very few American political figures who is talking
about innovation, and talking about it outside a partisan context,
is Newt Gingrich. He is speaking about it, writing books about it,
and promoting it. He has even publicly lauded liberal Democrats
(such as the lieutenant governor of California Gavin Newsom)
who are doing the same.
But, as in the case of transparency, it’s tough going with the
general public and the established interests. This, however, is
as it always is. We should be neither surprised not disappointed.
It is inevitable impulse of human resistance at work.
The other side of resistance is the speed with which it is
overcome when the resistance evaporates. I used the word
“evaporates” because the transformation is almost always sudden
rather gradual --- resistance does not slowly melt, it quickly
evaporates. (Think of how rapidly the internet has transformed
I do not know exactly when the technology that will enable
virtually total transparency of American public life will take
over from the past, but it’s only a matter of time. And when it
does come, everyone will ask “How did we live without it?”
and “Why did we live without it?”
The same is true of all the innovations Gingrich, Newsom and all
the prophets of the future are now trying to tell us about. It might
be in time for the 2016 elections, or it might be a few years later.
Young politicians in both parties might well take note now,
however. History always treats the future more kindly than the
past, and however slow it might be, the same is true of the
Those who are fixed on the orthodoxies of liberal vs. conservative,
Democrat vs. Republican, class warfare, religious conflicts, etc.,
will sometime soon feel like the person today whose only
communication is by a landline telephone, watches network TV,
and writes on a typewriter.
[In full disclosure, I know personally some of those whose work
I mention above. I do not think that prevents me from discussing
the principles of human innovation, but my readers can judge
for themselves how useful and accurate my observations are.]
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved