Having studied philosophy for a couple of years at university, when I was offered The Intimate Resistance to review it sounded right up my street. It wasn’t, however, an easy read. Described as a masterpiece, the culmination of years of work, the author has done well to condense the many ideas discussed into a book of less than two hundred pages. The result is a densely packed essay that, while interesting and well argued, requires the reader to maintain concentration. Several times I had to backtrack as I realised I hadn’t taken in the concepts propounded after several pages of parsing words.
Among other things, the early chapters cover nihilism, nothingness and angst. Not the cheeriest of ideas to consider. The human condition is described as a constant disintegration. There are many mentions of death and suicide.
“For a long time (and for too many people, even now) to live meant striving to survive, employing all of one’s strength to do so. In richer societies, however, this push to survive has given way to something else: the struggle not to disintegrate. And while the apparent enemy is much less terrible, failures and defeats are all the more frequent.”
The importance of a shelter – home as a refuge – is introduced. There was no mention of those for whom home is an emotional prison or place of danger. What does come to the fore is that individuals should look to themselves more than others in how they speak and act. The author extolls the value of everyday life, the ordinary and non-elitist, over wealth, fame or power.
“Evasion is not evasion of the world, but rather of my own self, from the nothing that I am, from the mortal being I am.”
Alongside the need to look inwards is the importance of socialising. This was challenging to read given our current situation, when other people are regarded by many as a biohazard and blamed for non compliance with a new belief system. I agreed with the author, especially the arguments around the wisdom of local, person to person, discussion as opposed to relying on screen based soundbite propaganda and supportive echoers, virtue signalling on social media.
“The sugar-coated scepticism propounded by cut-price intellectuals is painful to watch as they belittle ancient gods and old beliefs while fanning the flames of new dogmas”
Finding the strength to stand up for common sense – to resist – can appear in short supply when there is conflict over issues. The author argues that such strength also enables one to endure, to not fall into excessiveness, to avoid judging all and sundry.
“Strength is not expressed through heroism or daring, but rather through stability, faithfulness and perseverance. It doesn’t stand out, but provides confidence to those close by, embraces and helps.”
The author’s arguments are stated repetitively, perhaps to ensure that key points are understood from a variety of angles. He states a need for quiet reflection and careful consideration – done silently rather than indulging in the all too common verbal diarrhea that attempts to stifle dissent. Thinking rather than merely talking endlessly is to be encouraged.
“To think is an experience because it doesn’t leave things as they were”
Moving on, the difference between scientistic ideology and scientific reasoning is discussed. It is proposed that haughty and dogmatic pundits appearing on radio or screens spout more rubbish than is witnessed in a village café among ‘simple folk’ who have common sense and, importantly, an ability to recognise their ignorance.
“We are being overwhelmed by know-it-alls”
“They are all answers and leave almost no room for the questions to which they have no answers”
Throughout the text there are many references to the work of philosophers from ancient times through to the more recent thinkers. Etymology is mined in arguments presented.
There is discussion of act and potency. What came to mind for this reader was a consideration of those who loudly state that others, who do not agree with their point of view, must be ignorant, thereby alienating them in an attempt to silence resistance.
“We ‘obtain’ information. We don’t obtain the meaning of things.”
The constant flow of words in modern media is noise with little space for reflection and has proved damaging, not least by stifling calm and considered debate.
“Egocentric by definition, those who mutter nurture a sentiment of dissatisfaction and avarice […] muttering is the perfect example of the empty word”
The importance of human connection and conjunction is discussed, as is the value of silence. Attempts to stifle resistance through brow-beating and berating can lead to dangerous frustration when the vocal forget to listen.
“Violence comes from dogmatism”
To reiterate, the human condition, shadowed by nihilism, requires shelter and resistance alongside proximity to others.
“One’s fellow being, the home, the day to day care”
Resistance against following dogmatic words spouted by media pundits matters.
I have tried to highlight key points I took from this essay but should make clear that a great deal more is covered and all in greater and more eloquent detail. Also, it was first published in the author’s native Catalan in 2015 so, although I found the arguments highly relevant, the book was not written in the time of Covid. And this is important as it is about the human condition and therefore not tied to a particular time period.
An intense and inspiring reminder to resist the baying of the most vocal and continually question both others and ourselves. A stimulating reminder of the relevance of philosophical thinking in what is happening every day.
“Philosophy is simply self-questioning: we ask ourselves”
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Fum d’Estampa Press.