About two months ago I read Alice Walker’s magnificent book, Possessing the Secret of Joy. I was moved by the marvelous writing, the dramatic story and the good politics, but what really struck me, literally took my breath away, was what and how Walker revealed “the secret of joy.” At the very end of the book (spoiler alert), a banner is unfurled which affirms the struggles of an African woman against genital mutilation, a woman about to be executed by the government. The banner says, “Resistance is the secret of joy.”
I thought of this today as I pedaled 50 miles around Staten Island as part of a NY Transportation Alternatives mass bike ride of about 2,000 people. I gloried in the colorful spring flowers, cherry and dogwood blossoms, greenery coming out everywhere, the yellow sun, the wispy white clouds on a deep blue sky, the invigorating mid-50’s temperature, my legs and heart pumping away strong and steady throughout, and the others on their bikes as we passed and rode alongside one another.
I thought: it doesn’t get much better than this, and I’m going to write about this joyful experience for my next Future Hope column.
And then I remembered Walker’s “secret of joy.”
Riding my bike as much as I do—3-4 times a week—is a privilege, although most everyone who is able-bodied can get access to a bike, or walk, for that matter, so it’s not much of one. But I do appreciate that, at the age of 67, I can still do this, and I hope I can keep doing so for many years to come.
Resistance against injustice and wrong, however, isn’t a privilege. It’s a responsibility for those who have become conscious. How we each resist is up to us, but resist we must if we are to be true to the best within us and our struggling and wounded world.
I’ve been an active resister for 49 years. Indeed, the first organized social movement I joined back in 1968/69 was called “The Resistance.” That was the name chosen by anti-war young men of draft age who refused to cooperate with the Selective Service System and banded together in an organized way to encourage others to do the same.
In December of 1969, at the age of 20, I joined the “Ultra Resistance,” also known as the Catholic Left, which was organizing nonviolent raids on draft boards and war corporate offices. Writing to my parents from Philadelphia, Pa., where I was helping to prepare for one of those actions, I said, “Being involved in this group has been a very joyous process. The action being planned, and the community of people associated with and involved with it, fulfill very deep needs of mine. So rejoice, your son is doing what is right, both for himself and for humankind.”
I’ve continued to have those feelings ever since, but not all the time. Resistance may be the secret of joy, but a life of resistance to injustice and wrong also contains many hard and difficult times. Opposition from the oppressors causes much of it, but it is also the personal and political weaknesses among the people, as well as among some in the resistance itself, that can make daily life harder than one wishes it would be. Ultimately, however, engaging in acts of resistance buoys my spirits and, yes, gives me joy.
It is during those hard or flat times, when little seems to be moving as far as popular resistance, that my joy comes from long-distance biking, as well as from walks in the woods or along a beach, or from time with loved ones and close friends. I feel joy and a sense of connection to the Love Force in the universe.
The resistance/revolutionary struggle is a long one, a lifetime thing. May our moments of joy in resistance increase as the resistance struggle itself moves forward toward liberation from corporate rule for all the world’s peoples and the damaged world itself.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.