Wednesday, August 17, 2022

REVIEW: Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey (2022)

The dangers of rest to the dominant paradigm have been well known for millennia. Centuries ago Aesop and other writers described the story of the “Ant and the Grasshopper” as a cautionary tale. For hundreds of years – strikes and work stoppages have been the primary means of resisting the demands of productivity demanded by Capital. People put down their tools and walked off the job and out the factory doors. Truck drivers block ports with their vehicles.  Work stoppage has long been a means of resisting the dehumanizing effects of capitalism.  

“Capitalism commodifies whatever it can and doesn’t allow space for us to experience the full spectrum of being human.”

“We are socialized into systems that cause us to conform and believe our worth is connected to how much we can produce.”

“Fear and scarcity are a big part of how the culture keeps us bound up in the hamster wheel.”

Tricia Hersey’s new book is part auto-biography, part history book and part sermon, offering us a lens for resistance of the dehumanizing, deleterious effects of capitalism & the cult of “productivity” that is womanist, liberationist and at the same time deeply validating of both the need to disconnect for dreaming & private thoughts and of community.  

Hersey makes her keen observations in a style of a song: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro.  

She doesn’t need to expand too much on her verses – it’s not novel information for her audience.  It’s the repetition and the chorus – the soothing reassurance that “You are not unworthy. The systems are unworthy.” 

Deep inside, people know:

“ we didn’t arrive on Earth to be a tool for a capitalist system.” … It is not our divine purpose. […] You were not just born to center your entire existence on work and labor.”

The effects of this fatigue remove community and intellectual agency – turning us into machines: 

“When you are exhausted, you lack clarity and the ability to see deeply. Your intuition and imagination are stifled by a culture of overworking and disconnection."

“[…] stealing your imagination and time, grind culture has stolen the ability for pleasure, hobbies, leisure, and experimentation.”

Black liberation and womanism are woven throughout the book – her message that “Black liberation is human liberation” is strong and consistent.  The goal of capitalism and white supremacy is to strip away the humanity – it’s essentially reductionist and isolating.

“Black liberation is a balm for all humanity and this message is for all those suffering from the ways of white supremacy and capitalism.”

If you are reading this book and feel that the topics of white supremacy and black liberation are a bit heavy – you have a lot more work to do before you can well and truly appreciate what is being communicated in this book.

The goal of this work is to decolonize your mind and enable a culture shift.  If your reaction to creating a nap practice, making time for day dreaming or resting as resistance is to immediately think of slackers, freeloaders and laziness – you’re falling into racist stereotypes as well as white supremacist programming. 

“We have been bamboozled. This is why it’s so critical that we create systems of care to help people dismantle and decolonize their minds.”

“We are resting not to do more and to come back stronger and more productive for a capitalist system.”

The loudest chorus in this book is that you don’t have to always be “productive” – and that busyness reduces your ability to heal, dream and tap into your imagination. Even Hersey’s grandmother would rest with her eyes closed and reminded her granddaughter that every shut eye was not asleep.  We close our eyes to reduce distraction and focus inward on our own experience whether it’s breathing in meditation or processing feelings or enjoying the fragrance of a flower (to name a few). 

  • “Resting is not a state of inactivity or a waste of time. Rest is a generative space.”
  • “Naps provide a portal to imagine, invent, and heal.”
  • “Rest is not a luxury, privilege, or a bonus we must wait for once we are burned out.”
  • “Rest is not a privilege because our bodies are still our own, no matter what the current systems teach us.”
  • “Your bodies don’t belong to capitalism, to white supremacy, or to the patriarchy.”

Social media is another area covered by various choruses throughout the book.  Just as a reminder:  where anything is “free” – you are the product.  Hersey rightly points out that social media is a marketing tool and an extension of capitalism. “The goal is to keep you scrolling long enough that you become a consumer. The goal is for you to buy, buy some more, and stay on as long as possible until that happens.”  Social media “is a space of dependency” and “robbing us of the archives and memory. Taking from us the ability to go to the past for guidance, motivation, and grounding.”

Hersey highlights the disruptive nature of social media and how it has absorbed “our quiet time” – and urges us to “detox intentionally and often if we are to find rest.”

Our challenge is to “spiritually disconnect from the shenanigans of grind culture while physically still living in it.” Establish healthy boundaries, resist responding right away to email or social media. Reject urgency.

“You cannot achieve deep rest in a consistent way if we don’t detox regularly from social media and the internet. Technology is not built to support our rest or make space for our rest.”

Finally – you have to accept that you have been brainwashed.  You have been swimming in a pool of the dominant paradigm for so long, there’s no way it could be any other way.  The repetition in this book serves a purpose – to begin unspooling the cocoon that has been limiting us for so long so that we can claim our birthright.  

We are enough just as we are – we are enough because we exist.  We do not have to be productive, busy or constantly contributing.   There is no quick fix – dismantling millennia old mindsets and building communities of care takes time.  

“Our interconnectedness is a form of resistance in times thriving against the dehumanizing ways capitalism and white supremacy sees the world.”

“We will not heal alone. We will not thrive alone. Communal care is our saving grace and our communion. Community care will save us. It is already saving us.”

Hersey offers some places to begin:

- Intentionally and regularly detox from social media

- Learn boundaries – “heal the individual trauma you have experienced that makes it difficult for you to say no”

  • Establish a “daily practice in daydreaming”
  • “Slow down”
  • “Listen more”
  • “Create systems of community care”

Print out this quote and stick it up in your environment in a half dozen places:

1. I deserve to rest now. 

2. I am worthy of rest. 

3. I am not lazy. How could I be lazy? My Ancestors are too brilliant for that. 

4. Capitalism wants my body to be a machine. I am not a machine. 

5. I am a magical and divine human being. 

6. I have the right to resist grind culture. 

7. I don’t have to earn rest. 

8. Do less, watch how I thrive. 

9. Ease is my birthright. 

10. I Will Rest!”

“You don’t have to wait on permission from the dominant culture.”

“Grind culture is violence. Resist participating in it.”