“The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free”

Written By: - Date published: 8:11 am, October 23rd, 2016 - 16 comments
Categories: activism - Tags: , , ,

Korean War veteran turned anarchist, folk singer, organiser and Wobbly, philosopher and one time US presidential candidate. In one of a series of interviews in 2004, Utah Phillips talks with deep ethical intelligence about the folk music movement in the US but much of what he says applies to activism and resistance everywhere.

He describes his process of refusing to cede his personal means of production, how he figured out how to make a living and not a killing, and his choices to not buy into the corporate music industry despite an offer from Johnny Cash. He also describes the organised folk scene as the healthiest movement in the US, where people are getting off the internet and organising via sharing food and music and doing that below the level that the media notice.

“I’m an anarchist, I don’t make rules for other people, I make rules for myself”.

(6 mins 29)

Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco singing The Most Dangerous Woman (Mother Jones)

(3 mins 48)

16 comments on ““The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free””

  1. gsays 1

    Thanks weka for this.

    So refreshing, a person of principle.
    A contrast to current leaders, who want to know what the populace think before answering questions or announcing policy.

  2. Bill 2

    “I’m an anarchist, I don’t make rules for other people, I make rules for myself”.

    Worth putting that in context for anyone who merely reads the post and doesn’t view the vid.

    It’s not, as some might assume, an argument for individualism. He was talking about his own moral framework, how that informs his actions and how he doesn’t impose the expectations that flow from that moral framework onto others.

  3. Paul Campbell 3

    Yes, I’ve always loved his music, he’s kept alive a lot of depression era, and especially labour music from that era … I highly recommend exploring his stuff

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

    Each new blast of statistics about how a tiny band of global oligarchs controls half the world’s wealth exposes the policies of privatization and deregulation for the thinly veiled license to steal that they always were. ach new report of factory fires in Bangladesh, soaring pollution in China, and water cut-offs in Detroit reminds us that free trade was exactly the race to the bottom that so many warned it would be. And each news story about an Italian or Greek pensioner who took his or her own life rather than try to survive under another round of austerity is a reminder of how many lives continue to be sacrificed for the few.

    Resistance gathers with each new atrocity of the rich that’s misrepresented by the MSM.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      And the only way to resist them is for US to stop respecting them and start respecting ourselves a lot more. Here is one of Monbiot’s best recent essays:

      Aspiration, which increases with income, ensures that the point of arrival, of sustained satisfaction, retreats before us. The researchers found that those who watch a lot of TV derive less satisfaction from a given level of income than those who watch only a little. TV speeds up the hedonic treadmill, forcing us to strive even harder to sustain the same level of satisfaction. You have only to think of the wall-to-wall auctions on daytime TV, Dragon’s Den, the Apprentice and the myriad forms of career-making competition the medium celebrates, the generalised obsession with fame and wealth, the pervasive sense, in watching it, that life is somewhere other than where you are, to see why this might be.

      So what’s the point? What do we gain from this war of all against all? Competition drives growth, but growth no longer makes us wealthier. Figures published this week show that, while the income of company directors has risen by more than a fifth, wages for the workforce as a whole have fallen in real terms over the past year. The bosses earn – sorry, I mean take – 120 times more than the average full-time worker. (In 2000, it was 47 times). And even if competition did make us richer, it would make us no happier, as the satisfaction derived from a rise in income would be undermined by the aspirational impacts of competition.


      And the documentary this article inspired:


      That’s fucking absurdity of the hole we have dug for ourselves; 7 billion people on the planet and many of us die from loneliness. Understand this; we are all better than this. We are all capable of the most wonderful connectedness, trust, compassion and inter-dependency. Once we experience this we can never go back, and we look upon the so-called rich with pity.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        We are all capable of the most wonderful connectedness, trust, compassion and inter-dependency.

        All of which is undermined by the drive for competition and profit. Trust is the first thing to go when you’re in competition with everyone else and everything follows after that including society as the corruption that lack of trust breeds eats it from the inside.

        • gsays

          I have come to the conclusion that the only sustainable way forward is to share.
          I don’t know if there is a sharing theory taught to economists at uni.

          It feels good to share, it’s great to receive sharing, and it starts to lessen the love of money.
          Which wiser heads than me say is the root of all evil.

          • Draco T Bastard

            I don’t know if there is a sharing theory taught to economists at uni.

            It isn’t. It wasn’t even mentioned while I was there. The present neo-liberal paradigm is taught as gospel and not really questioned.

          • greywarshark

            Incorporating a reality of the old 70’s slogan – Every day do a random act of generosity and kindness and a senseless act of beauty might be a useful start. Not forcing the world or oneself to change in immediate big ways but introducing the chaos theory approach to our society and the current trend and hegemony that, at least in finance circles, is so sensitive to even gossip, if not actual, real changes. That would protect against the brutalisation and toxic level of individualism that corrodes our souls.

            (Google –
            noun: chaos theory
            the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behaviour is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.)

          • weka

            I like this gsays, thanks.

  5. TheExtremist 5

    @Weka – thanks for this.

  6. Tom Barker 6

    Watch for a new book coming out next year from Pluto Press, UK, called “Wobblies of the World – a global history of the IWW”. Includes at least one chapter on the IWW in this country.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Wob·bly (wŏb′lē)
    n. pl. Wob·blies
    A member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a chiefly US labor organization dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism, active especially in the early 1900s.
    [From I Wobbly Wobbly, humorous alteration of I(ndustrial) W(orkers of the) W(orld).]
    The Free Dictionary

  8. Tory 8

    Interesting because the great Social Democratic experiment that was Europe has failed and there are significant storm clouds building. Having been living over here (but moving back shortly, horray) it’s clear that centralisation and social democratic policies are not the answer (but neither is Nationalism). Today Iceland voted in the “Pitate Party”, a ” Communist” government in Greece is more right of centre than hard left, Italy and Spain are on their knees (due to funding policies that were based on loaning money from the ECB rather than earning it through trade) and the only remotely balanced country (Germany) has significant monetary and banking issues.
    My view is the UK move to become more independent is the answer along with individuals divorcing themselves from the state “tit” and taking a bit more responsibility for their lives and futures.

  9. Venezia 9

    RedLogix… that BBC documentary you gave the link for can only be seen in the UK unfortunately. BBC iplayer.

  10. Richard Rawshark 10

    FKn awesome Weka, awesome, man of knowledge, I love that sort of music, play guitar since I was 15/16 never heard of him till I saw that but that was some classy folk, and a style I’s say Cohen may have imitated he’s been around a while too.

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