“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.

Leave a Comment

Show Tags

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • A real heart stopper?
    The story of a Hamilton man who jumpstarted his heart with an electric fencing unit may be a classic bit of ‘number 8’ wire thinking but it also reveals a lot about our stressed health system, says Labour’s Health spokesperson ...
    2 hours ago
  • Why has Pike footage been hidden for so long?
    New footage of workers servicing a robot in the Pike River drift appears to show that going into the drift doesn’t pose the danger the Government and Solid Energy claimed, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    18 hours ago
  • Nats’ housing policy fails to keep pace with population growth
    Auckland got less than half the new houses it needed in the past year to keep up with record population growth, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 days ago
  • Urgent action needed on dirty rivers
    The Our Fresh Water Environment 2017 report re-confirms that we need urgent action to clean up our rivers. Meanwhile, National is standing by as our rivers get even more polluted, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker. “This report is yet ...
    4 days ago
  • Where there’s smoke and mirrors, there’s Steven Joyce
    Steven Joyce’s much vaunted pre-Budget speech is simply an underwhelming response to the infrastructure deficit National has created, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Steven Joyce has belatedly come to the realisation that everyone else has a long time ago, ...
    4 days ago
  • Time to stamp out cold, mouldy rentals
    New figures show a small number of landlords are letting down the sector by renting cold, mouldy rentals. These houses need to be brought up to a decent standard for people to live in by Andrew Little’s Healthy Homes Bill, ...
    5 days ago
  • Time for fresh approach on immigration
    Latest figures showing another record year for immigration underlines the need for an urgent rethink on how this country can continue to absorb so many people, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “New Zealand needs immigrants and is all the better ...
    5 days ago
  • Bring back the Mental Health Commission
    The People’s Mental Health Review is a much needed wake up call for the Government on mental health, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.   “I applaud their proposal to restore a Mental Health Commission and their call for ...
    7 days ago
  • And the band played on…
    Making Amy Adams the Housing Minister five months out from the election is just the orchestra playing on as National’s Titanic housing crisis slips below the waves – along with the hopes and dreams of countless Kiwi families, says Labour’s ...
    7 days ago
  • Hotel no place for children in care
    1 week ago
  • Maybe not, Minister? Nick Smith’s housing measure suppressed
    Sir Humphrey: Minister, remember the Housing Affordability Measure work you asked us to prepare back in 2012? Well, it’s ready now.Minister Smith: Oh goodie, what does it say?Sir Humphrey: Nothing.Minister Smith: Nothing?Sir Humphrey: Well, sir, you asked us to prepare ...
    1 week ago
  • Inflation data shows many New Zealanders are worse off under National
    The latest inflation data from Statistics New Zealand shows that too many New Zealanders are now worse off under the National Government, said Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson “Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) is now running at 2.2 per cent, and ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Another emergency housing grant blow out
      Emergency housing grants data released today show another blow out in spending on putting homeless people up in motels, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.   ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Families struggle as hardship grants increase
    The considerable increase in hardship grants shows that more and more Kiwi families are struggling to put food on the table and pay for basic schooling, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More tinkering, no leadership from Nats on immigration
    National’s latest tinkering with the immigration system is another attempt to create the appearance of action without actually doing anything meaningful, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Suicide figures make for grim reading
    The 506 suspected suicides of Kiwis who have been in the care of mental health services in the last four years show that these services are under severe stress, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “If you do the ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Pay equity deal a victory for determination and unions
    The pay equity settlement revealed today for around 55,000 low-paid workers was hard-won by a determined Kristine Bartlett backed by her union, up against sheer Government resistance to paying Kiwis their fair share, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “Labour welcomes ...
    2 weeks ago
  • DHB’s forced to make tough choices
    The Minister of Health today admitted that the country’s District Health Boards were having to spend more than their ring fenced expenditure on Mental Health, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark.   “The situation is serious with Capital and Coast ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Nats break emergency housing pledge – deliver just five more places
    Despite National’s promises of 2,200 emergency housing beds, just 737 were provided in the March Quarter, an increase of only five from six months earlier, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Research underlines need for KiwiBuild
    New research showing the social and fiscal benefits of homeownership underlines the need for a massive government-backed building programme like KiwiBuild, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Social data security review too little, too late
    The independent review into the Ministry of Social Development’s individual client level data IT system is too little, too late, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni. “The Minister of Social Development has finally seen some sense and called for ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More questions raised on CERA conflicts
    With the admission that three more former CERA staff members are under suspicion of not appropriately managing conflicts of interest related to the Canterbury rebuild, it’s imperative that CERA’s successor organisation Ōtākaro fronts up to Parliamentary questions, says Labour’s Canterbury ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour to tackle Hutt housing crisis
    Labour will build a mix of 400 state houses and affordable KiwiBuild homes in the Hutt Valley in its first term in government to tackle the housing crisis there, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Housing in the Hutt ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Farewell to John Clarke
    This wonderfully talented man has been claimed by Australia, but how I remember John Clarke is as a young Wellington actor who performed satirical pieces in a show called “Knickers” at Downstage Theatre. The show featured other future luminaries like ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 weeks ago
  • Valedictory Speech
    Te papa pounamu Aotearoa NZ Karanga karanga karanga; Nga tupuna Haere haere haere; Te kahui ora te korowai o tenei whare; E tu e tu ... tutahi tonu Ki a koutou oku hoa mahi ki Te Kawanatanga; Noho mai noho ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Buck stops with Gerry Brownlee
    The fact that the State Services Commission has referred the CERA conflict of interest issue to the Serious Fraud Office is a positive move, but one that raises serious questions about the Government’s oversight of the rebuild, says Labour Canterbury ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Teachers deserve a democratic Education Council
    Teachers around New Zealand reeling from the news that their registration fees could more than double will be even angrier that the National Government has removed their ability to have any say about who sits on the Council that sets ...
    3 weeks ago