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Excuse me, please, where is, please, the school for the undergrounds?

The European homelands generously hosted most of World War I, and a large part of World War II as well. Europeans occasionally remind Americans that one of the reasons we see the world differently is because our homeland has never hosted a modern war -- any modern war at all, really, and certainly nothing as devastating as those two appalling WW dust-ups.

I was there the morning of September 11th, okay? It was bad, but it wasn't a years-long, all encompassing invasion or occupation of the homeland -- except in some psychological sense maybe. Let's just remember that there's a difference between having your illusions shattered and having bombs raining down on you from the sky night after night for weeks or months or years at a time. Or having the tanks roll in. Or having to live under an occupation.

If you can't see the difference, trust me. There's a difference.

Another thing Europeans learned about and modern Americans have never had to confront was the need to have underground resistance movements. Yeah, we've got various outfits who style themselves as the Whites-Only Resistance, or the Christians-Only Liberation Movements, or what-all. But these people are crack-pots.

What if America someday really needed a nationwide underground resistance? Would we know how to do it?

We already know the Big Shots have the skills to mine our phone calls and emails and websites and all the rest of it. What are the chances our American Big Shots are learning from the Chinese Big Shots how to crack down on the internet? Oh, wait. Our corporations are teaching the Chinese Big Shots how to do it. Apparently the question of who's the master and who's the grasshopper here is clouded.

But come to think of it, I don't know what good underground resistance movements actually do. Certainly the Free French annoyed the hell out of the Vichyswines. Family legend has it that my great aunt Marie (about twenty-seven times removed) was a big shot in the Norwegian resistance. Maybe even killed a Nazi or two. But from what little I know about these sorts of things, those folks were mostly just hanging on, waiting for help to come from the outside. If there is no help coming, I don't know what the point would be unless it was simply that you couldn't keep yourself from trying to resist.

Which, apparently, is a pretty damned good reason. Certainly there was a lot of resistance, political, artistic, and otherwise, in the Eastern European Bloc and in the old U.S.S.R. itself. I guess they may have held out some hope that someday the West would come to their aid, but even if they did, the lessons of Hungary and Prague Spring probably disabused them of those notions.

So you kind of have to assume they did it because they had to do it -- as if they couldn't live with themselves if they didn't try to be free in spite of the danger. But I don't know. As I say, Americans have never had to do this sort of thing. We are stupid about it. Well, we are smart enough to have various theories about how and why to do it, but anybody who has spent any time at all on this planet is well acquainted with the difference between reality and theory.

I think Americans ought to make a deeper study of the history of underground resistance movements. It's true that knowing the history is not the same as living the history, but at least we could learn how people do it, what tricks they use to try to live free in an unfree society. How do you stay in touch with your compatriots in another city, for example, if you don't dare use the phone, or the internet, or the mails?

I suppose we would eventually find our own way to do it, if we had to, but why start from square one? You're going to lose a lot of people anyway, no matter what you do, but certainly the "learning process" is going to mow down meadow after meadow of freedom-loving Flower Children so you'd be smart, I think, to try to keep the learning process as short as possible.

It doesn't hurt to know things, does it? It doesn't hurt to know a little bit about history. Besides, I'll bet there are a lot of exciting and interesting stories. True stories, I mean -- without all the gasbaggery about What It Means To Be Free -- histories that tell you how to try to be free, not why you should try to be.

I mean, sheesh, if you need to be told that, you may as well just forget the whole thing.


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To answer one of your questions: agreed-upon codes, for one thing. (Spend some time with movies about the Resistance and the undergrounds, if you can find them.)

However, in a society that has pretty much commodified rebellion, you have your work cut out. ("Undergrounds" that advertise--bad bet.)

Olga the Orange

To answer one of your questions: agreed-upon codes, for one thing.

I keep thinking there ought to be a web site where all this stuff is discussed and arranged. Not the codes & stuff, but how to pre-arrange this stuff in a safe manner, etc.

This morning I was thinking about whether, if Thomas Jefferson returned today, he would start another university -- this time not the University of Virginia, but rather something like the University of Resistance. Not because the need for this knowledge is urgent at the moment, but because the knowledge should be a fundamental element in any liberal arts education.

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