Some situations rise before us before we quite know what to do or say. This happened to me not long ago when in completely sincerity someone I met told me early on that they were part of the resistance. Given the manner of delivery I was confident of understanding the implied meaning. But, having known one member of a partisan resistance it was pretty clear to me that the person claiming resistance membership seemed much too young to have been in a partisan group, not to mention having been born and lived on the wrong continent.

For me the most obvious thing about the contemporary member of the resistance was the ardent and confident certainty of being a modern day resistance fighter. While sincerity of position was perfectly clear I had an equally clear impression that announced resistance connection was a pose and a fairly silly one at that.

Why silly you may ask accepting the ardency and presumed need for firm action at a time of dire need. In simpler terms why muddle political opposition with wartime partisan resistance? Sounds on the pompous side. I say that because the resistance member I knew faced tougher obstacles than a vigorous clash of politics. It sounds grand to claim resistance membership when you’re in no particular danger. Armed troops were not lurking nearby searching for the modern resister. Guard dogs were not set out to find them. I couldn’t swear it was true because it sounds unlikely a person could kill with bare hands a searching dog before the armed soldier got to the scene. In heavy cover this might be possible, but strangling a guard dog would be a near thing at best. The story told me by the resistance fighter I knew was a tale of being sent to deliver messages to a village outside his home area. Doing so he went to beg a meal in a small town bistro where he wasn’t known. Before he got very far with that a patrol entered the town and of course went to the bistro to check the papers of those inside. Being away from home without written permission was sure to rouse suspicion. Not wanting to be caught and possibly shot he quickly grabbed a towel and acted like he worked at the bistro. The ploy worked. While I give the partisan credit for quick thinking to get out of a serious predicament I am amazed that none of the locals gave him away. That’s the part I find notable. Of course it’s also worth considering that this partisan was in his middle teens at the time.

I didn’t, couldn’t take as seriously the middle age resistance claimant as I did the middle teen version. To me one is the real thing. The other is an example of stolen glory. Appropriating noble airs is understandable as a way to make yourself feel good and add greater luster to one’s efforts, but it is a cheapened form of glory plus having the unfortunate effect of cheapening the deeds of those who risked their lives and the lives of those in his family if he were caught. I can’t see the grandparents of the modern resister getting a midnight knock on the door followed by a ride to a place in a public building called Under the Clock where partisans received what was known as prompt justice. 

If we take the picture further you find layers of people involved in the resistance who were very much at risk in person and family. In the case of Poland, as example, partisanship or nationalism was a prime reason for resistance. Three neighboring countries submerged Poland for several centuries, so at the time of WWII the nation was new on the map and its people did not want to again go into oblivion. Resistance movements tended to be nationalistic, but the Polish example is a good one. The Nazi invasion of Poland that triggered the War was matched by the Soviets doing the same. With Karl Marx as a common bond the Soviet Communists agreed with the German National Socialists (Nazis) to divide the country. It’s pretty clear this agreement was not intended to last, but to a member of the resistance it didn’t matter which oppressor was trying to dictate the conditions of your life, work, and identity. A conqueror is a conqueror. I know people who curse nationalism as the worst evil facing Justin Trudeau’s people world. I get the objection and the idea, but I’d bet this. If a decision was made that a new universal language was needed and an abolishment of old nationalistic or cultural holidays. What new language do you want to use for chanting allegiance? Will a new Middle of the Lunar year holiday be a good replacement for Christmas and New Year? If you are the one having to be remade and the traditions you know tossed out you might soon be nationalistic as regards your heritage.

Of course these conflicts are curiously political and ideological. To do a good takeover that works in your favor you cast the partisan resistance as regressive, backward looking, and stained with whatever crimes and ills you can stick on it. If things are drawn black and white (what a prejudicial expression that is) in simple terms an accompanying lip service to rainbow colors disguises the actual trip into stricter and stricter control. To defeat individualism and a desire for freedom a greater goal is needed. One of the most common forms used today features the state or government or state as the defining entity. Another much used method relies on an overriding law giving deity who brooks no nonsense and is interested only in followers who are obedient and docile slaves. Either of those I might very well wish to oppose and if need be do so with more than wishful thoughts of resistance. It’s tricky to distinguish a real threat from a false or recognize when democratic opposition has puffed up to theatrical resistance.