A review of Anthony Alvarado's D.I.Y. ResistanceReview Democracy
D.I.Y Resistance: 36 Ways to Fight Back!
by Anthony Alvarado
Seven Stories Press (2018), 200 pages
The title and size of D.I.Y. Resistance says a lot about what to expect from the book—it’s 200 pages of larger-than-normal font made up of short chapters. While I have not read Anthony Alvarado’s last book, D.I.Y. Magic, about the power of creativity in everyday life, I imagine it’s also 36 or so ways to be creative, broken down into clever, reader-friendly steps. The difference is, this is a political book, and it’s a response to an extremely charged and complicated moment in our country, which can’t quite be explained and fixed in 36 easy steps.
I was intrigued by this book due to my ongoing interest in activism and political involvement, which was recharged after the 2016 election. I’ve been to numerous marches and rallies since then, some organizing meetings and training events for peaceful resistance, and renewed memberships to nonprofits. But I always feel as if I should be doing more—like I should be out in the streets every weekend or going to DC or Albany every month to lobby with environmental and prochoice groups. So, I picked up this book hoping to gain some insight into further activism and learn concrete actions to take on a regular basis. I didn’t quite find that—I found some inspiring ideas and a few useful resources, but I can’t say I learned much. That said, for a newly-born, liberal-leaning activist looking for some straightforward and positive ways to be informed and involved (or at least inspired) for the first time, this could be a useful book to have.
Each chapter of the book is headed by an inspiring quote, followed by an Action, and a Result; this helps keep the book organized and gives the reader clear missions and ideas. As stated in the introduction, Alvarado took inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, an infamous guide to resisting a corrupt society in every possible way, from shoplifting and living rent-free, to street fighting and making homemade bombs. Hoffman’s book was divided into the three sections: “Survive!, Fight!, and Liberate!” Alvarado follows the structure and headings but his book isn’t as thorough or as radical.
In the D.I.Y. Resistance’s opening chapters (Part 1: Survive!), Alvarado gives some statistics and facts about the current administration and what can be done about it. He defines plutocracy and fascism, lists legislation passed or in the process of being passed by the administration, and then legislation that could be passed in response. This first section of the book is also all about self-care and inspiration/information from past leaders and books, using tactics such as meditation and unplugging from the media once a day to keep oneself sane and focused, but at the same time keeping informed through reliable news sources (which are all very liberal and largely American, despite Alvarado’s insistence to diversify your news). He also includes some positive philosophies: to savor everyday life and accomplishments made by progressive movements thus far, and to beware of normalization by writing a note to yourself about “what you believe and why it’s worth fighting for” and using it to “avoid the normalization of Trump.”
The second section (Part 2: Fight!) highlights the different ways to be active in the resistance, including donating, volunteering, marching, calling your representatives, joining a grassroots organization, making art, etc. Readers who have already been active will not find these tactics enlightening, but there is some helpful and specific information, such as a list of stores to boycott for selling the Trump brand, and steps to end income inequality. But there are also chapters without any viable solutions, such as the one on protecting the environment, which lists all the problems and gives no solutions or specific actions, beyond those already mentioned like marching or calling local politicians. Some issues are skirted around, such as the lack of voting rights and the hacking of our elections—many of the solutions, including the most obvious (to vote) are almost useless if large groups of people are unable to vote, or their votes are compromised or not counted.
My favorite chapters in the book were those that were more unusual and less predictable. This included the chapter on meditation—I rolled my eyes when I got there; even as a liberal with hippie roots and a respect for Buddhism, I didn’t really want to read about how embracing Zen will fuel the resistance. But as a self-care chapter, the idea of “loving-kindness” meditation won me over, as it’s a simple daily exercise to increase empathy. There’s also a chapter in which Alvarado presents a timeline into the future, if the worst were to happen and the administration turned into a full-blown regime. It’s even scarier when it’s broken down in a way that shows how realistic and possible it is, as it’s happened elsewhere throughout the last century.
Despite apocalyptic timelines, Alvarado does not let the reader get bogged down with darkness; a significant overlying sentiment of the book is the necessity for Americans to be more compassionate and not let our anger or frustration with the other side overtake everything. The meditation helps with this, along with some psychological information given—not just about Trump’s much-theorized personality disorders, but the collective psychology of the nation. A chapter entitled “Face Your Shadow” encourages readers to take responsibility for being part of the country and society in which this political moment became possible, and explains how ignoring our individual parts in that psychology and repressing the ugliness that Trump inhabits will only feed the monster: “if pride feeds the shadow, humility weakens it.”
This book may have some simplistic declarations (as well as some looming typos), but the various aspects of the book that I found repetitive and simplistic may be perfect for someone who’s never been involved in activism and doesn’t know where to start. Those unusual chapters that spoke most to me might be off-topic to others, but I think they help bring the overall message together and show the uniqueness of Alvarado’s viewpoint. Fueling a successful resistance movement isn’t as easy as reading this book, but if you know someone who’s trying to become involved or looking to be inspired—like your teenage niece or that newly politicized 20-something coworker or even your out-of-practice aunt—these 36 steps could be a helpful beginning.
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Resist, Resistance, Donald Trump, Politics, Politics and Society