Keller Easterling

The classic role of the activist—to provide explicit small scale antagonisms on the periphery for fear of colluding with the center—is temporarily set aside to foreground activist gestures that collapse tactic and strategy. The notion of a tiny David and a giant Goliath can be empowering, but it escalates tensions by inflating both the power of the fabled opponent as well as the underdog’s delusions of grandeur. Authoritarian powers might also be spoiling for a fight that is fueled by confrontation and rancor. Relinquishing the tense grip of resistance need not signal capitulation, but rather a more precise parry or a more apt strategy. A strategy that answers duplicity with duplicity is not a sign of equivocation or lack of conviction but rather a technique to avoid disclosing a deliberate strategy. If it were possible to tinker with fables and stories, might Tom Sawyer slip into David’s role. Rather than going to the effort of killing Goliath, one can leverage his size in a way that is more manipulative than collusive.