To Be a Dissident

What does it mean to be a dissident?

At its simplest, it means to critically engage with and seek to change the material and the ideological structures of the society in which you find yourself, whether local, national, regional, or global.

It means the ability to say “no” to those in power, even if the immediate opportunities for real change are seemingly minimal to non-existent.

It is continuous intellectual and moral opposition in the face of repression and/or marginalization or both.

It is also the belief in the sanctity of human life and the dignity and worth of each human being.

It is the belief that the stronger is not automatically in the right.

It is the attempt to give voice to those who are voiceless.

It is the revolutionary unleashing of the human imagination to pose uncomfortable questions while offering apparently fantastical plans for the future.

To be a dissident is to live the Socratic life. The life of questioning. To ask unsettling questions about oneself, ones society, and even, at its most extreme, Being itself.

No answer is the final answer for the dissident.

“Truth”, as understood as the reconciling of the perennial spiritual/material needs of the individual, with the necessary functioning of society, and the ideologically fair summation of both, is always the goal.

“To live in truth” is to live in a place where the human personality is most free.

“To live in lies” is where the actual material situation of one’s life is hidden by those in power and by the material and ideological structures that support them.

The dissident unmasks that which drains the collective life force of humanity seeking the release of the spontaneous breath of life in all its forms and potentialities.

The dissident believes in the future which is contained in the present. That nothing is given and that all positive change is a propulsive mix of time, will, and ideas.

And finally, the dissident is moved by the spirit of love in all its highest forms.  It is the driving force behind all his or her acts or thoughts. The purer the force the greater the effect. Or so it is ever hoped.

Dan Corjescu teaches at the University of Tübingen's "Studium Professionale" program. Read other articles by Dan.