Prison Project, Contrarianism v. Loving Kindness

In “Contrarianism Vs Loving-Kindness”, Joshua Clark reflects on creating radical spaces accessible to all. Clark draws from his own experience as a young Anarchist, who wishes to reject the structural violence of the state and break free of prescribed roles in society– yet finds that spaces of resistance often perpetuate a certain kind of elitism.

Clark asks readers,

Have you ever been accused of being close-minded? Contrary to who you think you are?” We should avoid making distinctions about what “qualifies” someone to be a radical thinker, this is not empowerment.

Those very things which make the current system oppressive– such as a lack of compassion, understanding, and empathy according to Clark– are designed to be replicated on an interpersonal level. Loving-kindness is a source of growth towards aligning our actions with our purposes, values, and goals, and Clark’s essay reminds readers that this is a power all Earthlings share.

Topaz, Prison Project coordinator

Contrarianism Vs Loving-Kindness

By Joshua Clark

It is time for me to share with my comrades my views about seeing the world through negative lenses and counter-productive attitudes in radical spaces. I will start by saying that anger is not the enemy, but letting it fester into hatred is. Anger and righteous indignation are supreme catalysts in activism. Anger provokes and change requires provocation. Anger is passion! But we must direct that passion into a means of manifesting positive results. To act purely on anger is reactionary, thoughtless, and inhuman. A positive future must be well thought out. Anger provokes anger, meanness provokes meanness, heedlessness provokes heedlessness. See a need for some positivity yet?

I am talking about how we represent ourselves. How do we make people feel when they enter a radical space? What do they see? In too many cases we come off as elitist. They see and hear, “Look at me, this is how you should be. I’m against everything and we can have nothing in common! We’re a bunch of independent cats that didn’t grow up together trying to operate collectively.” Is this how we win the struggle? Out of this, can people see the positive future we are trying to manifest? My hope is that Joe Schmo can walk into a radical space and see his friendly neighborhood Anarchists working hard to make the world better. I think he is more likely to think he can get on board with our utopian futures. Or maybe it could just inspire him to take his own action to help the community. We can show people through projects like Food-Not-Bombs that they can just go out and feed and clothe people without them needing to be part of a big and fancy organization to do so. I think that this approach works towards a better future. Not by bitching, moaning, and alienating people, and then expecting them to be there when we are done waiting around for the revolution. Perhaps we should reconsider our approach, as well as our approachability.


Let’s delve into Contrarianism! Being contrary for the sake of being contrary. Opposed to everything. Nay-sayer of all. Negative Nancies and Nathaniels. I was there until I recently found more positivity -yes- here in prison. I loathed popular culture and everything associated. I shut myself off from this world for years. I was a gay man who refused to perpetuate stereotypes. I was very staunch and serious in my beliefs. I couldn’t lighten up for anything. Of course being an Anarchist, capitalism and commercialism gave me plenty to strive against. In all actuality, there is plenty to be Dis/Un/Anti about. I just think it’s good to examine or reexamine our personal discrimination of things. Maybe we can sometimes give ourselves license to like something stereotypical or mainstream-if it’s good. Maybe it could help us relate to the other Earthlings. Is all lost if we let ourselves admit we kind of could like that song or that movie? That bad ass studded belt or jacket? Those kicks that are about the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? Sure, be conscious of your shopping decisions, don’t buy it if it is made out of baby seals by baby humans. But maybe we don’t always have to segregate ourselves for social reasons.

Have you ever been accused of being close-minded? Contrary to who you think you are? And if you are being honest with yourself, were you? Do you use compassion, listening skills, and see and hear other points of view before you decide what is best for all of those diverse people?

As I said, I dropped out and shut myself off from this world. I dropped out of High School and society and hung out with Anarchist friends. I wouldn’t change those wonderful years for anything. But if we’re not careful our attitudes will shut us off from society too, it works both ways. And I don’t mean their formulated construct of society, but the people! What is revolution without the people? We need them as friends and comrades too. What good are a few elitists against their tanks, guns, and armies? It takes a diversity of people as well as tactics.

We can’t alienate and be part of the community all at once. We’re either committed to living our beliefs, doing what is right, and bridging and healing our communities. Or we become committed to being completely apart from our communities, being negative, and being -yes, I’m saying it- judgemental. This makes us unapproachable and counter-productive. Nobody wants to help realize the dreams of a hater.


What does the current system lack that makes it oppressive? A lack of compassion, understanding, and empathy. An absence of voices. It perpetuates their way of doing things while ignoring how it affects other people. It is heartless and deaf to input. So how do we combat this? By being compassionate and considerate. By lending our ears to the voices being ignored. By not making snap judgements or concocting preconceived notions. Nothing changes unless we start doing things differently. We have to be there for people if we are to fix the problems.

I will share what I wrote in my Grandma’s X-mas card (whose sister died on Thanksgiving and is sad because I’m in prison during the holidays):

“Always strive to manifest the good and positive in a situation. When life gives us lemons, we must infect the world with sweet loving-kindness and use our lemons to gain understanding and empathy to bring to other people in need. Lemons can be a tool to learn positive and valuable lessons. If we do this, then our pain can’t be in vain!”

Friends, let’s strive to infect the world with loving-kindness. Being in love with being contrary can make us bitter and judgemental. We will end up pushing away from people we need. I will end with a quote from the Dhammapada (a Buddhist scripture) Chapter 1, “Hatred never ceases by hatred. Only love dispels hate. This is an ancient and timeless law.”

The Insurgent would like to take a moment to thank our incarcerated comrades for your correspondence and contributions to our paper. We are continuously trying to expand this project and provide mutual aid to those imprisoned by the carceral state, if you have any feedback as to how we can better support you, our readers, please reach out to us at our mailing address listed in our contact us box at the back of every issue.

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