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The Desperate Party

This is a critical, formative passage for me, from Walden:

But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run “amok” against society; but I preferred that society should run “amok” against me, it being the desperate party.

It could be construed as an “inappropriate” perspective, given the current events and the widespread #resist and #metoo movements. You could say, after all, that this is exactly the seemingly apathetic attitude that allows abusers, bullies, and grifters to run amok unimpeded.

But he is not advocating apathy or passivity. He’s advocating a measured, reasoned self-awareness and stability.

(I also believe it’s distinct from stoicism, especially considering Thoreau’s lifetime of dissent and activism. No stoic, for example, would have been such a committed member of the underground railroad.)

I read it as advocating a proportional response to the frantic demands of shallow society.

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