History is full of people who just didn’t. They said no thank you, turned away, ran away to the desert, stood on the streets in rags, lived in barrels, burned down their own houses, walked barefoot through town, killed their rapists, pushed away dinner, meditated into the light. Even babies refuse, and the elderly, too. All types of animals refuse : at the zoo they gaze dead-eyed through plexiglass, fling feces at the human faces, stop having babies. Classes refuse. The poor throw their lives onto barricades. Workers slow the line. Enslaved people have always refused, poisoning the feasts, aborting the embryos. And the diligent, flamboyant jaywalkers assert themselves against traffic as the first and foremost visible, daily lesson in just not.
Saying nothing is a preliminary method of no. To practice unspeaking is to practice to being unbending : more so in a crowd. Cicero wrote “cum tacent, clament”—“in silence they clamor”—and he was right : only a loudmouth would mistake silence for agreement. Silence is as often conspiracy as it is consent. A room of otherwise lively people saying nothing, staring at a figure of authority, is silence as the inchoate of a now-initiated we won’t.
Sometimes our refusal is in our staying put. We perfect the loiter before we perfect the hustle. Like every other toddler, each of us once let all adult commotion move around our small bodies as we inspected clover or floor tile. As teens we loitered, too, required “security” to dislodge us, like how once in a country full of freely roaming dogs, I saw the primary occupation of the police was to try to keep the dogs out of the public fountains, and as the cops had moved the dogs from the fountains, a new group of dogs had moved in. This was just like being a teenager at the mall.