“I Would Prefer Not To.”

Herman Melville, image in the public domain.

Judith Levine, co-founder of the National Writers Union, writes in the Boston Review on how an 1853 Herman Melville novella might be the key to contemporary political resistance:

No respect for pencil pushers? Get over it. America’s army of bureaucrats, who number over 750,000 in federal agencies alone, may now be the bulwark between totalitarian plutocracy and constitutional democracy. Imagine if civil servants, from secretaries to social workers to scientists—to police—refused to cooperate? Call it the Bartleby Strategy. Its rallying cry: “I would prefer not to.”

Read the essay