On November 6, 2014, Maddie B. made a blog post titled “Obey the Giant” in which she provides context surrounding the “OBEY” (for lack of a better word) movement and the ethicality of its stickers. Shepard Fairley started the design in 1989. The “giant” Maddie had been referring to was André Réné Roussimoff, a.k.a. André the Giant, the French wrestler featured on the stickers. However, hearing the word “giant” in my mind was a trigger for the image of Goliath, illustrated in the Bible as a “champion” of the Philistines against whom the Israelites tremble until David, the shepherd, defeats him with a stone. Most have come to use the metaphor to represent a battle between two forces in which the perceived underdog triumphs over his or her gargantuan foe.
The sticker was intended to force the passerby to evaluate and construct some meaning for themselves. While reactions have been manifold, there have objections against the design’s aesthetic and message, with some arguing the sticker’s presence introduces feelings of paranoia and fear over “subversive” activities.
The sticker was encouraging to me, though. I was reminded that there’s no such thing as “too large,” and that obedience is a voluntary behavior. The designs did not feature any commands, only a picture whose message may, in fact, be: Fear Me. Bemoaning a sticker for fear of usurpation may be a lost battle.
This brings me to the concept of fear. The perversion of a system manifests in the form of beheadings overseas, massacres in schools, and shootings on the street. Of course we’re going to be afraid. But these aren’t incidents that cannot be explained–these are signs of desperation. The abused will retaliate, and all the internalized indignations will find a way to be expressed. The worst decision to make is to the choice to do nothing and cower.
Emily Dickinson wrote in an untitled poem that she goes against the world, against Goliath, but it is only she that falls. I can imagine that it takes a lot of faith in one’s potential to go up against a personal Goliath. But silence and inaction in the face of such absurd insolence is nothing short of cowardice. A full charge, even defeated, is better than nothing.