This is not meant to glorify mental affliction, but rather to explore what it is, where it comes from, and its function. It is not inherently linked to revolutionary inclination or consciousness; rather, some of it is the result of a society which demands the compromise of one’s conscience in exchange for the ability to “function” normally in that society—and for the greater ability to benefit from that compromise—and some natural psychological response patterns represent the capacity, the inclination, and the desire to resist these demands.

It is easy to see our mental symptoms as signs of weakness, as disgraceful and unseemly symbols of our own softness of character. From one perspective, they do weaken us to the onslaughts of daily life, the type which demands total complicity in an unfolding future to which we would rather not give our consent.

If only there was some pill to take that made us “just do it,” “just say yes,” or just ask “how high” whenever we are told to jump. But there are too many barriers, those which connote a sensitive nature, between our wills and the aims of our demanders.

Too many of us were raised with levels of privilege sufficient to grant access to the question why: why is what is “required,” required? Why are we being forced into this way of life in whose creation and shape we had no influence, but to which we are expected to either conform, or if we would not have it thus, to change entirely on our own when all the wise and wizened voices are entrenched against us, or to leave altogether if we don’t like it (and some of us do, for pity)?

Why does this seem such a simple demand, yet it quakes our bellies to contemplate fulfilling it? Why is it being demanded of me, when it only benefits those whose interests are as invisible as they are, yet their influence is as palpable and seemingly ubiquitous as snow in a blizzard?

Our “infirmities,” shaped by our chemistry, our upbringing, or our observations, are saying no on our behalf. They are telling us not to deal with “reality,” that we are not able to handle, to cope, to function. We are not able to accept and move on, to stay calm, to swallow. Our stomachs are upside-down for a reason.

This land, this language, these laws do not inspire insouciance. Or gross obedience. Our smile is reserved for ourselves when, for a brief moment, we feel at peace or a memory of peace or an idea of peace or of truly “living.” Meanwhile, we are required not only to compromise our hearts and minds, but also take up arms against them, to ravage them, to bury them, as we would the native enemy. We are required to conform, to consent, to forget there ever was a conflict between “what is” and “what should be.” The power of all of the forces beyond our control—the repressive and the ideological—are organized against us and that power is growing every day, commensurate with the growing level of powerlessness, incompetence, impotence, failure, and apparent halfheartedness of any organization of resistance that existed before or since. It seems there used to be outlets for people who dissented; there used to be an active community of antiestablishment freaks, for better or for worse.

Now, almost all such organizations demand first that we compromise, the type of compromise that created the situation in which we find ourselves. The only mechanism that works correctly is our conscience, scooting between the fragments of our thoughts as vague detachment, observant melancholy, itching fear, or the prospect of total paralysis in the face of a world that doesn’t care if you die—that didn’t care if you ever lived—but only that you succeed at the role to which you’ve been assigned: fool, simpleton, idiot, puppet, charlatan, traitor, taker, navel-gazer. And in our hearts we refuse to play these roles, even as we don the costumes and makeup and inquire as to the rate of pay.

It is a sad but liberating truth that part of our strength lies in our fears, angers, depressions, and anxieties, and only when we can listen to ourselves and to each other, no matter how much our hands and voices shake, and direct our feelings and thoughts at the society which produced them—as it produces so many criminals, addicts, indigents, and indolents that it would rather never acknowledge, address, or redeem—can we hope to wrestle the definition of progress away from “well-adjusted” people and derail their legacy: a perpetual shuffle in lockstep of our people, our planet, our potential, towards irrevocable doom, not psychic, not of the self, but of the thing itself. Suicide, seemingly originating from within so that the victim and her lack of strength can be blamed, in the face of mounting fear.

Our hope rests on moving the fight from the homefront to the enemy’s doorstep, from within against ourselves to without against “reality,” which is not a fixed and eternal concept just as we are not. Reality can be made just, just as our feelings of disgust can be justified, just as they can be clarified, directed, distilled down to their essence, and turned into weapons against those whose only weapon is coerced compromise, whose only refrain is “life is unfair, get used to it,” all while they make the rules, or got used to them long ago. They compromised their conscience, and look where it got them: doing the masters’ work for them, criticizing and crushing the hearts and minds of children, and making us brace ourselves to go silently through the meat-grinder, only because they can’t bear to hear us scream.

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