Tag Archive: fear


Why does hope make me cry?

Why does the feeling that things will be okay

Make me shrivel up and die?

Is it that I know the world will still be dying

No matter how much my heart is flying,

No matter how my dreams proceed without delay?

Is it that I believe myself to lack the worth,

No matter the lives I lighten with mirth,

No matter how many fears I allay?

Is it that I want what is not yet real,

No matter how strong a desire I feel,

No matter how far my hope leads me astray?

Why does hope make me cry?

It is because I know that to me, it might be real,

But to the world, it is a lie.

I don’t believe nature owes me anything, but I believe society does. Nature does not act with purpose; it just is. We perceive purpose in its actions, but it doesn’t. If the world ended tomorrow, nature wouldn’t care. It would just go on in a different form.

Nature is merely the means by which I am conceived and born. But society, in its various manifestations (parents, family, community, country, culture) is the cause, and society acts very much with purpose. No one asks to be born into this sniveling, pathetic excuse for a world filled with war, murder, racism, oppression, lifelong exploitation, childhood trauma, loss, sadness, disillusionment, confusion, and ultimately inevitable terrifying death. Rather, society asks that we be born, whether “society” means our parents who want to populate their lives with meaning, or whether it refers to culture, which tells our parents where meaning originates, or to our political system, which wants to prolong its “life” with a steady source of consumers and workers who all buy into that meaning. Society creates each individual person for these purposes which are alien to him or her; meanwhile, it creates or is complicit in all of its injustices and horrors.

In this way, while society brings us into existence, it presents us with very little besides the myriad reasons why we should regard that existence as a curse. The absolute and essential need for full-time employment makes alienated puppets of us all, contorting ourselves into our desk chairs or lifting and swinging hammers into concrete, turning our bodies into twisted, broken prisons consisting of one or another pain or preventable disease, and our minds into clenched fists of chronic stress that beat us into submission with refrains of “never enough time/money/status/possessions.”

“That’s life,” they tell us, as they were told.

Society wants to punish you for being born. It is completely ill-equipped to do anything else. Perhaps childhoods can be idyllic for some, but when “real life” takes hold, each person realizes what life has to offer, and uses what means are at his or her disposal to ignore this fact. Among the most common means for achieving this are drugs, alcohol, television, religion, unhealthy food, and expensive consumer goods at best; racism, xenophobia, patriotism, sexism, and imperialism at worst.

In essence, society brings us into this world and then gives us the means to kill ourselves, our hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better world. Rather than hand us a gun and have us blow our lives away, it prefers that we consume as much as possible before doing so, not because it eases any actual pain but because it enriches the people who benefit from society as it is. Mass infirmity, just like mass ignorance, makes those elements of society richer.

If we want to see any changes, however, we must not simply expect society to start giving us what it owes us. We must alter it as a whole. We must change its mechanism and purpose, from one that takes as much as it can from each citizen, to one that gives each citizen as much to live for—as much freedom, as much expression, as much value and worth, as much warmth and love and happiness, as much ethical fulfillment and consistency, as much support and solidarity, as much understanding—as possible.

That must be our goal. When we have accomplished it for everyone, we will have started to pay back the children of the world, and they will thank us, and then we can sleep peacefully, knowing they are safe.

There is an epidemic of mental illness splashed across my generation like a heart-shaped bloodstain. Why is that? Is it that doctors are too prescription-happy and get kickbacks from drug companies? Is it that all humans are, in some way or another, intrinsically damaged simply by existence? Is it that young people are insecure and simply grasp at any convenient sign of their own identity, and any pill to go with it, anything to make them feel more entitled to the benefits of being “normal”?

We like to forget that society produces the mentally ill people upon whom it imposes the many designations of mental illness it also produced. It created these designations to seemingly address the problem of mental illness. But before mental illness was categorized, it certainly existed, and now that it is categorized with as much gradient variation as geology, meteorology or any other science, it still exists. It even thrives, such that every deviation from the norm—overt anxiety, overt sensitivity, overt awareness, overt fear, overt particularity—can now be categorized, diagnosed, catalogued, and panoptically scrutinized by a chorus of licensed professionals.

Notice my use of the word “overt.” If these traits are not overt, if they are kept inside, they are not visible to other people and hence the need to categorize them diminishes until such times when the subject commits murder or pedophilia, to the extreme surprise of his or her familiars to whom he or she was “such a nice quiet person. I never would have thought…Sometimes you just never know.”

How could you “know,” how could you “have a thought” about something you ignore? Of course we are told to ignore the hateful and embrace the lovely, and of course we are taught to espouse it as well.  Even while we over-diagnose, over-medicate, over-scrutinize, we ignore and remain silent on the hateful aforementioned truth: that society creates its many segments, including the murderers, rapists, and corrupt politicians, because it thrives as it is through them. We are not taught to understand why a person commits murder or other crimes, except that they are aberrations, anomalies, and outliers, statistically insignificant, not signifying any greater message besides humanity’s ineluctable “dark side.”

Society puts dark ideas into our heads, ideas like “what is different is bad, what is the same is good,” or, “to dominate is to be right,” or “life sucks, get over it.” In the manicheistic pursuit of happiness, positivity, and self-interest, most of us tuck these lessons away to fall back on in the event of indecision. When we are not sure what to do with our lives, we can always rely on imitating the herd, the will to dominate (or, more likely, to be dominated, assuming its inherent virtue), and excusing the inequities and failures of life to steer us in the right and safe direction. This is what is considered “good mental health.”

But for the mentally ill, there are two other reactions to these adages. The first is total commitment i.e. taking it too far. These are murderers, rapists, pedophiles, the senselessly violent, hurting the innocent or defenseless, attacking minorities, preying on those they perceive as weak or different, and resolving any moral qualms with some variation of “life sucks, they’ll get over it. Life has winners and life has losers.”

The second reaction is emotional resistance. This puts the young woman or man in a state of anxiety while taking a test comprised of arbitrary criteria, depression when life appears worthless, anger upon learning about the state of the world, and (antisocial) alienation while struggling in that harsh “real world.” Pundits would have us perceive ourselves as “soft” and “weak.” “Sometimes life is sad, get over it.” “Sometimes life is anxious, get over it.” “Angry? You should be grateful!” “If you act like a weirdo, you get what you deserve.” Notice the similarity to the refrains of the killers.

For the emotionally resistant, the body is willing, though only under duress, and the mind is not. The mind is unwilling to accept the terms of engagement that have been thrust upon it, coercively, not as a request but as a requirement, if she should hope to succeed, to live safely and well, and to remain safe from the social stigmas of “failure,” having “never quite made it,” “never quite fitting in,” being “uncooperative,” “immature,” “ungrateful,” “underachieving,” having had “all the chances in the world to get ahead and missing or messing up all of them.”

Perhaps there is some compassion, some understanding that one aspect or another of society failed, not the emotionally resistant individual. This sense of shame and of self-disgust, of non-acceptance of the self, is laid at her feet for her to voluntarily take unto herself—as though she was being told to climb into her own grave—in the form of social stigma and mediocrity, to exculpate the society as the ultimate robber of this person’s “success” (a hopelessly twisted and obscure concept) to whom it never gave a chance, and place the blame right where it belongs: on the shoulders of the prisoner who hates her prison, her prison-guards, her prison-owners, no matter how beautiful a cell is promised or delivered, no matter how wonderful a meal is reserved for those who really “work hard” at deserving it, at fitting in.

She remains diagnosed as “her own worst enemy,” unsafe alone, unsafe with others, generally too sick to be around. Keep her alone, and silenced, and unloved, because her anger, her revulsion, her rejection of what is baldly wrong and unjust, of what completely fails to live up to the potential she sees in her daydreams—where hope is unneeded and fears are acted upon, where nature thrives and justice prevails, where the eye looks where it will and not where it is directed, where people are free—might rub off onto you.

And then you would be to blame.

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.

[rough translation: “truth is correspondence between blank slates and intellect”]

Just now I was reading Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, when a specific passage struck me: “It was as if the confusion from sensory deprivation partially erased their minds, and then the sensory stimuli rewrote their patterns.”

Called “psychic driving” and “depatterning” by its progenitors, such techniques used sensory deprivation, electroshock therapy, and repetitive recorded messages to completely obliterate a person’s sense of self and replace it with a new “self.” For the purpose of creating the perfect spy or of extracting information from prisoners, complete subjugation of the subject represented the height of human ambition to the anticommunist, CIA-backed forces that funded its development. The induced mental regression to an infantile level produced a veritable “blank slate,” or tabula rasa, creating the conditions by which the “patient” becomes totally accepting of whatever new “patterns” the “doctor” felt like imposing on her. This government-sanctioned operation came to be known as MKUltra.

It is odd to say, but the idea of having my “patterns rewritten” has a certain appeal to me. I don’t know if it is the idea of being non-responsible for myself that appeals to me on some primal level, but more than that, what mindfully appeals to me about it is the idea of having all of the “patterns” about myself that I don’t like removed and replaced with patterns that I DO like.

For instance, shyness. Who wants to shuffle through life with a burden of unfounded fear falling around his shoulders like a sweaty shawl in summertime? I’d like to have that pattern removed and replaced with outgoingness; not that I’d like to be an extrovert—in contrast to what I am now, which I do also value—but that I’d like to be “good with people,” and assertive.

Another pattern I could do without might be anticipating conflict. Why go about, day after day, with the fear that someone or something will attempt to do me harm, physical or emotional or both; will be merciless and scornful of the strong person that I have become; will have no reverence for the words that “hurt my feelings” but would say such things intentionally before aiming blows at my body with greater, more visceral zeal? And I will be forced to defend myself, which I believe I could do, but I know I might fail. This puts me in a defensive posture for so many hours of the day and makes me socially anxious, and I feel that the moment I relax, something bad will happen to endanger me or someone I love.

Obviously there are certain ways that I am “my own worst enemy.” I’d like to have these patterns removed and replaced with their opposites. That’d be nice.

Not long ago I took part in an improv class at my local adult school. There was one game we played in which the instructor, Lulu French, had everyone pretend to be an animal that he or she identifies with. I chose the Wolf, specifically the Lone Wolf, because I identify with him: wandering on a quest unknown to others, with nothing to prove to anyone, teeth and fangs ready to defend or attack and unafraid to do both, keen senses of smell and vision providing acute situational awareness, and not to be fucked with or intimidated. Basically:

After we improv students had pretended to be wolves or elephants or tigers or dogs, Lulu said, “Okay, now I want you all to become the OPPOSITE of that animal.” And what did I become? A sheep, shy and frightened, following others with no route of my own, no self-sufficiency or sense of pride, with no gripes about occupying the lowest state possible because no alternative had ever presented itself to me, just trying to survive, nothing more.

I realized something off-putting later. I identified with the sheep more than with the wolf. While I admire the wolf, the sheep felt closer to who I am. It revealed to me that ideals and self-image are one thing, but the reality can so often be very much removed from ideals and images.

How does this relate to the Klein quote above? What if I could accomplish complete correspondence between my self-image, or what I would like to be, with what I am? What if I could have all character flaws and self-reproaches purged from my being, leaving behind someone comparatively superhuman?

Perfect discipline, perfect initiative, perfect follow-through, perfect vision, perfect confidence, perfect certainty. (Of course, by “perfect,” I don’t mean literally beyond any point of improvement. I only mean perfect by comparison, if that makes any sense.) So what is 0% accomplished today is 100% more accomplished tomorrow, what is longed for and wanted and needed is as good as in my hands, simply because I have decided that I want it. Godlike power, insofar as humans are concerned.

But what does THIS particular longing lead to? Only another limiting realization, based in part on the revelations in Klein’s book: that those who would possess the ability to make these changes through scientific means are bound by nefarious motivations. Anyone who could wield such power, as the MKUltra doctors did, to minutely manifest a new personality from an old one cannot be seen as capable of being benevolent, because those who would seek such power on a grand scale would do it for ignoble and destructive purposes, as in MKUltra. When granted state power, no enterprise is safe while the patterns of profit and world hegemony remain etched in the minds of government “benefactors.”

This is largely what makes such Frankensteinian experiments unethical, not some abstract idea that “playing God” is, of itself, immoral. What is medicine? What is stem-cell research? What is responsible GMO food production that feeds the starving and food-insecure? These are methods of “playing God” that are ethically sound. But like the large-scale capitalist control of GMOs leading to widespread injustice, any similar scale of control over mental “depatterning” would (and did) lead to the exact same abuses of power.

What would my ideal version of myself be like? An open and unflinching critic of everything, who says how he feels when he feels it and doesn’t care what people think, who puts his ideals into their fullest practice and does what he puts his mind to, who has the sharpest possible memory in terms of reading and remembering because it is unencumbered by anxiety and mundane distractions, is able to handle anything and anyone including the federal government or white supremacists, is both ready to fight and ready to make peace.

The greatest insight revealed to me by Klein’s line is a particularly existential one: as a single human being who wants to change the world for good—beyond lowering the price of a latte—only I can make myself in that self-image, through action, conviction, and willpower. Technological shortcuts will not help me. And I must find a pack of similar wolves to work with, who will reinforce me and whom I can reinforce, for the Lone Wolf can kill one hunter at a time, but a pack of wolves can take over the entire forest.

Forces that would have us be less than the fullest and most fearless version of our subversive selves are mass, and we must quest against them in our own time, with our will our only weapon.

My Life is a First Draft

“Someday I will do something noble, to give value to my life. My strength in ideas will crystallize to equal great action. I will be free from fear or lack of confidence. I will overcome the adversity of not having anticipated and dreaded it. I will stand for what I am and what I know, which I will know with conviction.”

I wrote these words a few weeks ago, on the train to work. They struck me as significant; what are they saying? That I will only accomplish what is in my heart when I am older, and that my fear will be with me until then. Only then will my actions not be hampered by fear and incredulity. The struggling chaos of my everyday life will be replaced with clarity, calm, and efficiency. Until then, grandiose plans of artistic expression and world-changing action will remain just that: plans, a soul without a body.

Why? There are few things I value more than my freedom of thought. I acceptingly witness the oppressive structures of society, its economically exploitative nature, the various contradictions and conflicts that make it the neurosis-inducing thing that it is. I read and absorb as many of its resistors as possible, and become familiar with the tactics of its preservers. I see each phenomenon around me as being for freedom or against it, and most are against.

And yet I participate in it. I have not found a way to break free, in act or in spirit enough to lead to the act. My dreams of artistic grandeur were based on images in the media and in popular culture: genius, coolness, popularity, acceptance, immortality, “freedom” as the reward for success. I thought I could enter it and maintain my character, perhaps even being a force for positive change within it. But the freedom comes in the form of money and prestige, both of which are dependent upon not changing anything, and neither of which demand high character.

In the same way that I saw myself as unique back then, I see my character as very high now. I would fight for anyone, give to anyone, see anyone else’s point of view, defend the undefended and attack the comfortable….I would kill a king to save a subject, and kill myself if it would empower that subject. I refrain from many things: meat, marijuana, recently pornography. These are vices that deplete my spirit, that hurt my vision and my sense of self.

So I imagine great self-sacrifice, yet engage in very little of it besides sacrificing that which I am against: eating dead animals, brain pollution, and the commodification of sex in our manipulative, Master/Slave-obsessed society. I sacrifice nothing that makes me comfortable, and actively, positively *do* almost nothing that meets my own expectations of my character. I am detached, disrupted, distraught…

Castrated
Debauched
Disinherited
Because of this (emphasis added)

Right now, rather than as a novelist, drummer, activist, artist, I work as a personal trainer at a corporate-owned gym in the most affluent county in New Jersey. I train good-looking people in ways to become better-looking. And it allows me to justify being preoccupied with my own appearance. It occurs to me to wonder, in a common way, “what sense does that make?” I’m not the only one apparently who wonders, even among those at my workplace…

Woflson comment

…In addition to the people who know me as a person of principle and great disdain for society, not just colleagues but comrades…

Woflson comment contd

But will I? Will I ever work for the greater good? In politics or art? I see now that there is value within both, although artists and creative people generally have to accept a dehumanizing machine controlling their every word and action. Activists often choose to compromise too, by working with Democrats or ideological adversaries. Unless one can embrace extremism or avant-gardism (which I sometimes think/thought I could), compromise is the nature of everything, I guess. Failure. Downgrading. Losing. Ideals that die like extinct animals. Such is the nature of the dialectic. Why should I be any different?

And what do the opinions of others really matter? They matter when they reflect an opinion of oneself. Where do the dreams go, the purity once thought to exist? There is a question I must ask:

Appearances, Nature

“Is it that certain things just did not work out, or is that they were never worked?”

Ideals are the enemy of action, perhaps. Fear of failure derives from the desire for “success,” when success is such a specific and exclusive thing as to not truly relate to reality. That is the type of “success” the dehumanizing machine wants us to seek. The need to create “revolution, and nothing less” can lead a person to do nothing, thinking herself a failure, when she didn’t really try because she knew she could not succeed fully in her lifetime, and be recognized for it. Perhaps it is bourgeois to seek perfection, based on an indecisiveness that replaces urgency because one is in a position of privilege, not of urgent oppression or even danger.

Yes, personal trainers are exploited, just like anyone else. A session with me will cost you 100 dollars, of which I will receive 30. So what am I doing about it? Organizing, Agitating, Occupying? Not quite. I’m doing a good job, a damn good job, working hard for the client and for the company, because of my “high character.” Am I waiting for the time to become perfect before I act? Am I trying to secure the self-confidence first? What is the answer? I watched a Bergman movie last night, “The Magician,” so it is quite apropos that an answer derives from him:

ingenting

I know I am probably being too hard on myself; my bipolar nature is having a field day with finding more reasons to be pessimistic, to give up, to do exactly what the machine wants me to do, to admit that I won’t make a positive impact in my lifetime, for the only sufficient positive impact is the kind that results in fame and fortune and immortality. So many fighters who died for freedom will never be honored with a memorial, or even on Facebook by those whose lives they touched. I still believe, even if I can’t do all I want right now in full, that I may still do great things before I die, or at least a piece of them, or at least try them. Great, meaning lasting.

I must simply maintain my self-awareness until then, and hold on, and not view the minimal as trivial, or the imperfect as bad. How will I achieve the maximal if I don’t achieve the minimal first? How will I get perfection done if imperfection is never addressed? How will I love what I do, and the people for whom I do it, if I never love myself?

A chat I had on the internet with a friend today prompted me to consider the implications of never being able to take a side.


 

ME: this is how i often feel re: politics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XEyGhLVOXU

[Anthony Quinn as Auda in “Lawrence of Arabia” exclaiming that “I must find something honourable!”]

MY FRIEND: lol good luck

ME: it’s a hapless stumble. everywhere lies compromise and breeds conflict

and strangely enough, it keeps me naive

MY FRIEND: better than being a sullen curmudgeon I suppose

ME: and with clean hands, perhaps what I dislike about it most of all


By looking for the perfect route, I take none. By being afraid of mistakes, I take no chances. By accepting no one, I am not an exception; I walk a common path. Fear of being wrong leads to Being Wrong with Fear. Believing that there is some neat, perfect path to take saves me from taking any, hence I never become hardened to adversity or challenge, nor do I amass experiences that make me feel capable and strong. No, indecision is a complete lack of acceptance of material conditions; not of their existence or their rightness or wrongness (I know they exist and are extremely wrong), but of their urgency versus my ability to “handle” them. I let myself believe that I can take a lifetime to decide–about WHAT to do, WHOM to follow–when in reality no decision is being made, no moves, no changes, and the multitudes are suffering. I know the problems are immediate, but I act as though they are not. So I might as well believe they are not. That is the bourgeois practice of indecision, just as it is the practice of all forms of complicity: what is not resisted is assisted.