Articles from Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed;Anarchy and Anxiety
Articles from Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed;Anarchy and Anxiety published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-15
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Author: Liana Doctrine
Anarchy and Anxiety
Before we go anywhere in this exploration, what do I mean by anxiety?
Anxiety is a fear and the resulting set of protective behaviors which form in response to a real or fabricated threat, and continue though that threat has passed. Anxiety is a fear out of its original context. It can look like avoiding conflict, bonding, criticisms, direct answers, certain places, situations, tasks, or technologies. It can manifest as over or under functioning, cliquishness, feigned helplessness, dogmatic philosophies that favor certain personalities, angry outbursts, and the desire to control situations, people, or conversations. It can lead to not having an opinion or having an opinion about everything. It can cause us to cloud agreements or expectations, create pretenses, or outright excuses. It can look like not completing tasks on time, avoiding fascinating projects, events, and discussions. So why do we have it if it’s so destructive to our desired lives? Where did it come from?
The government wants us anxious. The corporations approve. Why? For many reasons, several of which you could probably guess. For instance, anxiety is a perfect form of social control, it keeps people confused, alienated, filled with self-doubt, and unable to form strong opinions or act on them. It also promotes capitalism and creates a population cheaper and more efficient to control than outright slaves; the people will fight for the privilege to stay at home buying the locks, mace, alarms, and sedatives for themselves. The structure of our society is engineered to foster anxiety, and sells us the idea that these institutions are wholesome and good for us; we would be lost without them.
Our nuclear families are defended as sacrosanct, but they breed anxiety into us, dividing us into groups too small to thrive. They keep us tired and lonely, on the edge of survival. They tell us that we’re safe, we’re part of something unique and special; a net that makes us stronger, but really we’re being isolated, alienated, and worn out. Insecure about our place in the world, we buy more and work harder to make our little enclaves look legitimate, even when they are festering with cruelty.
Attempts at larger community are slandered as useless or corrupt. Our schools are designed to make us passive and insecure, they teach us to jump to bells and whistles, to be submissive and follow rules, and to train our physical needs to a schedule. We are graded on our ability to thrive under these controlled conditions; assessed repeatedly to determine our worth to the glorious system, reminding us we can never stop working to conform ourselves to its needs. And our efficiency will determine the amount of money we will make, the kind of home we will have, and the happiness we will be able to achieve.
The media reiterates how much worse our lives could be, how our neighbors could be serial killers, how it’s best to stick to the well traveled paths of life. Stay with the herd of strangers held at arms length. It reports that all our fears are rational, the world is a scary unsafe place, filled with scary unsafe people. It promotes the uncritical acceptance of the entertainment and pseudo relationships offered by the television and internet, and we count ourselves lucky to simply be alive and so comfortably situated in our self made cells.
Advertisements remind us how inadequate we are, how we need to buy the newest technologies, more time at the gym, the best coffee, the fastest cell phones and food, and the most secure retirement. We can never achieve enough, be rich enough or beautiful enough. The goals are unattainable and we are kept leaping for them; it tires us out, makes us unsure of ourselves.
And our national myths...oh those great and shining examples of justice and equality, they remind us that if we are not achieving more, if we are not wealthy and happy in this “land of the free” then we have only ourselves to blame. No where else on Earth do we have more opportunities than here, our failures are certainly personal.
And the health care industry and self help movement? They offer us pills, over educated strangers, and behavior modification exercises to remove our negative feelings, and encourage us to contribute to society again. They urge us to feel good joining the rest of the population.
These institutions are meant to catch those of us who fell through all the other nets; it is an industry dedicated to helping us see how lucky we are, to help us sit back and relax into our productive little lives.
It is tempting to believe that there is something wrong with us, if we’ve held on to expired fears and used them to justify sets of irrational looking behaviors. After all, who but ourselves can we blame for how we feel and what we do? And yet, if we simply believe these experts when they tell us we are sick and our illnesses are of our making, then we will fall into their trap of buying cures, and succors, and staring fixedly at our navels in the company of strangers.
One approach to this dilemma is to say there is nothing wrong with any of us, the system is sick, and leave it at that. I prefer this approach to a complete and unthinking supplication to a professional diagnosis, but this reaction misses an opportunity to reclaim part of our emotional lives. Exploring the complexities of our fears and actions, and deciding for ourselves how we feel about them, whether they are helpful and appropriate, or obstacles to our desires is not buying in to their paradigm; it is part of self management.
Another route might look like asking: why try to demolish any of our feelings? Anger can arouse action, sadness can stimulate creativity, and happiness can lead to complacency. What can anxiety inspire? Anxiety produces the same physical response as sexual arousal; we could call it passion with a twist of fear and learn to like it. (Truthfully, I’m a bit addicted to it now.) I have also found some of my anxieties are useful in navigating the bureaucracies of this world, streamlining the necessary and odious tasks. But admittedly, there are other anxieties that stand resolutely in the way of the life I desire for myself, and I just can’t let it go at that.
One of the most crippling anxieties I have seen in myself and my fellow anarchists, including individualists, is social. Many of us are withdrawing critically from mainstream society and this can be a lonely endeavor, even if we are lucky enough to be surrounded by political allies. This loneliness is increased by social anxieties which can cause us to hide ourselves from each other physically, verbally, or emotionally. Excessive worrying about fitting in, not speaking up enough or talking too much, being vulnerable, sounding too smart or stupid, and fears about being liked or not disliked enough can hinder our ability to create and maintain intimate relationships and form the communities that our philosophies prescribe. It can keep us from engaging in important personal and philosophical conversations and resolving misunderstandings.
Some of my anxieties don’t stop me from being or doing what I desire, but some of them do. As an anarchist I believe that I am responsible for sculpting my life into what I want it to be and so I have delved into the mass of books, groups, classes, and videos about “overcoming” anxiety, desensitizing techniques, therapy, and the like...and I have spent a lot of time talking with the people close to me about it, getting to understand how it manifests and all the different ways I feel about those manifestations. These are just some of the many thoughts I have had on the subject.
Anxiety will rule us if we let it. I am an anarchist in progress.
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