29 November 2010

Negativity is a buzz

Adrenaline/endorphins are a buzz. You can get that buzz from exercising your animal spirits (exercise, sex, good food, fighting, BDSM, deliberate exposure to danger). You can get it in a less stable sense from trendy chemical amusement; in a more stable sense from mindfulness/mind-calming practices, both which shut down the "Circuit III" babbling that runs around and around your head on a continuous loop for a little while. The thing about the healthier ways of getting the buzz is that they also put you into The Zone - i.e. enable a brief moment of unfiltered awareness, of just being and therefore being able to do according to the needs of the moment, not according to your automatic reflexes/"monkey mind".

On the other hand, a cheap and nasty way to get the buzz is to be negative about everything. Because if you live in a world full of mean and nasty people who are out to get you and everything's shitty and everyone's doing it wrong except for you and we're all doomed, then you get a nasty, low-grade boost of adrenaline. And it's easier than doing it the good way, which takes effort. Which is enough for many of us to develop an addiction to it. I know I have. Negativity is a habit-forming drug just like booze or smokes or white powders, and everyone is in danger of succumbing to it.

This is of course supremely applicable to politics. Addiction to conspiracy theory is one example of compulsive negativity. A brief tangent: by "conspiracy theory" I don't mean the belief that our rulers are lying to us, which isn't a theory, it's a pretty safe assumption. By "conspiracy theory" I mean a moralistic/idealistic discourse which puts the blame for the way the world is in the deliberate machinations of a hidden clique who made it all shitty like this on purpose. That's not politics, it's religion in the bad sense, because it's a good-evil narrative - the narrative that the only problem with the Machine of domination and oppression is that "lizard people" are in control of it. It also suggests that, in RAW's terms, "everything is under control" - control by the bad guys, but that's still more comforting than suggesting that the bad guys are not in control, that the more they try to exert control the worst it gets for them as for the rest of us, that things are getting worse because people make continuous choices to carry out the logic of the insane system because it's easier / it's of short-term benefit / it's what they've always done.

A materialistic explanation, which suggests that the system of generalised community production and capital accumulation itself creates incentives and externalities which inevitably create evil, conflict, waste, etc. not only avoids moralism, but also avoids determinism. I've always found ridiculous, for example, the idea that the Lizard People have a systematic programme to rape children to brainwash them into being mindless zombies. Just living in a capitalist system and being exposed to capitalist incentives does that already. It also encourages the kind of world in which we can tell ourselves that it's acceptable to rape children. The Machine doesn't require conscious evil as fuel - it feeds on its own waste products of alienation, reification and egotism.

Another way that politics becomes an addiction to negativity is simply the luxury of permanent opposition. Picking fights with The Man is a fun lifestyle, but it's not politics. Leisure activities are very rarely disruptive to the system. (Riot! the unbeatable high! tomorrow you're homeless, tonight it's a blast! - Dead Kennedys) The only sustainable disruption to the system is at the point of production. Smashing the windows of a Starbucks is just fucking up some other worker's day. Now organising a sit-down strike in your own workplace, that shows a little of what we need. It's also more difficult and places your precious self at risk.

A true revolutionary, like a true mystic, is motivated by great feelings of love, as Ché Guevara and the Sufis agree. Love which transcends the individual, that you are prepared to give up all the nice things that you have for your precious self (that you've found under the rocks and stones of the Fallen World-As-Is) as a sacrifice to the great Love for the World-As-Should Be. If you're motivated by negativity, you've drawn a line between yourself and the rest of the Universe which can only end in a selfish determination to screw the other guy and get what's yours, even though you might couch it in terms of communistic altruism.