Thursday, 29 December 2011

How Not To Use Politics - A Tale of Christmas Jealousy

I felt good during Christmas Eve, when I would normally feel depressed. I made myself a tasty meal and watched The Sound of Music.

And I had a fun time on Christmas Day… I went to a friend’s house and spent the day with nice women…

It wasn’t until I sat down to write the next day that the fish hit the fan. 

Like this
First, I wasn’t even aware that there were troubling feelings lurking around. I just sat down to write.
I must have looked at the broken keys on my keyboard, which always triggers painful emotions. And this made me wish I had a new laptop…

At this point, the feelings started pouring over (not that I was aware of it then). Fresh in my mind was the memory of the nice presents the women exchanged the day before, and the modern gadgets they had.

But it wasn’t about presents or gadgets; these are only “symbols” for something else: a life that is lived. These women were living lives… they have jobs, a home, friends, adventures. They live.
And I don’t have any of these, you see. So my mind associates these “lack” with “not living”.

Shortly after I started exploring these feelings, I found myself landing square into the field of politics. And this is where things get interesting.

I know politics; a lot. I know far more than I let out. This means that I could have easily “made myself feel better” by using politics. Here’s how:

* The women at the Christmas party had x, y and z
* I felt bad about not having x, y and z
* I use political arguments to undermine x, y and z, which has the effect of a) putting those women down and conversely b) pulling myself up.

So to take a completely random example: the old chestnut of “vegetarianism”. Someone has a nice, cushy job that allows them to have a nice, middle class living. I feel bad about not having a nice, cushy job and therefore not having a nice, middle class living.
I could easily pick at their choice of being a “vegetarian” and undermine their nice, cushy job and their nice, middle class life. How?
I could point out how hypocritical it is to care about the exploitation of animals and not the exploitation of humans. I mean, can you name one job in this global economy that does not result in the exploitation of someone? Exactly. I am knowledgeable enough to spot how any job contributes to the emiseration of people.
So I could easily argue: if “dropping out” of meat consumption is supposedly a good thing for animals because it boycotts the meat production industry… then why isn’t “dropping out” of the wage economy a good thing as well? After all, unemployed people do not, by definition, contribute their labour to the growth of an industry that will exploit people and the environment. Unemployed people do not contribute to capitalist production.
When seen under this light, unemployment is a very ethical choice indeed. If everyone was unemployed, we would soon see the capitalist system collapse.


Please feel free to point out where I’m wrong.

But that’s not the point. The point is I shouldn’t be using political arguments to put someone down in order to pull myself up. As my friend says, “that’s not on”.

The problem is not “vegetarianism” or “the economy” or “unemployment”. The problem is not that some people have nice, cushy, middle class jobs.

The real problem is that I felt depressed and that I don’t want to feel depressed. What other people do or don’t do, have or don’t have should not impact on my wellbeing. I should not get depressed because other people have better lives.

If my problem is that I feel like I’m not living, then I should either start feeling like I am living or start living.
Putting other people’s lives down is not going to bring me up. That is just a way for me to not deal with my pain. It’s just an “excuse”.

And if I don’t deal with my pain, if I don’t address my feelings of not living, then these feelings won’t go away.

This does not mean that I can’t question vegetarianism, or the economy, or unemployment, or the middle class. Of course I can. But I shouldn’t do it because I am suffering from jealousy, or anxiety, or insecurity, or anger. I should do it because I believe in what's right

It's not easy to separate the two, and granted I've only just begun. 

If you find yourself using politics in a similar way, know that you are not alone. I have a sneaking suspicion that we all do it, more often than we realise. 


Francois Tremblay said...

"When seen under this light, unemployment is a very ethical choice indeed. If everyone was unemployed, we would soon see the capitalist system collapse.


Well, yes. The IWW and its concept of a general strike is pretty similar. Obviously it could work, if people reorganize along lines of solidarity, e.g. Paris 1968.

The only trouble is getting every worker, or most workers, to agree to do it.

Anonymous said...

I admire your honesty in this post, Mary Tracy. I share that sneaking suspicion of yours too.