[Marxism] Question on alienation and anxiety

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sun May 9 04:47:45 MDT 2004


Hi Carrol,

you wrote:

It is worth noting that there are rather more 'things' in the universe
than there are words in English.

Reply:

That is true, I did realise that, even before studying logic and semantics.
I did not aim to provide any exhaustive analysis of anxiety, only to define
quickly what it is about, for the purpose of discussion.

You wrote:

 The anxiety that suddently causes tens of millions, for example, to
limit their spending (conditions of rapidly growing mass unemployment,
say) is rather different from the utterly ungrounded anxiety that
eventually forced my retirement and that still, for example, prevents me
from answering the phone unless I know the caller in advance.

Reply:

That's very sad to hear. Yes, I do know other people who have problems like
that. Personally I have also had anxiety problems, but that was caused
mainly by (1) people projecting their own filthy psychopathology on to me,
and attributing it to me, resulting in a confused sense of responsibility,
and (2) many people meddling in my life in an intrusive, immoral and harmful
way, thus destroying what could have been the best years of my adult life,
causing me health problems and loss of funds better spent on other things.
However, you will notice that I did distinguish very clearly between
personal or individual anxieties, and anxiety as a mass phenomenon,
affecting entire social classes or fractions thereof. I agree, some mass
anxieties have a rational basis, and some do not. Hence people will say "you
are perfectly right to be worried"" or "you ought to be worried". Somebody
like Lenin was, in truth, a very anxious person, he felt a lot of anxiety -
not altogether incomprehensible, in view of a world war which caused an
estimated 22 million casualties and 5 million deaths. Probably this anxiety
contributed to the brain hemorrage of which he died.

You wrote:

Psychology and/or neurology can explain the grounds of _possibility_ of
anxiety grounded in a rational fear of the future, but they cannot
explain it.

Reply:

I'm not sure that is true. If there exists a significant likelihood of
danger to future survival, then there is a rationally explicable reason for
an anxiety response. However, the point is that feeling the anxiety, may do
nothing to remove the possibility of danger, and may indeed increase the
likelihood of its occurrence (the vicious circle to which I referred
before). Thus, the rational explanation of anxiety is not a justification
for anxiety. If we do not moralise, and use careful interview techniques on
the basis of good rapport, we can discover how a person actually
constructs/generates/produces his or her feeling of anxiety, i.e. the
strategy the person has for generating anxiety in response to a situation,
and thus remove the anxiety by shortcircuiting the strategy a person has to
produce it. One of the biggest problems I've had is people imputing anxiety
to me, when I did not even feel it, or felt it about something completely
different. In that case, in their apparent "concern" with me, people are
just projecting their own psychopathology on to me, which does not help me
one bit. One has to avoid these "friends of the people" or else neutralise
them.

I have no particular positive contribution to make to this discussion
now, but I think it will proceed more usefully if it focuses on the
social grounds of "rational" anxiety rather than on anxiety of the sort
that forced my retirement.

Moral panics (such as about the "terrorism" scare, when vastly more people
die in traffic accidents, from hunger or preventable diseases) and sexual
panics (such as e.g. about so-called sexually "deviant" behaviour conducted
in private between consenting adults, which makes most of them feel better)
play a very important role in the politics of social classes.
Panic-mongering can paralyse action, justify repression, or shift the focus
of public attention from the real problems to irrelevancies. And this serves
an apologetic, self-justifying function conducive to strengthening the
bargaining position of a particular social group or class. This is made
crystal clear by the current war in Iraq - there was panic-mongering about
weapons of mass destruction, Hussein was supposed to be the new Hitler,
Iraqi's were supposed to be liberated by a humanitarian offensive, and so
on, and it was gobbledygook, a hoax. In reality, the war is about
strengthening the geo-strategic position of the United States in the Middle
East region, and over control over strategic resources, and there exists
clear evidence that US officials just fished around for an acceptable
justification that would wash in public opinion.

The apologetic function of sowing moral panics is made crystal clear also by
the moral panics e.g. about something like pedophilia. Admittedly sexual
abuse of children is a terrible thing, but the number of real pedophiles is
actually very small. Much more sexual abuse is perpetrated against children
by their own families.  The number of irresponsible and immoral adults who
seek to interfere in the sex lives and moral life of other adults without
their consent, and try to play parent, or play God, over the emotions and
spirituality of other people without their consent, is very large. The
hypocrisy then is, that while a small group of pedophiles are projected as a
"common enemy" to unite against, and focus public hate, meanwhile the lives
of many more people are buggered up by prying, lying, spying and
manipulative people who claim "humanitarian" motives for their
interventions.

In that sense, a discussion of emotions such as anxiety is quite relevant,
because emotional manipulation affects the ability of people to fight for a
better world, and an emotionalist politics leads to moral idiocy. Moral
panics are a conservative, negative response to all the new technologies and
new possibilities there are for social change which can enormously improve
people's lives, i.e. they are rooted in a fear of change - whereas the real
issue is that change is unavoidable, and the only question is what change is
 desirable and what change is not, and how we can best understand the world,
in order to change it in a progressive direction (i.e. a direction which
leads to the increased satisfaction of real human needs, and brings out the
best in people).

Jurriaan







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