Venting Our Despair & Supporting Each Other

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ultraviolet's picture
ultraviolet
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Dec 11 2011 03:47
Venting Our Despair & Supporting Each Other

Recently, a friend of a friend committed suicide. She was an activist and well loved by her community. sad cry

It got me thinking about the fact that of the revolutionaries I have been able to get emotionally close to, all have periods of despair or depression. (They struggle with questions like: Will the revolution happen in our lilfetime? Will it happen at all? Will we ever create a decent world? Why shed so much sweat and tears struggling for revolution when I could be partying or making better money like my apolitical friends?) Because of this most of them have a drinking problem from moderate to severe to try to forget and cope. I suspect the other revolutionary-leftists I know who I'm not so close to have similar feelings of despair (many clearly have drinking problems).

It's hard to admit these things or talk about them even with our comrades. I think because of the political disdain for hippies common among revolutionaries, we perhaps turn too much away from anything that seems hippie-ish? -- anything emotional or touchy-feely or lovey-dovey. So we don't talk about these feelings and we don't reach out for support or comfort or empathy. Instead we drink, and many of us at a certain age burn out and then drop out of activism.

I want to open this thread as a space where anyone can vent any feelings of despair or frustration or whatever, freely and openly, and where we can respond with empathy and support.

(I know that we have political differences on this board that can often be quite bitter. I ask that this thread not be used to debate those differences. If someone's political views are described and you disagree, start a new thread about it elsewhere. Obviously you would not be in violation of board rules if you did get into such a debate here, but I hope that people will voluntarily agree not to debate politics in this thread. I hope this thread will remain a place for venting, empathy, and support.)

Nothing to vent from me right now (I'm usually pretty optimistic... though I have my moments!). I hope this thread can help us bounce back from despair or depression and in the long-run reduce our chances of burning out!

wojtek
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Dec 11 2011 10:03

Sorry about your friend's suicide! cry

Have you read these by any chance?

Give Up Activism

Give up activism - Postscript

Militancy - Highest stage of Alienation

I haven't done much what you'd consider 'activism' (that word along with 'comrade' makes me cringe a little tbh), but I get the impression that 'activists' take themselves too seriously, which is understandable I guess. The way I see it, you should just live your life as you normally would, resign yourself to the status quo, but still organise yourself and shit (for a laugh). I see no reason why we can't live for the weekends and make revolution wink

PS. Since we're allowed to be all touchy-feely on this thread, Christmas and New Year is a shit time to be single yo, lonely/depressing as fuck.

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Dec 11 2011 12:10

First of all sorry about your friend.

This topic seems tailor-made for me, I mean, look at my nickname here!
I'm definitely more in the camp of "making better money like my apolitical friends" rather than the destitute activist, but I honestly don't have much choice as family/friends wouldn't be able to support me so it's either work or the streets. And in that sense, might as well have the best job I can get as that means more free time and 'quality of life' as measured by not being pushed around at work and outside it. My melancholy comes not just from the futility of my political actions but also from leading this sort of double life. For example, every Monday morning we have the bosses do a little pep talk about recent events and how we should all feel great about working there. Last Monday this touched on the November 30 strikes and the script could have been written by David Cameron for all its worker and union-bashing. Similarly during the London riots all the kitchen/elevator/internal-email conversations revolved around rubber or real bullets, water cannons, deportation to Guantanamo, public executions and so forth. All of these plus many more day-to-day examples make me feel I'm not among friends in that place... and that's a place I am forced to be for most of my waking hours.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, drink doesn't do it for me so I'm left with this seething anger and frustration at what goes around me. I don't pray for a revolution because although I want change, I'm also afraid of what this might change to. Pessimism I know but I don't trust the masses and I certainly don't think I can influence what they do or think. So I carry on shouldering the burden of being forced to do work that's against my principles (advertising) and surrounded by a mass of people who'd for the most part hate me or think me a deluded fool if I told them what I believed in. When I look at the future I only see a multiplication of this until my eventual retirement (at least 30 or 35 years away!) and I despair. Often I think of just ending this once and for all, taking a sort of ultimate anti-authority stand by completely taking control of my own life by ending it. Grim stuff. Perhaps I should give drink another try?

proletarian.
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Dec 11 2011 16:19

Can an admin please take this out of libcommunity.

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qbbmvrjsssdd
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Dec 11 2011 21:16

This reminds me of the dual power thread going on and how a libertarian society can exist within a capitalist world even if it suffers from certain suppression. We have the opportunity to live in free communities with other radicals and even if a large part of the world is bound by the enslavement of capital we have to realize that a lot of people are essentially class collaborators, upholding the capitalist system because of their own folly and arrogance, which means beyond their ideological conditioning. For those people who are downright reactionaries, they can go fuck themselves. So opposing the system and the society which supports it can be fairly pointless some of the time when what really matters is that we create on our own non-system.
But anyways this is a good thread and that is really sad that that comrade killed herself, it's all so fucked up. But we've just got to keep trying... and take action that will bring people together.

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Dec 11 2011 22:04

qbb...

can you elaborate on "We have the opportunity to live in free communities with other radicals" as I don't think it's quite as simple as you put it. I, for one, don't have enough funds to do it.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 11 2011 22:19
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
I'm definitely more in the camp of "making better money like my apolitical friends" rather than the destitute activist, but I honestly don't have much choice as family/friends wouldn't be able to support me so it's either work or the streets. And in that sense, might as well have the best job I can get as that means more free time and 'quality of life' as measured by not being pushed around at work and outside it.

Wojtek is right to link to Give Up Activism IMO, cos what you're alluding to here is activism being divorced from everyday life. The point of Libcom (in theory at least) is precisely to offer the tools and support for people to struggle over issues that materially affect them (such as the situation in their workplace). I agree with you that you shouldn't give up your job for political activism and I tend to quickly tire of those who do. IMO, the point is to see how you can't manipulate anarchist practice to make your working life less painful (fight for wage rises, longer breaks, against asshole bosses, etc) with a view to empowering yourself and your colleagues.

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Dec 11 2011 23:03

I have to say, this site keeps me from going batshit a lot of the time. I wouldn't call myself an activist, but having non-standard political views, and feeling strongly about them, can be a bit isolating and depressing. It would be worse not to have those views though as they can be a source of hope.

It can be pleasantly surprising when unexpected people turn out to be sympathetic, and unpleasantly surprising when other people mock those views without even attempting to understand them. The least I would ask of people is to try to understand before mocking but frequently this seems to be an unreasonable request. The worst is when you get ganged up on with rapid fire put-downs from several people, which individually would be trivial to riposte but the pressure of expectation and the number of points to deal with leaves you tongue-tied...

On the plus side I've been drinking a lot less recently but I've been replacing the alcohol with other drugs! Almost certainly less harmful though. And definitely more fun.

I also appreciate Wojtek's links, thanks.

And PS at Wojtek, I know what you mean about this time of year and being single. Family just doesn't cut the mustard when everyone else seems to be set up for cuddles. It pisses me off that my "long-term ex-girlfriend" stubbornly refuses to get back together (although we still have feelings for each other), it's obvious she gets lonely too but she cuts herself off because she's afraid of the relationship going wrong (which is admittedly a possibility, there are reasons why we're exes, but there are reasons why we still see each other). So have a cuddle from this other singleton.

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Dec 11 2011 22:37
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
qbb...

can you elaborate on "We have the opportunity to live in free communities with other radicals" as I don't think it's quite as simple as you put it. I, for one, don't have enough funds to do it.

Yeah I'm only talking about living in communes in any form that is possible such as squatting or cooperative houses with other radicals. And establishing networks in the radical community at large for these different communes and linking them together, so they become communes not belonging absolutely to an particular group of people but social space available for anyone who feels they belong to it. At least we need to begin to offer our homes as social space for radical activity and community... something like that.

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Dec 11 2011 23:05
Pikel wrote:
On the plus side I've been drinking a lot less recently but I've been replacing the alcohol with other drugs! Almost certainly less harmful though. And definitely more fun.

Of the mind expanding, third eye opening psychedelic variety ?

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Dec 11 2011 23:10

Well I haven't done very much in the way of Activism as of yet but hopefully that'll change soon enough. I have been dealing with depression on and off for awhile now and I think the source of this depression for the most part is loneliness (in more ways than 1.) And this kind of goes back to the reason(s) for me wanting to start an Anarchist organization (but I won't go into details o that on this thread.)

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Dec 11 2011 23:15
qbbmvrjsssdd wrote:
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
qbb...

can you elaborate on "We have the opportunity to live in free communities with other radicals" as I don't think it's quite as simple as you put it. I, for one, don't have enough funds to do it.

Yeah I'm only talking about living in communes in any form that is possible such as squatting or cooperative houses with other radicals. And establishing networks in the radical community at large for these different communes and linking them together, so they become communes not belonging absolutely to an particular group of people but social space available for anyone who feels they belong to it. At least we need to begin to offer our homes as social space for radical activity and community... something like that.

Couldn't agree more, I think the only way this movement is going to go farther than it already has is if we all make a combined effort to unite 1 another. "United we stand, but divided we fall" or something along those lines as they say.

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Dec 11 2011 23:18
Melancholy of Resistance wrote:
First of all sorry about your friend.

This topic seems tailor-made for me, I mean, look at my nickname here!
I'm definitely more in the camp of "making better money like my apolitical friends" rather than the destitute activist, but I honestly don't have much choice as family/friends wouldn't be able to support me so it's either work or the streets. And in that sense, might as well have the best job I can get as that means more free time and 'quality of life' as measured by not being pushed around at work and outside it. My melancholy comes not just from the futility of my political actions but also from leading this sort of double life. For example, every Monday morning we have the bosses do a little pep talk about recent events and how we should all feel great about working there. Last Monday this touched on the November 30 strikes and the script could have been written by David Cameron for all its worker and union-bashing. Similarly during the London riots all the kitchen/elevator/internal-email conversations revolved around rubber or real bullets, water cannons, deportation to Guantanamo, public executions and so forth. All of these plus many more day-to-day examples make me feel I'm not among friends in that place... and that's a place I am forced to be for most of my waking hours.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, drink doesn't do it for me so I'm left with this seething anger and frustration at what goes around me. I don't pray for a revolution because although I want change, I'm also afraid of what this might change to. Pessimism I know but I don't trust the masses and I certainly don't think I can influence what they do or think. So I carry on shouldering the burden of being forced to do work that's against my principles (advertising) and surrounded by a mass of people who'd for the most part hate me or think me a deluded fool if I told them what I believed in. When I look at the future I only see a multiplication of this until my eventual retirement (at least 30 or 35 years away!) and I despair. Often I think of just ending this once and for all, taking a sort of ultimate anti-authority stand by completely taking control of my own life by ending it. Grim stuff. Perhaps I should give drink another try?

I relate to your description of your work place, I think there is something that goes on in many offices that produces and reproduces vile opinions, I think it's a sort of machismo which isn't backed up by any level of thought, and there's a kind of race to the bottom to voice the most vile opinions. It's often done jokingly but it's a miserable kind of joke which bleeds into actual opinion.

If you find your work repugnant you should look into a career move of some kind, I don't think there's any shame in doing so and if nothing else a change of scene on it's own can make a positive difference in your mood - although there are sadly no guarantees. Better to take positive action than your other suggestion (which I can relate to also). I don't think drink helps in the long-run, I have my own self-medication regime, the only part of it I will recommend here is the non-chemical bit which involves music, friends and getting out and about.

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Dec 11 2011 23:17
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Pikel wrote:
On the plus side I've been drinking a lot less recently but I've been replacing the alcohol with other drugs! Almost certainly less harmful though. And definitely more fun.

Of the mind expanding, third eye opening psychedelic variety ?

Various varieties but yeah.

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Dec 11 2011 23:21

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1THEYb2e9A&feature=g-u

I think everyone should listen to what he has to say.

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Dec 11 2011 23:34
HorrorHiro wrote:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1THEYb2e9A&feature=g-u

I think everyone should listen to what he has to say.

If anything, that made me feel worse! wink

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Dec 11 2011 23:39

Desiring money is desiring one's own alienation!! Focus all energy into abolishing money!!

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Dec 11 2011 23:53

Oh, if you live on your own some sort of animal can be mood-enhancing, I recommend black and red cats over dogs as they don't smell quite as bad (litter tray aside) or slaver on you, or try to have sex with you, but they are selfish little bastards.

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Dec 11 2011 23:53
qbbmvrjsssdd wrote:
Desiring money is desiring one's own alienation!! Focus all energy into abolishing money!!

Holy S#!t! I was just about to make a thread about this! No time to waste!

LauritzTheAgitator
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Dec 11 2011 23:54

First, I join with the others in expressing my sorrow for the loss of your friend.

That's interesting that you see what appears to be widespread alcohol abuse in the movement. My experience with revolutionary leftists has been that there are a disproportionate number that are quite puritanical about drugs and alcohol. My rather minimal herb use has been cause for conflicts on more than one occasion.

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Dec 12 2011 00:08
HorrorHiro wrote:
qbbmvrjsssdd wrote:
Desiring money is desiring one's own alienation!! Focus all energy into abolishing money!!

Holy S#!t! I was just about to make a thread about this! No time to waste!

Please don't. It has been covered already in many threads. Say this one.

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Dec 12 2011 00:14

My condolences for your friend's death,

To be honest, Caimon and Wojtek have made good posts. If it's right for you to more money in order to help yourself, then you would obviously be wronging yourself, if you didn't take that up - and espesh for the sake of the idea that being an anarchist means leaving (overtime?) work prematurely and being an 'activist'. That flies in the face of a century+ of (anarchist) tradition in struggle against the world system.

It's also odd that you say about people not reaching out for empathy, I think everyone must and should do that or else suffer in life, not just to do with anarchism at all. Sorry to be so blunt there but I think the point must be made.

The idea of the thread is good but it's obviously best done in person,really, it's difficult to communicate these things online, still if this thread is helpful to even one person then it's obviously great.

I think that the negative attitudes endemic in some workplaces can be pretty destructive and actually dangerous on many levels, to your mental and physical health. You can usually tell these things quite quickly, but basically yeah I think starting with yourself is good but not always practical or easy or even possible, good to try as much as poss though. Sometimes not giving a toss what certain streaks of piss think is good, espesh bosses, seeing as they don;t really know much anyway, staying in the present is good.. so is being honest as much as possible, all good and necessary things but not necessarily practical or easy to do in actuality and especially difficult in an endemically negative environment.

Still, I've seen individual workers who were so filled up with vibrance turn whole offices around, so who knows really. I think it's possible.

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Dec 12 2011 00:24
Tojiah wrote:
HorrorHiro wrote:
qbbmvrjsssdd wrote:
Desiring money is desiring one's own alienation!! Focus all energy into abolishing money!!

Holy S#!t! I was just about to make a thread about this! No time to waste!

Please don't. It has been covered already in many threads. Say this one.

The warning came a little too late.

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Dec 12 2011 00:38
communal_pie wrote:
The idea of the thread is good but it's obviously best done in person

I think it can be much easier to start this sort of discussion online than face-to-face as inhibitions are lower, and I think it's easier to be true to your own thoughts and feelings as there is not so much pressure to "agree". I've often been in emotional discussions, in the flesh, where I've agreed with the other person's analysis just to end an uncomfortable exchange!

On the other hand if you're having a comfortable emotional exchange with someone in the flesh you can probably go deeper and there are non-verbal dimensions which we can't have here.

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Dec 12 2011 00:43

Sorry to hear about her death. It's a pretty shitty reality and you can't just pretend life is easy and wonderful when you know what you know. Waking up every day just to do the same bullshit around the same people only to hear on TV that this person was killed or this is now illegal for something you know is bullshit. For a lot of people it's a life not worth living and I can't blame them.

Defacing money is one way to resist, drawing a circle A and writing a message or anecdote.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 12 2011 11:43
communal_pie wrote:
To be honest, Caimon and Wojtek have made good posts. If it's right for you to more money in order to help yourself, then you would obviously be wronging yourself, if you didn't take that up - and espesh for the sake of the idea that being an anarchist means leaving (overtime?) work prematurely and being an 'activist'. That flies in the face of a century+ of (anarchist) tradition in struggle against the world system.

Thanks, I found it a little bit frustrating that noone else on here has engaged with the points made in Give Up Activism. In short, while not knowing any of you here personally, I can empirically testify that the sort of 'activism' that is being discussed on this thread often leads to depression and alienation. It's hardly surprising that that people end up feeling worthless and pointless if their activity focuses around 'saving' other people. You'll almost never succeed, and you definitely won't live up to your own messianic ideals.

If anarchism isn't about improving your own material conditions, then count me out.

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Dec 12 2011 11:52
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
[Thanks, I found it a little bit frustrating that noone else on here has engaged with the points made in Give Up Activism. In short, while not knowing any of you here personally, I can empirically testify that the sort of 'activism' that is being discussed on this thread often leads to depression and alienation. It's hardly surprising that that people end up feeling worthless and pointless if their activity focuses around 'saving' other people. You'll almost never succeed, and you definitely won't live up to your own messianic ideals.

If anarchism isn't about improving your own material conditions, then count me out.

That's not quite fair, I said I appreciated Wojtek's links! I've had a scan and there's quite a lot to read but what I saw looked interesting and at least partially relevant to me (though no, I'm was not planning on "giving up my job for activism", that does seem extreme, I have other reasons for giving it up!), I'll be going back to it.

wojtek
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Dec 12 2011 17:09

I especially liked this bit in the first link:

Quote:
The supposedly revolutionary activity of the activist is a dull and sterile routine - a constant repetition of a few actions with no potential for change. Activists would probably resist change if it came because it would disrupt the easy certainties of their role and the nice little niche they've carved out for themselves. Like union bosses, activists are eternal representatives and mediators. In the same way as union leaders would be against their workers actually succeeding in their struggle because this would put them out of a job, the role of the activist is threatened by change. Indeed revolution, or even any real moves in that direction, would profoundly upset activists by depriving them of their role. If everyone is becoming revolutionary then you're not so special anymore, are you?
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Dec 12 2011 17:36

I have other ways to be special besides being revolutionary so that's not a real worry. Mr. T

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Dec 14 2011 09:31
ultraviolet wrote:
Recently, a friend of a friend committed suicide. She was an activist and well loved by her community. sad cry

I'm really sorry to hear this. I hope you are coping ok.

I also want to respond to your general thoughts. I think it is true that anarchism does attract a lot of unhappy people, including people with drink problems and/or mental health problems. In a way though, I'd be worried if we didn't. I should say I speak as someone with mental health problems. The reason that I think anarchism ought, at least at a low level of class struggle, to have a larger than average number of people with mental health, substance abuse, etc. problems is that capitalism fucks these people over much harder than it does the average person. It's the same reason I am uncomfortable with the fact anarchist organisations aren't
Input formatmajority women, for example. If class struggle is rooted in our consciousness of our getting fucked over, rather than some nice ideas in books. And if anarchism is rooted in remedying that (all a bit simplistic, but still) then we should embrace the fact that we have a lot of particularly materially marginalised people. We certainly care about this when it comes to socio-economic background. I think we ought to also pay attention to other forms of marginalisation within the working class.

Sorry if that was off topic.

Edit: Also, more in line with ultraviolet's original post. I can't really talk about specifics here, but many friends have burnt themselves or had real problems continuing to be political, not necessarily in the 'activist' sense, but also in terms of things like trying to persuade colleagues to refuse unpaid overtime, or being assertive in a meeting about next year pay rise (or lack of payrise). Because fighting over this shit is tiring and the odds are stacked against us. We can do stuff about that, but I think it helps to acknowledge it.

Actually, good thread all round ultraviolent smile Good space to talk into.

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Melancholy of R...
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Dec 14 2011 15:05

SPARK

I always resented all the years, the hours, the
minutes I gave them as a working stiff, it
actually hurt my head, my insides, it made me
dizzy and a bit crazy -- I couldn't understand the
murdering of my years
yet my fellow workers gave no signs of
agony, many of them even seemed satisfied, and
seeing them that way drove me almost as crazy as
the dull and senseless work.

the workers submitted.
the work pounded them to nothingness, they were
scooped-out and thrown away.

I resented each minute, every minute as it was
mutilated
and nothing relieved the monotonous ever-
structure.

I considered suicide.
I drank away my few leisure hours.

I worked for decades.

I lived with the worst of women, they killed what
the job failed to kill.

I knew that I was dying.
something in me said, go ahead, die, sleep, become
them, accept.

then something else in me said, no, save the tiniest
bit.
it needn't be much, just a spark.
a spark can set a whole forest on
fire.
just a spark.
save it.

I think I did.
I'm glad I did.
what a lucky god damned
thing.

— Charles Bukowski

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