Endgame Premises Archives: News » 4: Civilization is based on hierarchy

Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted
yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierar-
chy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is
noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy
to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock,
horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

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Dominique Christina: Baltimore and Black Lives Matter

Editor’s Note: this first appeared on Denver Freedom Riders

It is difficult to be radical in Denver. We are so privileged here. There’s a Starbucks and a Whole Foods on every corner; and dog parks and community gardens and it’s all so…seductive. It has an almost soporific effect. One can be lulled right to sleep by the idyllic snow-capped mountains and trendy cafes that suggest there is no crisis here. Our hoods aren’t like hoods in Chicago, Detroit, Jersey, parts of New York, New Orleans, St. Louis…Baltimore. No gritty crime drama about the drug trade and the alarmingly high homicide rates in the inner city could ever be filmed here. We are a little too deft with our trash pickups and our gentrification. Let me start near the beginning.

Mike Brown died. We all got tickets to the show.

What I knew after the spectacle of horror that social media alerted us to on that Saturday afternoon in August in Ferguson Missouri was that I could not protect my children. That is an impossibly soul crushing thing to carry. Especially for somebody like me; somebody whose adolescence was punctuated by the slings and arrows of too many rapacious men and boys and all of the tripwire that accompanies growing up black and female. The one thing I felt certain about when I became a mother was that I would become a fortress. I would keep my children safe at all costs. They came from me; matriculated from my simple womb ands burst through this skin brilliantly. Being a woman in a patriarchal society makes you interrogate whether you can keep the softer parts of who you are and still defy the limitations of misogyny, but being a mother makes you a wolf. The way I love my children told me I was woman enough and wolf enough to keep them safe.

But then Trayvon happened and I felt the ground slipping underneath me. Still, I fought against the despair. I brought my children to rallies that called for Zimmerman’s arrest and I challenged out loud, the notion that Trayvon deserved to be seen as a threat and therefore murdered in the gated community his father lived in. The effort was exhausting and replete with all of the pushback that comes from those whose bodies have never been so undervalued.

Zimmerman was not convicted. I watched the verdict come in with my children and cried and lamented and then almost instantly felt naïve to hold out hope that our judicial system, the same system that criminalizes black and brown bodies to feed the prison industrial complex, would care about one black boy walking down a road at night who never made it home. A boy my community iconicized in hash tags and hoodies. See, we are so accustomed to being slain; so accustomed to the lynching ritual and the picnics afterward, sometimes the only fight we can manage is a blog post about white America and Facebook posts about the legacy of racism.


My grandfather was born in 1911. He grew up in the Jim Crow south. He knew all about the spectacle of black bodies dangling from trees, burned alive, castrated and beaten. What I could not personally reconcile was that I was having the same conversations about the same culture of violence that he was having as a boy growing up in the West End of Little Rock, Arkansas. Nothing had changed. Martin Luther King’s magnificent legacy did not result in black people being a protected class. Malcolm X’s unapologetic, larger than life, tell you the truth to your face way of being in the world did not stop the slaughter. Both of those men were cut down by bullets in their prime anyway, which should have been all the evidence the following generations needed that this country is willful about its acts of brutality against black and brown people. If we couldn’t be slaves anymore we could be prisoners. We could be disenfranchised. We could be economically dispossessed. We could be squeezed and starved and relegated to barrios and ghettos that would kill us one way or another anyway. We should have known better. But we couldn’t see it…too much blood in our eyes.

So Ferguson…it awakened in me the unsurvivable reality that my children could be “legitimately killed.” They could be snatched from me by someone who saw them walking down a road at night and concluded that they were the threat. They were the imposition. Their lives were not valuable.

The depression that reached for me was thick. I woke up every morning trying to convince myself that there was still a righteous fight somewhere. That life still held beauty. That I could still love my children seismically and urgently, and protect them from the insistent ugly of the world.

I don’t want to suggest that this feeling distinguished me from so many others in this country and around the world who felt uproarious about Big Mike’s body lying in the street for more than four hours and I don’t want to suggest that my suffering was somehow more pronounced than other people. I saw Leslie McFadden pleading with police officers to get her boy out of the street…her firstborn. And I saw those same officers tell her to get back behind the police tape. I saw and heard the eruption of rage that interrupted the consciousness of brothers on the block who were all too familiar with police brutality but who nevertheless could not forgive the offense of seeing that child’s body face down in the street. I carried the death of Mike Brown hard. I still do. I can’t think about him for too long without gnashing my teeth. I can’t think too long about the fact that my own firstborn son stayed up every single night all summer long watching CNN trying to understand what world this is. And I am his mother so it is incumbent upon me to do something, right? To get in between my child and the horror…but how do I do that? What does my fight look like? How can I arm him? I didn’t know.

What I do know is that somewhere in the course of grieving for a boy I had never met, killed in a town I had never heard of, was that I was starting to deny my children affection. I didn’t think it was wise to love them up close. I might lose them after all. I died a thousand times just carrying that thought.


At some point I did get up. School started up again. Lunches needed to be made. Field trips needed to be planned for. Mike Brown was not entering college but my youngest was starting Kindergarten. I had to have enough daylight in my body to acknowledge that. I couldn’t stop mothering just because I was unsure how to do it without defeat attached to it. Life, or something like it, went on.

There was an empty I kept though. Writing elegiac poems about these murdered sons was not sufficient. It was not the revolution I wanted; the revolution that was required. It was too convenient. Too safe. Too academic. I didn’t want to be guilty of that. I was looking for an opening; a way forward; a blueprint. How do I respond rather than react?

Many months later I got word that, Anthony Grimes, a dear friend of mine was going to be at a vigil being staged at a police station in Aurora because a black man had just been killed by officers in the middle of the day just a stone’s throw away from an elementary school. This particular man was not a man that was easy to advocate for. He had warrants and an extensive history of assault and domestic violence and had done a significant amount of time in prison. Still, he had been killed and when you choose to stick your chin out over your feet against extrajudicial killings you don’t really get to compartmentalize or choose which victims are deserving of your outrage. Even ex cons, even felons, even unsavory characters don’t deserve to be murdered at the hands of police without just cause.

I am notoriously opposed to marches and rallies because it has always felt like the pantomime of action to me. A lot of smoke and noise and signs and songs and 28 hours later another one of us is killed so my cynicism, while admittedly significant, is not without merit or historical context. But Anthony was going to be there and Anthony had gone to Ferguson and to Palestine over the summer and had become activated by the over-muscled need to defend us against such violence. He had risked much and sacrificed much. He started a group called the Denver Freedom Riders but this group was more a movement than a group; a deliberate call to action. For these reasons, I decided to attend the vigil and support my friend.

When I got there I saw Anthony along with many other community leaders gathered around the family of the man recently killed by Aurora PD. I could see Anthony’s grief and his rage. I could see his need to do something about what was happening and it mirrored my own need.


Thus began my relationship with the Denver Freedom Riders (DFR). It has not been easy. But how could it be? Gradualism and tokenism, which have been thematic to resistance movements involving black people in this country and abroad, can begin to pull at the hem of your garment. There are those that say they wish to fight with you to end the tyranny but the second they disagree with your position, they will call you crazy and disavow themselves from you. There is the quandary of fighting a dangerous fight with folk who think that it should be less inconvenient, more academic, more religious, less radical, more controlled, on and on. That’s not new. Any student of history can find that struggle in every movement. It does not tell me the sky is falling. It tells me the strong ones are rising. Hell, it feels like natural selection to me. If you do not have the necessary scrap and gristle to challenge power and acknowledge the tremendous risk involved, personal and professional, then you should go back to your campuses, your cubicles, and your 401K’s and keep writing papers about police brutality. That is not how I fight. That is not the stuff of DFR.

Weeks later, I was in a hotel in Chicago having just performed at the University of Illinois when the Baltimore uprising lifted off. Anthony and I had been talking about Freddie Gray, the young man who was illegally detained by Baltimore City police, roughed up and then subsequently brutalized in the back of a police van that resulted in 80% of his spine being severed from his neck, resulting in his death days later. We were seized by grief and levitating with rage from it all. I walked down to the lobby at the Hilton Hotel the day Freddie Gray was buried and saw young black people throwing rocks and bricks at police officers dressed in riot gear. It rocked me. I watched them climb on top of patrol cars and smash the windows with their feet. I saw them cuss officers and throw tear gas canisters back toward the line of police who were grossly outnumbered and outmatched by the sheer will and rancor of young folk who were done with the slow suicide of starvation and poor schools and miles and miles of boarded up row homes, (the evidence of Wells Fargo’s sub-prime lending practices and the foreclosures that threw so many black families into chaos), and the absence of recreation centers and resources, and the brutal practices of overseers who donned police uniforms and went looking for black men to criminalize, beat up, and murder. These young people were done.

I was captivated…and inspired. I’m sure that statement will make some people question whether or not we can continue to be relative to each other. How could I be proud of “looters?” Why would I ever support violence and the burning of buildings? I will tell you how. I am unwilling to keep waiting for America to count us in, to keep killing us and then vilifying us in death. I am tired of America’s violence being the inheritance of historically and contemporarily marginalized people who, when we finally erupt, are told to give peace a chance, and wait on the lord. I am tired of our anger being delegitimized. I am tired. Dog tired.


Anthony and I hopped a plane to Baltimore along with Corean, an 18 year old high school student and Kamau, a student at Howard university; two young people who have more courage and clarity than I ever did at their age. When we got into the city the first thing that assaulted us was the sight of tanks and the national guardsmen holding assault rifles, and cops, undercover and otherwise, peppering the steps of the capitol and hanging out in parks, watching more than a thousand protestors insist on justice. We got into things right away. That’s’ why we were there. We listened to the speeches, avoided CNN, talked to folks whose daily reality was the chaos we were seeing, and then finally made our way to meet with Reverend Sekou who was introduced into the consciousness of so many because of the role he played during the unrest in Ferguson. He was in Baltimore standing with the people there as well as conducting a series of civil disobedience trainings. He told us about the experience he and others had the night before when the police started cracking skulls once it was curfew, a curfew that was instituted after Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby gave a precedent setting press conference announcing that she was going to prosecute all six officers for the untimely death of Freddie Gray.

DC #1

Sekou warned us that if we were going to stay outside and deliberately defy the curfew, that we would need to be careful. We had not yet determined what we were going to do. We just wanted to be useful and needed to spend some time figuring out how to do that.

We went back out to North and Penn, the location that was the epicenter of the “rioting” just days before and when we got there we saw grassroots organizations getting kids to paint and Anonymous handing out various anti-capitalism pamphlets, and Black Israelites and anarchists and the Nation of Islam and churches and on an on. We parked our car and as we were passing a basketball court I noticed three young boys shooting hoops. I walked on to the court and spoke to the littlest that I later learned was five years old. I asked him if I could play with him. He looked at me hard and said, “You sure?” “Yes!” I replied. “I’m sure. Shoot the ball.” At the same time, Anthony and Kamau dropped their backpacks filled with water bottles and Maalox and gas masks, and all of the accoutrement of guerilla warfare, and started playing with the two older boys. We did this for more than an hour. It was 8:30pm when we started winding down. I asked the five year old, who told me to call him “Meek Meek” if he was bothered by all of the chaos and he said he didn’t think about it. I asked him if he liked school and he said he had not been able to go on account of his teacher getting shot and the National Guard coming in.

He asked me if I liked to shoot. I thought we were talking about basketball, so I said,

Yeah man, I shoot around sometimes but volleyball was my thing.

He said,

Nah. Do you like to shoot?

And then I realized we were talking about guns.

“Yes…I do know how to shoot, Meek Meek.” I said. “What gun you like best?” He asked. “Um…I like a 45.” I said, feeling strange about having a conversation like this with a child a year younger than my own baby.  He looked at me and said, “Oh that means you know how to shoot. I like a 9. No kickback on it.” And see, that is the distance your consciousness has to travel to understand Baltimore and how mighty the people there are, how warrior they have had to be. Theirs is a life that has to be muscled through. But be clear: during our time in Baltimore I didn’t meet a single victim. Not one. The politics of oppression are not always about the breaking and the broken. Sometimes it’s about the breaking and the undeniably unbroken. That doesn’t mean there are no bruises. It certainly doesn’t mean there are no casualties. There are so very many casualties. Those battle lines are drawn in this country over and over again and whether you will survive in spite of or because of is largely about your melanin content, your zip code, and your gender.

We said goodbye to the boys and it was hard to say goodbye. I fell in love with Meek Meek, the five year old who had the best shot out there and who looked longingly at me when I told him I had to go. I have thought about him every single day since the day I met him. I wonder if he is ok. I wonder if they opened his school, if he is getting at least two square meals again (because when they closed the schools in Baltimore they denied 85% of the children in those schools food since they rely on the Free and Reduced Lunch program.) I wonder if he knows how much he meant to me. And I wonder how I can see him again.


North and Penn at night was not what it was during the day. During the day it almost felt like a block party; like Juneteenth. Loud music, a DJ, people dancing, laughing, strategizing. But while that was happening, a militarized police force was surrounding us on all sides, watching everything we did. At night though, we could feel the shift in energy. Something was going to happen. You just knew that.

Joseph Kent suddenly walked to the middle of the street, bullhorn in hand, and started asking people to join him.

DC #2

Joseph is a fiery, prominent young activist who captured the attention (and concern) of many people when someone videotaped him being swept away by riot police just three nights earlier. But there he was, big as ever, leading us in a chant:

“I got a feelin…I got a feelin brother…I got a feelin…somebody’s tryin’ to hold us back, and there ain’t gonna be no stuff like that….”

We started following him as he led us in a march away from North and Penn and toward the inner harbor. We walked for about forty minutes. When Anthony checked his watch it was 9:30pm. Curfew was at 10pm. We knew getting back to our car by curfew was going to be tough. We were trying to decide whether we were going to stop right then and turn back when an 11-year-old kid walked up to me and asked if I was going to stay out there with him. He said he defied the curfew the night before and had witnessed police officers beating people once the clock struck ten. I asked him how he managed to escape and he said, “You just gotta know how to move.” Then looked at me again and said, “So…are you staying out with me or not?” “Of course I am.” I said. “No way are you gonna outlast me. If you are out here then we are too.” I continued and Anthony readily agreed. The kid looked at all of us and grinned then walked over to Anthony and asked if he could borrow his gas mask. Anthony accommodated him. The kid immediately put it on and kept marching.

Minutes later a CNN correspondent walked over to us and asked me if I was willing to talk to them. I am sure they were captivated by me walking shoulder to shoulder with a kid in a gas mask, but I also think they surveyed the crowd and determined that our crew would be the most “user-friendly.” Maybe I’m projecting but that’s how it felt to me. I looked at Anthony for direction and Anthony said, “No. We are not interested” and that was that. CNN’s coverage of Baltimore was abysmal and divisive and misleading anyway so that choice was the one with the most integrity, I think.

At ten minutes ‘til 10, riot police started moving in along with helicopters hovering overhead shining bright lights down on all of us. A tank pulled up on our right side essentially pinning us in. We couldn’t go back because the riot police were behind us. We couldn’t go right because the tank was there. We couldn’t reasonably go much more forward because we could see a line of officers already lined up behind their shields ahead. Suddenly there was an announcement over a loud speaker that curfew was imminent and that soon we would be in violation of it. The anxiety from the crowd was palpable. There were some white boys in Guy Fawkes masks rolling around on skateboards flipping cops off, there were others in gas masks trying to advise us, one lanky brother was moving through the crowd telling us to stay together by any means necessary. He was so frenetic it made me nervous. He was telling everyone to calm down but he himself was electric with worry and you could see it in him.

A second announcement came that it was three minutes until curfew and Anthony, Corean, Kamau and I were walking with our arms linked trying to quickly determine which way we were going to go. The lanky brother full of frenzy was passing by people, touching them on the shoulder ands telling them to remain calm. When he got to me he didn’t touch my shoulder, offer advice and keep going, but instead, put himself in front of me and put one hand on my breast and the other on my…ahem… baby box, and said “I wanna make sure YOU are safe.” It shocked me. Anthony told him to watch his hands, (I learned later that Anthony did not see that this young man had decided to molest me before the cops jumped on us. He just saw him being too close to me and didn’t like it.) I offer that part of the story only because what followed was so traumatizing, I actually forgot I had been molested until much later when we were all safely back at the hotel, debriefing our experience. For me to forget something like that is seismic. It means that what the cops put me through made that act seem insignificant. Oh trauma, you wanton bitch…

When it was 10pm the pepper spray came. Along with sirens and flashing lights and cops running after us with their guns out. People were screaming and fleeing and in my mind there was only one place to go that did not have the apparent presence of police. Down a dark side street to the left, which is where we went. We ran. We ran and felt all of the terror our ancestors must have felt when the slavers came, when the paddy rollers came, when the only thing in your head is NO. YOU WILL NOT TOUCH ME. It was an old feeling. It is a dangerous knowing.

We dipped into the projects. We didn’t plan on it. We had no plan except to get the hell away from the same old hands that have been chasing us for centuries. We went where we saw an opening. We found ourselves in a dark courtyard. There was no one around. I saw two chairs in front of someone’s apartment and suggested that we sit down in them and pretend to be at home. I figured they were looking for people who were running, people who were scurrying, people who appeared to have no belonging. I pulled one of the chairs out and at that moment, a fair skinned black woman with a stern face opened her door and asked us what was going on. Corean told her that we were running from police officers that meant to harm us; so many people had been harmed already. The woman told Corean to go inside then looked hard at me, Kamau and Anthony. Corean is a petite, baby-faced beauty, but Kamau is a young black man who, in that moment had a wild in his eyes having run from riot police, Anthony is 6’4” and undeniably black and I, myself, am 6 feet tall.  The woman looked at each one of us for a moment more and then opened her door wide and said “Go inside. But you be careful coming in my house because I don’t know you.” She let us stay there until it was safe to get away.

The kid in the gas mask we were walking with was arrested. Joseph Kent, the dazzling young activist, was arrested by the very officers who were telling him as we were marching that they would NOT do so. I saw a girl who looked to be about 13 years old, clotheslined by a cop as she was running away from riot police. Her head hit the pavement hard. I keep hearing her screams in my head and the terrible smack of her head crashing onto the concrete. Things CNN didn’t show you. I saw police officers snatching people off of their porches, their own front porches, and putting them in police wagons because of that ridiculous curfew. I saw it. I never saw the media seek to have the relevant conversations. I never saw them really expose and condemn the officers who kept the media safely behind the caution tape while they pepper sprayed people for exercising their rights as human beings before snatching them down to the ground by their hair and dragging them on their faces. Instead, I saw media talking to protestors about the burned out CVS and the legitimacy of defying the curfew without ever interrogating how criminal it was to issue that curfew in the first place and the way it squeezed and oppressed a community already rocked with appropriate grief and rage.

I should tell you about the “write-in” we went to the next day at a church for high school aged students who were there to talk about what was happening in their city. I should tell you that as well meaning as the organizers were who put the event on, none of them lived in the city. They lived in the suburbs. I should tell you that the kids who were in attendance (about 12 of them) came from private schools and therefore, could not really talk from the inside of things the way 5 year old Meek Meek could. Still, writing is a meditation. It is a balm and a blessing and in that regard what happened in that room was still important.

We went to a barbecue after that being held at the Gilmore Homes where Freddie Gray was arrested. We stood in the exact spot where Freddie was tackled and abused by Baltimore Police where a memorial now announces the birth and death dates of Freddie, spray painted on a brick wall with a halo over Freddie’s name. We met the man who videotaped Freddie’s arrest on that fateful day, who is a part of a group called Cop Watch. We saw Amy Goodman from Democracy Now interviewing the residents too and we ran into three brothers from Ferguson who had also flown in to offer their support. We saw the residents of the Gilmore Homes with their kids who were finger painting, playing touch football and rolling around on tricycles. They talked about Freddie and how they saw him everyday. They talked about a place called Mama’s that had been set on fire; a fire the police claimed was started by gang members but according to residents, was set by the officers themselves. We heard many stories like that.

DC #3

How the Baltimore Police Department claimed a “group of criminals” set fire to a trash can and then an independent journalist who was on the scene said on twitter that, in fact, the fire was set by a grenade thrown by the Baltimore Police that landed in that trash can, setting it ablaze.

I guess maybe that’s why I have decided to write all of this down. It is the acknowledgement that those in power always describe us as thugs and monsters, looters and thieves, rioters and hoodlums and if we do not challenge that narrative, if we do not stand up and tell our stories, the people in power get to keep killing us and claiming that we deserved it. Without the truth, they get to disappear us, they get to stop us about a tail light and then shoot us in the back, plant evidence and claim we threatened their lives; they get to arrest us because we made eye contact with them, beat us, hogtie us, and then throw us into a police van on our stomachs, unbelted, handcuffed and bruised to be thrashed against a metal partition until our spine is severed. No.

I am a mother to children who will outlive me. They will occupy their bodies brilliantly and without apology. They will inherit a world that does not shrug with indifference when people die, when the state sanctions that violence and then lies to cover it up. They are deliberately black. Unbroken. Unkillable.

And as long as my heart is beating I will wake up every morning and work long into the night making that the reality for us all. How could I not? I met a five year old and an eleven year old who are willing to do as much. And while I got to get on a plane two days later and leave hell, nothing in me will ever pretend I didn’t see what I saw, know what I know and go back to the convenience of dog parks and manicured lawns and let them stay there and burn.


Dominique Christina, MA, M.Ed

Author, Agitator, Freedom Rider
May 11, 2015

Restoring Sanity, Part 4: Anxiety and Civilization

Editor’s Note: The first three installments of the Restoring Sanity series are An Inhuman System, Mental Illness As A Social Construct, and Medicating.

By Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, Deep Green Resistance

If you don’t want any more anxiety, get rid of all your intelligence and your creativity which would be a very dull life for all of us.

—Rollo May

Don’t worry, be happy.

—Bobby McFerrin

Anxiety is a normal and healthy aspect of human existence. Sören Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom,” an acknowledgment that we always have some choices to make in life. Each choice we make can bring us closer to our objectives, but can also close off other paths. Choosing is both a birth and a death, both being and non-being. This is why we are anxious. Anxiety begins at the time between being, which is what we experience as a result of our choices, and non-being, which is what we give up. Anxiety is part of becoming, of growing and changing. This is what it means to be alive.

Unhealthy anxiety comes when we are so plagued by worry, stressors, trauma and decisions that we lose tolerance for normal anxiety. We become paralyzed and can no longer act or choose. Thoughts of death may turn to despair and drown out life; we get depressed and apathetic. To be healthily anxious, on the other hand, is in many ways the opposite of depression and apathy. To live a satisfying and effective life is to learn to live with uncertainty. If we become so overwhelmed or intimidated by uncertainty that we avoid making choices, we have passively chosen apathy by default; life then becomes unfulfilling and meaningless. We may walk around and draw breath—feeling like we’re taking action by worrying—but without the opportunities that might have been found by actively choosing. In this way, anxiety and worry become avoidance behaviors that reinforce addictions or depression.

When it’s from fear of life choices or awareness of death, anxiety is not a symptom of a disease but a vigorous mind at work. This is healthy anxiety, finding perspective to make our choices in life or to find appreciation for life in the context of death. In its positive forms, anxiety is meant to motivate us to seek safety, worthiness, competence, and security. Without anxiety, our lives become empty. We wait, not knowing what for, avoiding the unavoidable destiny that comes at the end of our waiting. Healthy anxiety saves us from literal, emotional, and mental death.

Origins

Our previous essays[1] on the oppressive effects of individualism, depression, and addictions all involve an evaluation of the context of civilization. As with any modern mental health problem, a certain sort of anxiety is inherent to living in civilization.

By civilization, we do not mean the supposed social utopia of laws and democratic decisions—a pinnacle of human achievement—that the word has come to mean. Rather we are taking it to task at its root as the formation and maintenance of cities. We define a city as any settlement large enough in population to require the importation of resources.[2] The ancient civilization of Rome was a city that needed to expand its trade influence because it couldn’t grow, log, mine, or otherwise produce its material needs within the city’s immediate area.

While diplomacy and rule of law may play various parts in a civilization’s goals, the underlying requirement will always be force. Because trade is by definition voluntary, Rome’s needs couldn’t be entirely guaranteed by trade alone, so military force had to secure the city within a surrounding empire. Because the environmental and social impacts of agricultural and industrial extraction occur far from a city, it’s possible for civilized people to pretend their way of life is forever sustainable, when in reality it’s the very opposite. The fall of Rome came with the inevitable limits of empire.

To call the Hopi tribe of Arizona a civilization, then, would be false because they had no need to form an empire to acquire what they needed. They had no military because everyone was a warrior,[3] a defender of the high desert they’d made their home for centuries. Calling the Hopi “uncivilized” in the ordinary sense of the word is the worst sort of insult: a lie hidden in a false premise. The Hopi were intelligent, resourceful, fierce, and community-minded, but they were not civilized by the city’s necessity of war and acquisition.

Because nearly all humans alive now were born into civilization, it’s the only reality we know and we naturally take as a given all of its demands. Those include everything from war, deforestation, and global warming, down to the routines of work, money, and worry. Wherever we happen to fit in the wealth-generating scheme of civilization—rich, poor, dominator or oppressed—we assume we’re part of a wise and provident arrangement of humanity.

But civilization is only a destructive imitation of decent human society, a business plan enforced by violence. It is cruel and insane, in denial of the reality of a finite world. Without our knowing it all of civilization’s attributes and consequences have been internalized into our lives, on every level: material, spiritual, and mental. Anxiety, of a chronic and intractable sort, is one of the primary afflictions of the civilized human.

Imagine living in a scrubby, warm forest with a few meandering rivers and rolling meadows, a land so wide it seems to fill the whole of the world. There are no electric lights, no roads, no cars, no computers; only the wild, fecund land. You are a member of an egalitarian society whose food comes from a casual husbandry of small animals like goats and sheep, fishing, the hunting of wild game and gathering of wild plants. Though to a modern person this seems an impossibly distant and antiquated way of life, in fact it was a stable condition that maintained itself very well for many tens of thousands of years.

Agriculture ended that. Not restless inventiveness, not tribal warfare, not human nature, but a technological discovery that made empires possible. Grains can be stored and guarded, and this is what an army really is for, and what it needs more than weapons. As grain cultivation spreads, forests, scrub, and meadows are burned for fields. The grazing animals must go. The rivers must be diverted. The game and predators and wild plants must go, and so food security—for most—must also go. For civilization to produce food surpluses, the majority of people and land area must be enslaved.

The first foundation myth needed for a civilization is that cultivated annuals (wheat, corn, rice) are a more secure food source than hunted or grazed animals. Any monoculture is more prone to catastrophic disease than any polyculture, and requires the constant mining of topsoil to continue. Yet monoculture does produce more food for a limited time, and this allows populations to increase. More people need more food, so more forests fall, and more slaves are born to work more fields.

Generation by generation grain agriculture spread as it consumed topsoil, and agricultural societies adapted to acquire more land. Since their pastoral neighbors hunted, gathered, and fished the lands and waters agriculture needs, they had to go. To continue this way of life, war was no longer about territorial bickering but rather absolute necessity. So was slaving in the fields, and so was the enslavement of women as a resource to produce more slaves, forcing them to increase birthrates.[4] Civilization needs this ongoing control over one by another, and because agriculture requires labor as well as land it will always have many who suffer and toil and few who enjoy the resulting wealth. This social model has grown in sophistication and prevalence, but otherwise hasn’t changed since it began 10,000 years ago.

The Middle East is now stripped of topsoil and human rights and is the hottest furnace of modern war. From what we know about remaining indigenous cultures,[5] life in the pre-agricultural forests of the Fertile Crescent was not the struggle and horror it has become but a comparatively serene existence, with much less work, stress, and illness—physical and mental both. The human animal evolved as a hunting and gathering creature. We are ill-adapted to the civilized life. Its grain-based diet—the malnutrition food of the poor[6]—and constant work schedule keep us literally under the gun, and are the basis for our mental and emotional conditions. Though this condition seems beyond help, it’s not. And it’s here we’ll find answers to why we are always in psychological emergencies.

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Anxiety and Culture

The way we experience anxiety is framed by our culture. In civilization, we are conditioned to feel anxiety in relation to competitive ambition. We are trained to compete—in sports, in education, in wealth, in attractiveness, in popularity—and anxiety often results when our unrealistic visions of perfection aren’t reached. Why should security be tied to individual competition? As social animals, we humans have a need for social acceptance and security. Instead of ensuring this, civilization has conditioned us to accept that “winning” brings acceptance and security, and “losing” brings insecurity and social shunning. It is no wonder that anxiety is so pervasive among humans living within the system of civilization. In his book The Meaning of Anxiety, existential psychologist Rollo May writes: “The weight placed upon the value of competitive success is so great in our culture and the anxiety occasioned by the possibility of failure to achieve this goal is so frequent that there is reason for assuming that individual competitive success is both the dominant goal in our culture and the most pervasive occasion for anxiety.”

This competitive arrangement does not reflect a human quality but is rather a means of increasing production and concentrating wealth. Our hunger for security is so strong that those who suffer most from the abuses of a system based on property and coercion will tolerate and even defend the very system that causes their suffering. They will redouble their efforts using the same cultural assumptions, caught in a double bind, having to choose either ambition or poverty.

The more oppressed an individual is within the classes of civilization, the more anxiety they experience and the less likely they are to ever be in an advantaged position to compete. Women and people of color are less likely to be rewarded with high ranking positions because of racism and sex discrimination, which leads to higher rates of anxiety.[7] Success must be glorified, since who wants to compete in a system that is rigged for most of us to lose?

The dominant culture and the social roles into which we are coerced affect the self-esteem or self-worth of women in particular.[8] Women tend to view themselves more negatively than men, which is a major factor for many mental health problems.[9] Psychological disorders in general are 20-40% higher in women than men,[10] and anxiety disorders are most prevalent in women age 16-40.[11] Cognitive distortion[12] is also a symptom of both low self-esteem and pathological anxiety, and comes from living in a culture where economic and social injustice is so normalized as to be nearly invisible. Those on the bottom in this arrangement are the ones who suffer the most, as the powerless are robbed of choices in their own destiny.[13]

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As for those who “win” in this system, how can they ever be sure that their competitors won’t gain more wealth and power, possibly at their expense? Even the upper middle class can never obtain absolute security, since they are driven to always increase wealth. It is a vicious cycle of acquisition of power, one that is driven by chronic anxiety and misery.

Definitions

Stress and anxiety have similar effects on our bodies and minds. While either chronic anxiety or stress can disable or kill us, the difference between them becomes more apparent when managing symptoms.[14]

Modern civilized lifestyles burden us with many unavoidable stressors like work, inflexible social rules, and money and health worries. Stress can often be managed by giving the body and mind a rest, assuming one can make the time for it. Healthy lives require relaxation. To sit outside under a shady tree drinking tea and watching butterflies, for example. Stress can be reduced by eating well, exercising, and including enjoyable and healthy activities in our days. Some stress might only be resolved by making major life changes, such as eliminating toxic people from our lives, quitting a stressful job, or moving from a hectic and polluted city. Most people are unable to make these changes, of course, and so are subject to chronic stress, the root problem of many mental and physical health issues.[15]

AnxietyDisorders-CognitiveBiasesTowardThreat

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of nervousness, worry or unease, often about an unknowable outcome or from the fear of being evaluated negatively by others. Specific, acute anxiety keeps us safe from danger and vulnerability. Like pain, anxiety is not a problem itself—both warn us that we need to take some sort of action to reduce or eliminate the cause.

The line between healthy and unhealthy anxiety is vague and subjective. The American Psychiatric Association’s dubiously drug-happy classification handbook, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5, or DSM-5,[16] recognizes the following diagnosable anxiety disorders: phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety, panic disorder with agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and childhood anxiety disorders.[17] Anxiety disorders are the most common diagnosed mental illnesses in the US, affecting 40 million adults, about 18 percent of the population.[18] According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated.” This is one way of delineating “healthy” from “unhealthy” anxiety. Another way of putting it might be “destructive anxiety” and “constructive anxiety,” though these are subjective terms too.

A more exact definition might be “pathological anxiety,” when danger and vulnerability is exaggerated.[19] If it’s misperceived or nonexistent, there is no action to take that can eliminate the cause of this kind of anxiety, and it can become chronic, generalized, and repressed. Chronic or repressed anxiety leads to apathy, a loss of will, a sense that we can’t obtain anything, and powerlessness. Chronic anxiety can also cause stress that results in physical symptoms like muscle tension, stomach ulcers, heart palpitations, or other physical disorders.[20]

A friend of ours who’s prone to chronic anxiety also has occasional panic attacks, and describes the complete helplessness they bring as “a crazy but certain fear of death.” More mundane moments of anxiety, he says, are more about an inability to perform the simplest tasks. “It’s hard for me to tell the difference between apathy and anxiety,” he explains. We the authors are a more fidgety breed, using anxiety as an engine of activity that often gets so out of control that relaxation is impossible, and our only rest comes from exhaustion. In its most extreme form, this constant stress probably led to Hyatt’s life-threatening autoimmune disorder.

What about positive thinking?

A well-meaning person, concerned about our pain over suffering and injustice, suggested: “What do you think of cultivating a mind where there is a peaceful separation of thought from emotional response?” This seems like a practical idea, encouraged by titles of self-help books like Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quiet Your Mind, and of course it isn’t helpful to get upset about every sad or awful thing the dominant culture does to innocent beings. For one thing, that list is so terribly long; for another, emotions amount to little until they are engaged with action and there is only so much anyone can do, no matter how dedicated they are. But separating our emotional responses from our physical and mental experiences creates disconnection with reality and ourselves. The same is true of undiscriminating negativity.

Is it only by dissecting ourselves (mind from body, emotion from reason, thought from feeling) that we can live a decent life in a civilized world? This is like separating emotional knowledge that the earth is alive from practical knowledge of the minerals in its crust. The ore can be extracted and we don’t feel bad about it. We can then continue on with the lie that we are free. The well-being of our wider community, which must include other species, other cultures, whole biomes, is more important than our personal sense of peace. This is because any lasting freedom and peace—personal or otherwise—depends on functional communities (human and nonhuman both) to exist. It is a sign of our oppression that we must resort to positive thinking to avoid the need to engage a negative but healthy response to living in an unsustainable, toxic society.

When we react with anxiety to situations that we can neither eliminate nor attenuate, it does seem as if the only relief is to think positive thoughts or to feel nothing at all. Chemicals like alcohol and psychiatric meds can help this numbing; so can religion and spirituality. Avoiding the truth might eliminate anxiety or stress in the short term, but the global effects of civilization (deforestation, climate destabilization, ocean acidification, mass extinction, etc.[21]) are neither exaggerations nor the creations of our minds. It would not be healthy—or even rational—to try to cultivate a peaceful, unemotional mind and think positive thoughts when the living world is dying.[22] Avoidance behavior is one reason for this dying; it is also the core of depression, pathological anxiety, and many other disorders that define poor mental and emotional health.

Remedies

The long-term social solution to chronic stress and anxiety is to dismantle civilization and the toxic society resulting from this way of life, and to restore healthy landbases and human communities. Personal solutions for anxiety problems are also available, though they may seem no less daunting.

Remedies for the pathological anxiety of agricultural societies arose alongside the causes. Monotheistic religions are perhaps the best example. Their promotion of controlling behavior, unavoidable apocalypses, and the primary importance of individual salvation all serve the needs of empires. Even Taoism, among the least warlike of civilized doctrines, emphasizes the detachment from the real world that war requires. If starvation is a terrifying reality—as it surely was and will continue to be for many Chinese—it’s no surprise that such a belief system would evolve. Nor is it surprising that women might come to be hated by cultures driven to control their environment—such as those based on agriculture. Treating women as objects to extract resources from grows logically out of this type of culture, as does male violence towards women.

Durable solutions to human misery won’t be found in the usual responses of victim blaming, resource exploitation, and promising rewards in the afterlife, as civilized societies have always done. This is true on both a social and personal scale. Modern pharmaceuticals[23] are only another way civilization moderates its hurtful effects on humans. Helpful as psychiatric meds may occasionally be, they are not fundamentally different than Marx’s “opiates of the masses” or the many cheap and emotionally damaging distractions of pageantry and spectacle for sale anywhere one cares to look.   They’re all coping mechanisms engineered within systems of control that have the system’s needs in mind, not ours.

Denial of emotion is necessary for the dominant culture to function, and complements the way civilization treats every living being as an object. Yet we are alive, and we do feel. So what are we to do with all that worry and stress, if we don’t separate our emotional responses from our daily exposure to the cruelty and waste that civilization requires? Will we despair? Or even worse for civilization, work to take it down because it hurts so much? Will we find others who feel similarly, and organize to resist the destruction of the world and all that’s in it? In the meanwhile, how do we cope with our own worries? Awareness of circumstances and our reactions is a critical first step to healing.

A good way to begin might be to shrink the immensity of the problem to manageable parts, so we might get some short-term relief. When experiencing anxiety, it is essential to analyze the cause to determine if it can be eliminated. This might be as simple as finishing a difficult homework assignment or taking the next step towards completing a big project. If the source of anxiety cannot be eliminated or reduced, we may need to take steps to change how we feel. Some effective non-drug treatments are eliminating caffeine and alcohol, improving diet, and supplementing B and D vitamins. Our friend with panic attacks notes that these steps alone usually eliminate all sensations of pathological anxiety. Other helpful methods include psychotherapy, meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and various thought-stopping techniques.[24] These all involve a lot of trial and error, so it’s important to remember that failures do not reflect on who we are; they are rather only events, part of discovering, learning, evolving and adapting.

Anxiety has a positive and healthy aspect, and is not to be avoided. The constructive use of anxiety is how we create satisfying and effective lives, and perhaps influence the future of the world in a positive way. Anxiety is inseparable from love. When we love, we commit ourselves to action. Love is the motivation for social and environmental activism, for taking on responsibility, for finding ways to influence our society and world.   Anxiety is experienced as a possibility, the intermediate between potential and reality; it connects us to the world and drives us to protect those we love.

All these problems we now face, it’s no wonder that this is an anxious age because all these things, overpopulation, pollution are going on all at once… Now these things are all symptoms of what makes this an anxious age and I think that what we must do as far as we can is to shift our thinking from simply worrying about these different problems to the questions of what can we do about them? The point is to turn your anxiety into active affect, to overcome the situation.

—Rollo May

Susan Hyatt has worked as a project manager at a hazardous waste incinerator, owned a landscaping company focused on native Sonoran Desert plants, and is now a volunteer activist. Michael Carter is a freelance carpenter, writer, and activist. His anti-civilization memoir Kingfisher’s Song was published in 2012. They both volunteer for Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition.

Bibliography and Further Reading

American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

Beck, Aaron T., and Emery, Gary. Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking in Undermining America. New York: Picador, 2009.

Friedman, Ariellad and Todd, Judith. “Kenyan Women Tell a Story: Interpersonal Power of Women in Three Subcultures in Kenya.” Sex Roles 31: 533-546, in Nanda, Serena and Warms, Richard L. Cultural Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, 2004, 387, 388.

Jensen, Derrick, Endgame Volume I: The Problem of Civilization, New York City, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2006.

Keith, Lierre. The Vegetarian Myth. Crescent City, CA: Flashpoint Press, 2009.

Leventhal, Allan M. and Martell, Christopher R. The Myth of Depression as Disease: Limitations and Alternatives to Drug Treatment. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006.

Manning, Richard. Against the Grain: How Agriculture has Hijacked Civilization. New York: North Point Press, 2004.

May, Rollo. Freedom and Destiny. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1981.

_____. Love and Will. New York: Delta, 1989.

_____. The Meaning of Anxiety, Revised Edition. New York: WW Norton and Company, 1977.

Maybury-Lewis, David. Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World. New York: Viking Penguin, 1992.

McKay, Matthew, Ph.D., and Fanning, Patrick. Self Esteem. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 2000.

Sevillano, Mando. The Hopi Way: Tales from a Vanishing Culture. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Press, 1986.

Online

Awais Aftab, MD, MBBS, “Mental Illness vs Brain Disorders: From Szasz to DSM-5,” Psychiatric Times, February 28, 2014, http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/dsm-5-0/mental-illness-vs-brain-disorders-szasz-dsm-5#sthash.hA4QwWSp.wptbyJ4M.dpuf

James Ball, “Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds,” The Guardian, May 22, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-mental-illness-study

Thomas B. Bramanti, W. Haak, M. Unterlaender, P. Jores, K. Tambets, I. Antanaitis-Jacobs, M.N. Haidle, R. Jankauskas, C.-J. Kind, F. Lueth, T. Terberger, J. Hiller, S. Matsumura, P. Forster, and J. Burger, “Genetic Discontinuity Between Local Hunter-Gatherers and Central Europe’s First Farmers,” Science 2009, as reported in Science Daily, September 4, 2009, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm

Levine, Bruce E., “Psychiatry Now Admits It’s Been Wrong in Big Ways—But Can It Change?” Truthout, March 5, 2014, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22266-psychiatry-now-admits-its-been-wrong-in-big-ways-but-can-it-change

Moore, Heidi, “Little surprise here: women expected to do more at home—and at work,” The Guardian, November 1, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/women-work-harder-favors-never-counted?CMP=twt_gu

Nauert, Rick, PhD., and Grohol, John M., Psy.D., “Beyond Antidepressants: Taking Stock of New Treatments,” Psych Central, February 18, 2014, http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/02/18/beyond-antidepressants-taking-stock-of-new-treatments/66071.html

Endnotes

[1] Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 1: An Inhuman System,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, February 6, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/02/06/restoring-sanity-part-1-an-inhuman-system/

Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 2: Mental Illness as A Social Construct,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, March 13, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/03/13/restoring-sanity-part-2-mental-illness-as-a-social-construct/

Susan Hyatt and Michael Carter, “Restoring Sanity, Part 3: Medicating,” Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition, May 20, 2014, http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/05/20/restoring-sanity-part-3-medicating/

[2]  “Civilization is a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts—that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”  Jensen, 17.

[3] Sevillano, 38.

[4] Manning, 36.

Birthrates increased by a factor of four.

[5] Maybury-Lewis.

Millennium is an excellent, general reference on the comparative ease of hunting and gathering life, and an accessible introduction to the academic field of cultural anthropology. The book and accompanying film series describe several noncivilized cultures around the world, their customs and beliefs and general temperament. Chapter 2, “An Ecology of Mind,” (pages 35-62) is especially illuminating.

[6] John B. Marler and Jeanne R. Wallin, “Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food and Sustainable Farming Systems,” Nutrition Security Institute, 2006, accessed November 10, 2014, http://www.nutritionsecurity.org/PDF/NSI_White%20Paper_Web.pdf

[7] Mallory Bowers, “(en)Gendering psychiatric disease: what does sex/gender have to do with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?” The Neuroethics Blog, May 6, 2014, http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2014/05/engendering-psychiatric-disease-what.html

[8] “It’s certainly plausible that women experience higher levels of stress because of the demands of their social role – with that stress helping to trigger problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and insomnia. Increasingly, women are expected to function as carer, homemaker, and breadwinner ­– all while being perfectly shaped and impeccably dressed. Given that domestic work is undervalued, and considering that women tend to be paid less, find it harder to advance in a career, have to juggle multiple roles, and are bombarded with images of apparent female ‘perfection’, it would be surprising if there weren’t some emotional cost.

“It’s worth remembering too that women are also much more likely than men to have experienced childhood sexual abuse, a trauma that all too often results in lasting psychological and emotional damage,” Daniel Freeman, Ph.D. and Jason Freeman , “Know Your Mind” Psychology Today, June 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/know-your-mind/201306/the-stressed-sex-1

[9] James Ball, “Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds,” The Guardian, May 22, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-mental-illness-study

[10] Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman, “Let’s talk about the gender differences that really matter – in mental health”, The Guardian, Dec 13, 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/dec/13/gender-differences-mental-health

[11] Beck and Emery, 83.

[12] McKay and Fanning, 61-87

[13] “In one study, researchers used a storytelling technique to evaluate three groups of Kenyan women: rural women in a traditional village, poor urban women, and middle-class urban women…traditional women almost always told very positive stories that usually had a happy ending. Middle-class urban women told stories that emphasized their own power and competence. Poor urban women’s stories were generally tragic and focused on powerlessness and vulnerability. The researchers note that many poor urban women have ‘lost the security and protection of the old [traditional] system without gaining the power or rewards of the new system,’” Friedman and Todd.

[14] “Chronic anxiety and chronic stress often share a lot in common. They have similar emotional symptoms, they result in similar physiological reactions, and can easily be confused with the other. In a fast paced world, experiencing stress and anxiety is common and frequently people experience them simultaneously; however, it is important to understand the etiology of the symptoms and luckily there are differences which can help tell them apart. Chronic anxiety sufferers who have experienced therapy are often aware of their triggers…” Michele L. Brennan, Psy.D, “Is It Anxiety or Stress?” Psych Central, accessed October 2, 2014, http://blogs.psychcentral.com/balanced-life/2014/01/is-it-anxiety-or-stress/

[15] “The long-term activation of the stress-response system—and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones—can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: Anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.” “Chronic stress puts your health at risk,” Mayo Clinic, accessed October 14, 2014, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

[16] We discuss the primacy of medications in modern psychiatric care more thoroughly in the second essay in this series, “Restoring Sanity, Part 2: Mental Illness as A Social Construct,” http://deepgreenresistancesouthwest.org/2014/03/13/restoring-sanity-part-2-mental-illness-as-a-social-construct/

[17] Cara Santa Maria, “Anxiety vs. Stress: What’s The Difference?” Huffington Post, September 20, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/anxiety-stress-difference_n_1152590.html

American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Ed.).

[18] “Anxiety Disorders,” National Institute for Mental Health, accessed October 6, 2014, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

[19] Beck and Emory, 30, 68.

[20] “When the individual is burdened with anxiety over a long period of time and he feels he can’t do anything about it, then he may develop not only physical tension but he may develop physical symptoms—they may be heart palpitations or gastric ulcers or some other kind of physical symptom.” Rollo May, “Understanding and Coping with Anxiety,” Society for Existential Analysis, republished from Psychology Today, 1978, http://www.existentialanalysis.org.uk/assets/articles/Understanding_and_Coping_with_Anxiety_Rollo_May_transcription_Martin_Adams.pdf

[21] “Indicators of Ecological Collapse,” Deep Green Resistance, accessed October 1, 2014, http://deepgreenresistance.org/why-resist/ecological-collapse

[22] Madhusree Mukerjee, “Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?” Scientific American, May 23, 2012, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=apocalypse-soon-has-civilization-passed-the-environmental-point-of-no-return

“Species Disappearing at an Alarming Rate, Report Says. Watchdog Releases Annual ‘Red List,’ Warns Extent is Underestimated,” MSNBC.com, November 17, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6502368/ns/us_news-environment/t/species-disappearing-alarming-rate-report-says/#.T06Tsnn8l2I

[23] “Fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), paroxetine (Paxil®), and citalopram (Celexa®) are some of the SSRIs commonly prescribed for panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. SSRIs are also used to treat panic disorder when it occurs in combination with OCD, social phobia, or depression. Venlafaxine (Effexor®), a drug closely related to the SSRIs, is used to treat GAD. These medications are started at low doses and gradually increased until they have a beneficial effect.” National Institute for Mental Health, “Anxiety Disorders,” accessed October 27, 2014, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml#pub8

[24] Michele L. Brennan, Psy.D, “Is It Anxiety or Stress?” Psych Central, accessed October 2, 2014, http://blogs.psychcentral.com/balanced-life/2014/01/is-it-anxiety-or-stress/.

 

From Unist’ot’en Camp: What Does Solidarity Look Like?

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Many thanks to San Diego Free Press, who originally published this article

By Will Falk, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

Each night Unist’ot’en Clan spokeswoman, Freda Huson, and her husband Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Toghestiy fall asleep on their traditional land not knowing whether the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are going to storm their bridge in the depths of night.

Each winter, when Freda and Toghestiy ride their snowmobiles down forestry roads to bring in supplies, to hunt, or to check their traplines, they don’t know whether they will find piles of felled trees maliciously dragged across their paths.

Each time Freda and Toghestiy leave their territory for a few days they don’t know if they will return to find another attack in an old tradition of cowardly arson perpetrated by hostile settlers on Wet’suwet’en territories leaving smoking embers where their cabin once stood.

I ponder this as I sit in a workshop with other settlers during the 6-day Unist’ot’en Action Camp – a series of workshops hosted on the traditional territories of the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to promote strategic planning and co-ordination in the struggle against the spread of fossil fuel pipelines. This particular workshop is designed as a discussion to promote understanding about how settlers can work in better solidarity with indigenous peoples struggling to protect their homes and carrying out their responsibilities to the land.

Most of the ideas discussed revolve around decolonizing our hearts and minds to learn to see the role non-indigenous peoples are playing in the genocidal processes threatening the survival of indigenous peoples. Some of the ideas involve material support for indigenous peoples engaged in front line resistance like the Unist’ot’en. A few even suggest that settlers become physically present next to indigenous peoples on the front lines.

But, I am troubled. We have skipped something. What exactly do we mean by “solidarity?”

***
A common scene from my life as a public defender shows me – a white man in a suit and tie – sitting next to a shackled African, Chicana, or indigenous mother in a courtroom. In front of us sits a judge – an older white man in black robes. Across from us sits the prosecutor – another white man in a suit. Directly behind us, where he is felt more than seen, stands a big white man in the brown uniform of a sheriff’s deputy. He has a gun on one hip, a taser on the other, and the keys to my client’s shackles on a loop on his belt.

My client stares at the judge in a mix of horror and hatred as she is sentenced to prison for stealing from a supermarket to support her children or for lying to a police officer about her name because she had outstanding parking tickets and had to get the kids to school or for punching a cop when the latest in a long list of arbitrary stops by police officers finally caused something inside of her to snap.

As the judge announces how many days in jail my client will be spending, she reaches for my arm with tears in her eyes and asks, “Mr. Falk, won’t you do something?”

I cannot meet her gaze. I tell myself there’s nothing I can do. There’s no argument I can make to sway the judge. There’s no way to stop the sheriff’s deputy behind us from leading my client back down the long concrete tunnel connecting the courthouse and the city jail.

I try to comfort myself. What does she want me to do? Yell at the judge? Tackle the deputy? Spit on the prosecutor for his role in sending this mother to jail?

***
We gathered to sit on wooden benches arranged in a half-circle on a hot and sunny morning during the Unist’ot’en Action Camp to listen to two indigenous men speak about their experiences on the front lines of resistance. Each man had been shot at by police and soldiers, each man had served time in jail, and each man received utter respect from each individual listening.

The first man faced 7,7000 rounds fired by the RCMP at the Gustafsen Lake Stand-off in 1995 when a group of Original Peoples occupied a sacred site on a cattle ranch on unceded Canoe Creek First Nation land because the rancher tried to prevent their ceremonies. For his part at Gustafsen Lake, he was sentenced to five years in prison. During the Oka Crisis in 1990 when the town of Oka, Quebec sought to build a golf course over a Mohawk burial ground, the second man and his comrades blockaded several small British Columbian towns shutting down their local economies. He, too, was convicted and spent time in jail for his actions.

The second man said the blockades were carried out “in solidarity” with the resistors at Oka. This was the only time either of the men mentioned the word “solidarity.” They spoke of supporting resistance, praying for resistance, and helping with ceremonies. But, it was only when engaged in actions where co-resistors placed themselves in similarly dangerous situations that the term “solidarity” was used.

***
I got back from Unist’ot’en Camp earlier this afternoon and checked my email for the first time in days. My inbox was inundated by emails from various list serves proclaiming “Solidarity with Palestine!”

Meanwhile, in Gaza, occupying Israeli bulldozers are demolishing the homes of Palestinian families with suspected ties to Hamas while colonial Israeli bombs are indiscriminately falling on men, women, and children adding to the pile of dead numbered at well over 500 corpses and counting.

“That’s terrible, Will,” you may be thinking. “But what do you want me to do about it?”

Put yourself in Gaza right now. Dig a pit in your back yard, turn your ear anxiously to the sky, and keep the path to your back door clear, so that when you hear the hum of jets overhead you can sprint to your makeshift bomb shelter.

Look down the street for bull-dozers. When you spot one, grab the nearest bag in a panic, shove as much food into it as possible, scramble for some clean underwear, find your toothbrush, and sprint out the door without a look back for the nearest safe space.

Stand over the broken corpses of your children in the pile of dust and ashes that used to be their bedroom. Moan. Weep. Wail. When you wake up for the first time without crying, feel the anger burn through your chest and down your arms into your clinched fists. Ask yourself what you should do next.

Ask yourself: What does solidarity look like?

***
Maybe there really was nothing I could do to stop my clients from being hauled to jail in those courtrooms of my past. Unfortunately, I tried not to think about it too much. Placing myself in that vulnerable of a situation was too scary for me. If I argued too strongly, too fervently the judge could fine me. If I yelled at the prosecutor I could be held in contempt of court. If I spit on him, I certainly would be held in contempt of court. If I tried to stop the deputy, I would be tasered and taken to jail. I might even be shot during the scuffle and killed.

The truth is indigenous and other resistors are being dragged to jail, tasered, and even shot and killed every day on the front lines. And, they’ve been on the front lines for a very long time. I’ve realized that freedom from the vulnerabilities frontline resistors experience is a privilege and the maintenance of this privilege is leaving resistors isolated on front lines around the world.

It is time we understand exactly what solidarity looks like. Solidarity looks like the possibility of prison time. Solidarity looks like facing bullets and bombs. Solidarity looks like risking mental, spiritual, and physical health. Solidarity looks like placing our bodies on the front lines – strong shoulder to strong shoulder – next to our brothers and sisters who are already working so courageously to stop the destruction of the world.

Deep Green Resistance – Liberal vs Radical Part 2 of 3

Watch part one and part three.

(Video captions available in English, Russian, Portuguese.  Contact us if you would like to translate this or other Deep Green Resistance videos to another language.)

Video Transcript:

People withstand oppression using 3 psychological methods: denial, accommodation, and consent. So if they had but known they were slaves.

Anyone on the receiving end of domination learns early in life to stay in line or risk the consequences. And those consequences only have to be applied once in awhile to be effective. From that point forward the traumatized psyche will police itself.

We have a saying in the battered women’s movement, “One beating a year will keep a woman down” so once in awhile is all it takes. Any show of resistance is met on the continuum that starts with derision, social derision, all the way across to violence, including murder, and that’s how oppression works. We end up consenting.

But resistance does happen, somehow. Despite everything people WILL insist on their humanity.

Here is “tank-man”. I love this. We still don’t know this man’s name, we don’t know if he’s alive, but he did this.

[Male voice from audience: ] No, he was killed.

[Lierre Keith:] He was killed?

[Male voice from audience mumbles something in agreement]

[Lierre Keith:] They’re pretty sure he was killed? ‘Cause he WAS pulled out of the street but they don’t know whether it was by police or whether it was by other citizens who were trying to save him ’cause they were like, “he’s going to get murdered” and so they dragged him out, yeah…

[Man in audience mumbles:] …killed.

[Lierre Keith:]…killed, yeah. It’s a big mystery, we’re not quite sure what happened to him in the end but he said “over my dead body”, that’s quite clear.  And frankly that’s what we all need to be doing, right? In one way or another.

The final difference is the approach to justice. With power being invisible on the liberal side, justice is therefore served by adhering to these moral principles that are abstract.

For radicals justice cannot be blind. Domination will only be dismantled by taking away the rights of the powerful and redistributing those rights to the rest of us.  So you’re going to have to name the harm and then think up a specific redress and then go ahead and do it.
By having it be blind it means that you’re really only supporting the powers that be that are already in place.

One really great example of this is: there’s a famous sex discrimination case, it was a class action case against Sears and Roebuck.  Women came forward, had a whole bunch of stories about how they were being denied promotions, and whatnot, at Sears. This was heard by a federal court.  One of the problems was that women weren’t getting maternity leave.  They were being discriminated against ’cause they don’t have maternity leave.
The court denied all their claims. For women, this is a huge loss. WalMart is doing the same thing now. It has not changed in 30 years.

The part that gets you always is the federal judge then says, “This is not discrimination against women because if men got pregnant too, they also would not have maternity leave.”  This is a federal judge. You could not find a more abstract principle.  “If men got pregnant…”  Men DON’T get pregnant, that’s the point!  That’s WHY it’s discrimination against women.

[audience laughs]

So here we’ve been using these words like “oppression”.  We haven’t defined this yet.

dgr-quotes-Frye-OppressionDefinition-articlesizeIf you did your reading you will have come across Marilyn Frye.  [Oppression is] “…a system of interrelated forces and barriers which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group.”  Now that is radicalism in one elegant sentence.  Oppression is not an attitude, it’s about a system of power.  And one of the harms of that system is that is creates subordination in that group.  It creates that consent in the oppressed.

The image that she uses is the birdcage.  If you are a liberal you’re only going to see random bars.  They’re not connected into that interrelated set, right?  What keeps that bird in that cage is the fact that all those bars work together. It’s the interrelated forces and barriers.  So if you’re a liberal, why is that bird in that cage?  Oh I don’t know, there’s nothing keeping that bird in that cage.  You don’t see the forces and barriers.  It either has to be voluntary, “the bird wants to be in that cage”, or it’s natural, “well it’s just in that bird’s nature to be in that cage”.

We’ve got another word here we should talk about which is “subordination”. We’ve got some very smart people who’ve come before us.

This is Andrea Dworkin, Four Elements of Subordination:

An

Hierarchy: group on top, group on the bottom. Of course the people on the bottom have a lot fewer rights, resources, blah, blah.

Objectification: some human beings are seen as less than human.  In whatever way they are used as objects, they are bought and sold as objects, it’s appropriate to treat them as objects.

Submission: so here we go again. You have to submit in order to survive. And this is always the rock and the hard place that you’re up against when you are being oppressed.
You are objectified and because you then have to submit that’s used as proof that you in fact deserved that oppression or you’re somehow made for that oppression, it doesn’t hurt you when you’re oppressed.  But in fact it’s really just the only option you’ve got, if essentially, you don’t want to die.

Finally there’s violence: of course committed by the people on top against the people on the bottom. It’s totally natural, in fact, they have a right to do it.  It’s when people start fighting up from the bottom that you’ve got trouble.

All 4 of these elements work together to create this hermetically sealed world, psychologically and politically.  Where oppression is normalized and is almost as necessary as air for the whole society to function.

Coming to political consciousness is not a painless task.  To overcome that denial, the accommodation, the consent, it means facing the everyday normative cruelty
of the society in which you live, in which millions of people are participating in this.
A lot of them get direct benefits from it, others of them get benefits as bystanders. It’s really hard to face that.  It’s also really hard to face your own collusion in your own oppression. It’s not a fun moment.

A friend of mine remembers the first person in her family who ever went to college grew up in really extreme poverty and her first year in college she kind of had a mental breakdown and it was over this one sentence:

She said, “I realized there were rich people and there were poor people and there was a relationship between the two”.

That whole year was just coming to grips with that.

Knowledge of oppression starts from some kind of baseline recognition that subordination is always wrong, that oppression always hurts real people, and that we can do something about it. I would submit that knowledge, and the skills that we acquire in analyzing the situation that we’re in can be emotionally freeing, certainly intellectually freeing and ultimately spiritually freeing.  It can give us the kind of courage we need to go forward, so, we gotta do it.

Watch part one and part three.

Watch more DGR videos:  http://youtube.com/user/DeepGreenResistance.