Saturday, October 16, 2004

Anxiety Culture

Here's a quick plug for "Anxiety Culture"... a great website about the mental environment that makes wage-slavery possible-- and how to free yourself from it. Below are two excerpts from the site.... follow the links for many more good articles. --Skald

from Anxiety Culture

"Whatever you say a thing is, it isnít"
ñ Alfred Korzybski

English Prime, or E-prime for short, arose out of General Semantics. It looks like standard English, but with the words "is", "are", "was", "would be" (and other cognates of "is") removed. Removing the "is" (of identity) from language effectively eradicates metaphysical statements about what things "really are".

For example, the sentence: "Fred is a commie" would appear in E-Prime as something like: "I regard Fred as a commie". E-Prime expresses what we perceive and think about things, rather than what things "really are".

E-Prime makes sense when applied to science ñ eg the argument over whether an electron "really is" a wave or a particle:

Standard English:
"The electron is a particle"
"The electron is a wave"

"The electron appears as a particle to instrument A"
"The electron appears as a wave to instrument B"

The two standard English statements contradict, whereas the E-Prime statements seem complementary. E-Prime makes sense of emotional "human" issues too:

"That film is sexist" (standard English)
"That film seems sexist to me" (E-Prime)

With standard English, debates often degenerate into hysterical "Yes, it is!", "No it isnít!!" type arguments (monkey metaphysics). E-Prime seems to avoid this.
Who knows: in the future, E-Prime might even help prevent a war.

How To Avoid Responsibility
from Anxiety Culture

Preoccupation with work, obligations and duties is a potent form of negative self-hypnosis. For example, every time a compulsively house-proud person tidies up, he/she becomes more sensitive to the onset of untidiness. Eventually it becomes a necessary duty to vacuum every thirty minutes, which does nothing but annoy the neighbours.

The ërequired amountí of work is arbitrarily determined. How often does the car need washing; how much of our work is necessary? More to the point, how little could we get away with? People who talk a lot about duty and responsibility probably never know how much they depress everybody else.

The ëresponsibilityí function of an adultís brain is to receive the cornucopia of rich sensory impressions from the environment ñ colour, taste, touch, movement, sound ñ and then translate it all into problems we feel responsible for. We find burdens wherever we look because thatís what weíre educated to do. Social roles such as ëhard workerí, ëresponsible parentí, ëdevout followerí, etc, merely allow us a choice of burdens to identity with. If we detach ourselves from these burdens, itís regarded as a moral breakdown.

The irritation/anxiety reaction to a sudden problem is caused not by the problem itself, but by the thought that we must do something about it (ie that weíre responsible for it). This is a conditioned response which can be reprogrammed with a psychological gimmick. The technique is to do nothing when you notice a problem ñ or rather, suspend judgement for a few days. Problems often disappear by themselves if they get the chance (especially if they appeared by themselves). In settings tinged with urgency or guilt (eg work or family) they donít usually get the chance.
(If youíre not convinced by this, and you remain attached to solving problems, thereís always the comforting thought that as long as you focus on problems, thereíll be an endless supply of them ñ which conveniently justifies the need to solve them).

The clichÈ, ìnever put off until tomorrow..î, can be reversed for people who worry about problems. Itís always better to postpone worrying. An effective postponement device is the ëworry sheetí, which is a piece of paper for writing down your problem/worry as it occurs ñ so you can forget it now, and deal with it at some later date. Minor worries can be postponed indefinitely.
Rather than putting off lifeís pleasures until after youíve solved all your problems (ie after youíre dead), you postpone all the worrying until after youíve finished having a good time.

Often (and probably subconsciously), the unpleasant effort ërequiredí to solve a problem is just ritualised self-punishment. This results from the dubious belief that we deserve our problems (and thus require punishing). When this notion is replaced with the understanding that you deserve nothing but effortless bliss and happiness, many problems seem to vanish.

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