This blog is autobiographical. But then you knew that, right? You knew that when I talk about emancipation or the struggle for communism as the negation of my negation or against my alienation or for a world beyond false consciousness, that this was deeply personal as well as political. That I am against my/your/our life’s subsumption under someone else’s rules; against my/your/our alienation inside someone else’s structuring realities. That I am for the world made concrete and useful through co-operation, rather than its restructuring for exchange and the market.
That you can trace the tropes I talk about on here to my life in-against-and-beyond therapy.
That being in-and-beyond therapy is the most deeply political act of my life because it is emancipatory.
And in this process and in this moment, one of the things that is surfacing is anger at the world. Anger at our collective subsumption under the dictates of the market, which is enforced by the disciplinary hand of an increasingly securitised State. Anger that demands that I/we say no, and push-back, and refuse, and look for alternatives that are increasingly outside of the institutionalised realities of competitive, marketised higher education.
And this is also anger at the realities of my past. Framing this present.
And a boy left alone in the corner of a room. With fear framing his ever-present.
And that is one of my critical realisations; that the cognitive and emotional and past and present are interwoven; and that I can trust to this and have faith in it. That who am I now depends on who I was then. And that I need to integrate that eight year-old boy inside my adult-self. And that I cannot understand my adult-self that is presently in-and-against Capital and capitalist social relations, unless I understand my adult/boy-self that is equally in-and-against my/his past.
And although systemically academics are restructured against feeling and for critical thinking or critical reasoning or whatever neoliberal ideal will deliver REF-able, impactful outcomes, my struggle for integration and against further alienation reveals a struggle for a life that is much more qualitative. And so every time I hear about quantified time, or outcomes, or impact, I bleed a little. And I feel the screw turn. And this feeling of bleeding or constriction or enclosure is critical because it threatens to be disciplinary. It threatens to dis-integrate the emotional from the cognitive in me/us, or to map or codify or commodify our affective existence. To put our souls to work and to quantify them.
This is why communism, or the fight for the commons, or for co-operation, becomes qualitatively meaningful, in the face of the incremental objectification of our everyday existence, through cops on campus, or precarious labour, or the privatisation of public space, or the indenturing of our young people’s futures, or whatever. This is a qualitative turn of the screw in an anti-social or inhumane direction that is to be resisted. Everywhere. In this life.
This secular crisis of capitalism reveals the inhumanity of the objectification of my/your/our time and space, or space-time. And this is why I struggle against the living death of capitalist work. It is why I struggle for faith in humanity rather than the market. Because the loss of so much of my past makes me recoil at the threat to our collective futures imposed by austerity or debt or climate change or Fukushima or whatever. And which anaesthetises academia to the external realities of this world, in the name of money/impact.
And this qualitative turn of the screw is only amplified by the reification of critical reasoning or thinking. This reification that denies our need to integrate the cognitive and the emotional (and there is a reason that Bloom wrote about the affective domain although it was almost an afterthought), and that argues that I might think myself well. That critical thinking about depression and anxiety, or some other (cognitive) behavioural stricture or neuro-linguistic re-programming or coaching manualisation, might lead to recovery. That there might be a pill that will make me better/happy. That there might be a download from the Matrix that cures me. For the market. An empowered and productive member of society.
And it has taken me over five years in therapy to learn to listen to my feelings. To know that qualitatively my gut knows, and that I should trust it. Through experience and survival it knows, and I know. So when my chest is gripped with anxiety but my gut is calm, I know there is another way. When they are both in seizure, then we have a problem.
And this feels important because I am trying to reflect on what Clementine writes, in relation to her rage at her Mom’s impending surgery:
As I sit here in my chair in dads office, crying for the first time about all this shit, I want to just sit here and scream. But I don’t want anyone to hear me. I don’t want to be what they think that I ought to be. I’m not. I’m not crying because I’m sad or I’m breaking. I’m crying because I am so fucking mad. I am so mad that there’s nothing that can calm me down. There is nothing I can’t deal with but just because I can deal with it doesn’t mean that it’s not painful as fuck holding it back.
It took me years to realise that this was/is me, in this life at work and at home, searching for something and not knowing that what I desired was an integrated self. That I spent so long holding my rage back that it consumed me as depression and anxiety, although as it happens this was also formed through shame. And that I spent forever trying to cope with the anger that spilled out as a fight against injustice or marginalisation or power-over, of students or those without homes or those with no voice, and for a different set of organising principles. And that deep-down this was a fight against my own historical and social marginalisation.
And the more I think about Clementine’s pain in holding back her fucking mad-ness, the more I wonder about the ways in which as an academic I am trying to find mechanisms to integrate my fucking mad-ness and my rage at the world as it is, inside my life as a whole. And this stands against critical thinking and against medicating my emotions. And this, I think, is where critique emerges for me as a powerful, political and therapeutic tool for the systemic analysis of the ways in which I and my self are alienated in this world. And this prefigures the emergence of my focus on sociability and on co-operative alternatives. It is the interplay between rage, courage and critique that reveals and then co-opts the fucking mad-ness. For something different. Enabling me to feel it and live it and understand it, and put it to use.