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Writer's Block: Revolutionary Thought

It's the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, marking the Marxist overthrow of the Russian government. Karl Marx once wrote that "religion is the opium of the people." What is the new opium of the people?

Social acceptance. Many Americans live in terror of social rejection in any form. They have trouble searching for jobs because every time they're turned down, their morale plummets. People put up with an incredible level of mind games and mental abuse every day at work and at home in dysfunctional families, because they are trying to please everybody all of the time. People-pleasing is the opium of the masses.

Bullying is socially acceptable in schools to anyone but the majority of the kids, who will vote in an anti-bullying program anytime one's offered. Bullying establishes aggression, dominance and backstabbing as acceptable behavior, and when it's in legitimate channels like office infighting or mental harassment in relationships, it's lauded. Physical violence is praised at the same time it's punished.

Teens that shoot people are called "the gunmen" and tried as adults. They are usually the bullied kids, so deprived of basic human respect that they're willing to kill and die -- face the death penalty -- just so they can go out as respected outlaw Gunmen rather than "The Children."

The victims of bullies get punished and suspended from school for fighting, ensuring that everyone has someone to look down on. Someone's always lower than you on the hierarchy. If you join the mob in bullying and discrimination, then you're not the victim at the bottom of the heap and they'll let you alone. That is the Bullying System.

The Codependent Waltz is Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer. That is a broad social pattern in schools, workplaces and an unpleasantly high majority of families. It's also where the social anxiety and deprivation that lead to people-pleasing starts. People don't cower, hold their heads down and go along with anything they're told without sustained mental torture -- and it is available in local flavors in every level of American society.

Ads promise that if you have a lot of money and bully people with it, showing off status possessions, you will rise to the top of the heap. You'll be bullied by fewer people while gaining a big victim pool to squash. Bullying is the only way to dismiss someone else's opinion of you. Victims' opinions don't matter.

Constructive critique in anything is as rare as gold nuggets, because what passes for critique in this country -- on anything at all -- is an unasked opinion with a lot of personal attacks on your basic identity.

Conformity to gender roles is constantly pressured and threat of losing gender is one of the biggest social perils. People who are successful at all get attacked and ripped down -- and the pattern of far too many is to retaliate by bullying and at least give them some reason to hate you, end the cognitive dissonance. Someone who is both wealthy and good-natured will wind up being mocked as a patsy or a wimp.

Violence is rooted in this cycle -- the overwhelming level of American violence is rooted in bullying, the Victim-Persecutor-Rescuer cycle that all bullies play at every level, and the reinforcement of schools and workplaces. The only way I've found to completely walk away from that pattern is to become self employed and stick to well chosen personal circles of relationships with people who don't play those games. If I needed a job with an employer it would be extremely hard to set myself aside from the game and refuse to play.

Anyone who refuses to play is automatically the Persecutor and attacked by everyone else.

This mind game sucks up most of America's wealth, most of Americans' souls and energy and heart. It breaks families, it destroys friendships, it reduces competence at work or avocation, it turns the whole nonculture into a snarling mob at the drop of a panic slogan. Then for the past eight years we've had an administration posturing and playing that game on the world, with live armies, much to its horror.

Trickle-down. As long as there's someone lower than you, it's not so bad. Just step on them hard to make sure everyone knows that's not you.

Surviving that environment is something that takes help, and building enough social networks to resist the pressures. Reality checks are essential when bullies and codependents start distorting reality to make you feel ashamed of achievements and helpless in the face of their anger but pathetically grateful for their unwanted help in controlling your life.

AA, Al-Anon and a host of other twelve step programs succeed because they oppose social pressure with social pressure. The intense acceptance and support at frequent meetings gives genuine relief. It fills a basic human need for social acceptance that gets used for blackmail by every twopenny bully-on-the-block whether it's the gangsta on the street or the Assistant Supervisor that everyone hates who hands out extra makework and fusses over how long your bathroom break was.

Longterm members of 12 step groups are great people to have in your social network. They don't play that game. They know it inside and out, know its damage, probably went through worse with it than you did and know how to live without playing it. They do not have the unrealistic expectation that everyone must like them. They accept that they're going to have to hold their boundaries and a good many adults do throw tantrums if you do that -- and refuse to bully or push beyond those boundaries.

That's just one common and successful way of finding a way out of it. It helps to have an actual substance addiction because then there's a LOT of support for going that route. Without one, the pressure to stay in the groups isn't as high. They have their flaws too, and not all groups are as accepting as others depending on local prejudices. You may belong to a group no one in the local group can find it in themselves to accept.

But on principle, they'll try, and they're better than nothing.

I don't actually belong to Al Anon any more because of some philosophical differences and the sheer fact of my having trouble getting out of the house. Internet makes it much easier to build a sound personal social network that isn't united by anything but the fact that they like me for something about me. I am a diverse man, with too many interests to hang my social identity in just one group -- but I can participate in healthy ways in a variety of groups and occasionally make fun cross-connections.

If I threw parties at home and invited all my closest friends, they might be memorably eclectic, fun and weird for how many different groups I draw people from.

That individual solution got hammered out by years and decades of trial and error, made harder by survival necessity and personal disasters. Personal disaster whether health or financial (health usually turns into financial) throws anyone right off the ladder of American life -- that puts them on the bottom of the heap. Relationships snap, friends and associates abandon you, for fear it's catching.

The fear is grounded in the common bullying custom because someone wimpy, wussy, mushy, soft-headed enough to help someone in trouble might be too weak to take a leadership role, or actually succeed in life. Nice guys don't win. And that is why the basic HUMAN need of social acceptance, something that is not a zero sum game, gets turned into the blackmail tool of the bullies in every class.

When that need can be satisfied, for a healthy human being, in a tribe-sized collection of individual human beings who care about you and exchange mutual support. You know them, you accept their differences and appreciate their differences, it's reciprocal, and you spend a fair amount of time exchanging compliments instead of treating compliments as if you had to write a check to the person you were complimenting.

Every healthy group I've ever belonged to has this process going on within it.

The problem is national. It may be prevalent in some other countries in Western culture. The solution to the problem is and can only be personal. Sort out your life, quit playing the game at all, don't bully and don't be a victim. "Rescue" is different from helping people. Helping people on a vague generous impulse, it's enough that they enjoy it and it's best if it's done when they ask for it.

Real help is to do what that person asks for help with. Real critique is best given when requested. If you want to be generous to someone you don't know, Islamic culture has a neat way to do it. Leave a $20 on the street somewhere not your neighborhood, let God decide who to give it to. Whoever finds it will thank God rather than knowing they owe someone gratitude.

Forced gratitude is a big part of the groveling and bootlicking process. It can get extreme to the point of demands for gratitude because the bully didn't hit you, or didn't put you in the hospital, in abusive relationships.

We already voted the bad attitude out of the White House, so maybe in the next four years under real leadership, from a President who dares to use the word humility in his acceptance speech and did not lose one iota of real strength or dignity by that, gained my real respect with that word, the country can go into recovery.

Gods, I hope to see that. President Obama, keep leading by example and live well. The problem isn't just with bad budgeting, no one cleaning up the trash, robbery, fraud, ripoffs and violence in the hood. Those are symptoms. At the root of all those problems is the problem of endemic codependence, and sane decisions from the White House may help everyone move a little closer to living well.
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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 7th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
Wow you made a good point. "Being accepted is a drug." The drug is so normal no-one ever thinks about looking for a cure.
Nov. 7th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
Yep. But it is also a real human need. Food is a drug if you are starving or if you're using it to substitute for social acceptance.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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