Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why dissent is positive

I was recently asked why I bother to complain so much beneath a protest image I'd created for Facebook. This is the comment:
"You're too angry and focused. Why? Has someone or something made you feel this resentment? I'm wondering, don't you have any good stuff, positive thoughts?
My initial response was; why is this guy trying to give me the "headshrinker treatment"? Not every motivation boils down to something that happened to us in the past. I consider much of the Freudian rooted "psychosciences" game to be a sham and a lucrative profit making opportunity above anything else. Of course our upbringing has some formative effect on who we are today, but raking through the past to try to identify incidents we can retrospectively assume are causal factors in our current behavioral tendencies, has always seemed like an abject waste of time to me. Past incidents certainly have an effect on who we have become, however I believe that attempts to establish direct causation simply reinforce the idea that our current behaviours are determined by our past circumstances, rather than our choices and actions in the present. More than that, once a causal narrative has been established, it is then easy for the individual to use such retrospective causation theories as justification techniques to excuse their current behaviour. 

I find it odd that someone would consider me worthy of impromptu "headshrinker analysis" for the fact that I complain, whilst so many others prefer to turn a blind eye to the environment of corruption and injustice they live in, or choose to carefully maintain a state of deliberate ignorance. Surely the psychosis of the masses is a more interesting (and important) subject than the motivation that drives some random blogger?

My second response was a reaction to the absurd snap judgement that I may have no life outside my protest activities. I do have a life outside of Another Angry Voice. I write other, explicitly positive things, I enjoy spending time with my family, I find pleasure in countless other activities too, such as photography, reading, teaching, film, good music, swimming, darts... But the most important thing, is that I thoroughly enjoy what I do here too. 

Critical analysis and dissent against tyranny may seem like burdensome occupations to many, but to me, there are fewer more positive feelings than having applied one's own critical judgement to form a conclusion that is entirely one's own, rather than having simply adopted something learned, derivative or crudely synthesised. 

To learn something new is a pleasure in itself, but to develop one's own idea is a greater pleasure still. It is a joy to think for ourselves, rather than accept at face value what we are told by the media or by "experts" but it is also a positive thing to take action. Boycotting a company that is engaged in unethical behavior, writing a blog post, attending a protest or creating a "Facebook meme" are positive things too. If we do nothing and simply allow the corruption and injustice to go on around us unchecked, this leads to feelings of resentment and despair. By attempting (in whatever small way we can manage) to change things, these feelings of frustration, despair and resentment are somewhat alleviated.

From a purely personal point of view, critical analysis and dissent (as opposed to intellectual laziness and lethargy) are overwhelmingly positive activities. One of the fundamental factors in depression is a feeling of powerlessness; an inability to change one's circumstances. However before we change our circumstances we must first change ourselves. Instead of allowing ourselves to get stuck in a negative loop, where we blame our past circumstances for our present condition or despair at our powerlessness to change our current circumstances, we must give ourselves the cognitive skills to break out of it.

Instead of allowing ourselves to sink into the pit of despair, fixate on the negative or traumatic experiences of the past or our perceived powerlessness in the present, we must recognise when we are allowing ourselves to slip into unconstructive thought processes or self-destructive coping strategies (alcoholism, over-eating, drug use, self-harm, lethargy ...) and break out of it. This is easier said than done, but it is achievable, myself and many other sufferers of depression have developed techniques to snap out of our depressive thought patterns, cognitive over-ride switches, if you like.


Instead of focusing on the trauma of the past, or the injustice of the present, we must focus on something constructive. Instead of fixating on our problems, we must make a conscious decision to focus upon what we can enjoy in the present and what steps we can take towards changing the circumstances that drive us to despair. This brings us back to protest and dissent. I enjoy critical analysis, to me it is a positive and rewarding pastime, and even though I am unlikely to ever change the world dramatically, by expressing myself in order to criticise corruption and injustice and to explain what I believe to be right, I am making a difference. I am making a difference within myself and I am making a difference to the thousands of people that read and share my work.

I think the problem with "protest" is that so many people see criticism and dissent as inherently negative things. They assume that you must be a negative person to in order to complain so much. But to complain about corruption and injustice is not negative. Protest and dissent are not inherently negative things because to protest against tyranny, corruption and injustice demonstrates an optimism that things should, and could be better.

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the PayPal donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.



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