Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why You Hate Yourself

This article was originally published in the American Bay Area student zine The Academic Activist

Do you hate yourself? The question might not be a comfortable one to ask, but a nontheless important one. I am asking, because I know for certain that I have hated myself, and other people also keep telling me, or showing me, that they hate themselves. It seems odd, that you should hate yourself. What reason is there, really? There never is an obvious answer, it seems. 
But not many things are allowed to be obvious when there’s vested interests, power-structures and antagonism surrounding just about every part of our life. If the answer were obvious, if you could grasp the reason for your misery, then you might be able to work out a way of loving, or at least accepting yourself. But maybe some people wouldn’t like that . Maybe, some people are shivering at the very thought of you breaking free from all the hate you subject yourself to. Society, in with it’s bureaucracies, hierarchies and inequalities, has built-in mechanisms to make everyone not in a position of power and privilege, hate themselves. The main form that hierarchy makes you hate yourself is by making itself invisible; by becoming shadow ghosts, hiding in your peripheral vision. It does this, because if it were to be seen, you would surly revolt against it. You, and all the other people who’ve been taught to hate themselves, could easily tear down the systems if you were only able to see them. It makes you hate yourself by making you BLAME yourself. The oppressed are being told that they must take personal responsibility for being oppressed, that at the end of the day, the blame lies on the POOR for not making it in the market-place, on the WOMAN for not performing as well as men, on the STUDENT for not being able to pay back their student-loan, you could go on and on with every marginalized group there is out there. The blame is on YOU, because YOU are in control of your actions. ”Nevermind us, the people who control the institutions, the persons responsible for the context of your actions.” 

Take the modern workplace. The workplace is not what it used to be. But the exploitation is still the same. You are still forced to sell your labor to a capitalist to satisfy your most basic needs, but the administration is different. The stereotype used to be of the heartless boss, firing anyone at will, treating their workers like dirt. Now, the bosses are smiling, encouraging, and ”your friend”. Sentences like ”how can you and me CO-OPERATE to better use your skills and abilities in the company”, ”the management is INTERESTED IN YOUR OPINION” and ”at this workplace, we are a TEAM” give us the illusion that what the worker-boss relationship REALLY is, is just a form of cooperation. In reality, the workplace is still a hierarchical, competitive environment. The boss, most likely, is not your ”friend”. More likely, the boss is trying to create a friendly environment in which their exploitation can go unnoticed. Because there’s the illusion of equality and cooperation in the modern workplace, the workers feels as if they really can’t blame his exploiters, regardless if they bear the full responsibility for the things they put the workers through. Power is being delegated in the workplace in a way which makes holding anyone accountable for the abuses that occur in a workplace a headache, something you won’t even bother with. The worker does not know who to blame for the loss of 6-8 hours a day in a place were they are forced to produce goods that aren’t theirs for people they’ll never meet. It must be their own fault. How can it be someone elses? The hierarchy they spend all their days in has made itself invisible to them, leaving the only thing left to hold accountable the workers themselves, and their failure to get a better job, or to communicate with the bosses better. To borrow a line from a friend on twitter (@ReThePeople): ”The chattel slave never deluded herself that she was free, unlike her wage-slave counterpart.”

This pattern, making hierarchy and exploitation harder to notice, is pivotal in most social relationships. It’s much harder to fight something that you might not even know exists, or that you are taught not to bother with. We live in a society in which every basic institution, from the family, to school, to production of goods, to politics, to media, hell, even our language is centered around an inequality of power, on hierarchy, and those at the top would do anything to convince you that they are working for you, that they aren’t using you for their own ends. Listen to the politicians discussing the present economic nightmare. Listen to the talk about Greece. Surely, the Greek are to blame for being lazy and not working enough! The talk about the lazy Greek is just the most obvious example of this twisted classism: it has infected the entire debate. It is the fault of the poor for using too much precious public money, it is their fault for not working hard enough, for not consuming enough, for being more human than they are worker.

We must reject this logic. We must stop blaming ourselves. We are not at fault for being excluded, by violence, from satisfying our own needs. We are not at fault for being restricted, by violence, from becoming self-reliant. We are not at fault for being manipulated, through media, to accept our situation. We are not at fault. If we realized this, we might not hate ourselves so much. We do not wash ourselves clean from the actual responsibilities of being a human, we simply wash ourselves of clean from that which is not in our control. Keep this in mind as bourgeois politicians discuss ”class warfare” and ”envy of those that have succeeded”. ”Envy” is a weird word to describe our feelings. We aren’t saying no because we feel like that should be us, with private jets, mansions and fancy food. We are saying no because we feel the CAUSE of those things are in violation of our basic dignity as human beings. And it is our dignity that we fight for. It is a fight against the self-hatred that is perpetuated in society. If we reject the logic of capital, reject the logic of the state, and reject the logic of all the other hierarchies that attempt to poison our experience as humans with hatred for ourselves, we have created a platform on which social change can happen

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