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Relaxation Will Reveal the Road to Victory (Parts 1&2 - Why We Need ROI & Relaxation)

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Relaxation Will Reveal the Road to Victory
(Parts 1 and 2) (click to go to part 3, part 4 or part 5)
“Why, oh why
did the soul plunge
from the upmost heights
to the lowest depths?

The seed of redemption
is contained in the fall.”

—The Dybbuk, S. Ansky (trans. Golda Werman)
Hi Alex,

I consider your post to be a remarkable document. Activists need to share their experience with one another or we will remain isolated atoms to be easily taken out of action one at a time.

Your post (a valuable summary of two years of your experience, representing your "annual report") describes how you became demoralized and politically passive as a result of attempting a task beyond your means and how you then, so to speak, managed to come back from the dead to take your place in the living struggle to overthrow the system of bourgeois rule.

You also present your conclusions concerning the current state of extreme dysfunction in the left and your ideas concerning what directions of work are most likely to bear fruit in the future.

Your report is not only valuable in casting light on your own personal experience--but also provides (by example, as microcosm) insight into the problems faced by every revolutionary activist alive today.

My reply is far more long-winded than I intended. I apologize for that. My struggle to keep this concise collapsed when I ran up against the fact that these topics relate so directly to my own personal experience--and the experience of the organization to which I had devoted my life.

If you would like me to expand on anything, just let me know. I will always make time to be responsive to you, Alex!

[FONT=Courier New]Contents:[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]---------[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]1. Demoralization caused by low "ROI"[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]2. Recovery requires relaxation[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]3. Lessons from my own experience[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]4. Your ideas on fruitful directions[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New].. for revolutionary work[/FONT]
[FONT=Courier New]5. Current directions of my work[/FONT]

1. Demoralization caused by low "ROI"

All revolutionary work that is real must be based on _forging solid relationships with serious people_. All revolutionary work that has weight must be based on a sober and realistic assessment of where we can get a satisfactory return on our investment (ie: "ROI") of precious and limited revolutionary energy.

Easy to Feel Omnipotent

Yes, revolutionary work can be exhilarating. We discover that there is a reason we experience so much pain in our lives. And we discover that this is the same reason that billions of other human beings experience pain. And we discover that this reason is not "human nature" or any other supposedly immutable law--but is the inevitable result of nothing other than the class rule of the bourgeoisie. And we discover that this system of bourgeois class rule is not eternal but is destined to be overthrown. And we discover that we have the ability to take effective action today to speed up the overthrow of this system of bourgeois rule and participate with ALL our intelligence and passion in the most decisive and culminating struggle of all human existence.

The struggle fought by Spartacus may be ancient history--but it is not over. It continues today. And it appears overwhelming likely that we will win and we will do so in this century.

This is pretty exciting stuff.

These conclusions are all the more exciting because we realize they have been carefully hidden from us all our lives. The overwhelming weight of our entire empty, escapist and narcissistic culture (the movies we see, what we are taught in school, nearly everything we read, the ideas which saturate and dominate our society) is controlled by our class enemy (ie: the bourgeoisie) and this alien, parasitical class has engineered the dominant ideas of our entire culture for the purpose of leaving us all, so to speak, barefoot and pregnant (ie: ignorant, fighting amongst ourselves and easily controlled).

So when we discover that there is a fundamental truth (ie: a truth that we have been cheated out of our entire lives) that has the ability to make sense of the world--to make sense of everything--we may suddenly feel so powerful that we become euphoric and intoxicated with illusions of omnipotence (something that probably most of us have experienced). We may feel like we have near infinite revolutionary energy which we are free to invest carelessly.

But this is the road to certain defeat.

If we invest our precious and scarce revolutionary energy with idiots and non-serious people (who outnumber the serious people by a ratio of ten or a hundred to one) we eventually, so to speak, go bankrupt. This is what happened to you. To put it bluntly, you were beaten.

Well, there is a good side to that. A man who has been beaten is worth two who have not.

Why is the "left" swimming in shit?

You apparently attempted to talk sense to a large number of self-described leftists--and, as a result, became highly pessimistic about the ability of the left to pull itself out of the shit in which it is drowning.

But were you observing the problem or the symptom of something much deeper and bigger?

You can probably guess how I would answer this question.

Why is the left flooded with clueless people?

Basic materialism gives us explanations relating to both the objective and subjective factors:

(1) Social conditions and the low level of
class struggle in society

(2) The saturation of the left with the reformist
and sectarian diseases, with the result that
essentially every group is either:

(a) deeply corrupt and treacherous or
(b) totally fucking clueless and out of touch
with the needs of the revolutionary movement

(3) The crisis of theory which has made it almost
impossible for anyone to think clearly about
what it is we are attempting to do.

Under these conditions, isn't it inevitable that most young people flirting with the left will have all kinds of nonsensical ideas?

There is no reliable source of information that can tell these young people what is going on or can answer their questions with anything other than bullshit and misinformation. Add to this the nature of the narcissistic culture which bombards us constantly (and which works to systematically isolate young people from any real knowledge of the class basis of their connection to one another or anything important) and the result is tons of aggressively clueless know-it-alls in left forums and also in real life. Making an effort to "talk sense" to so many clueless people nearly always leads to frustration and burn out--in particular if our own feet are not on the ground in a real solid way.

Focus on the serious element

First conclusion: never underestimate the need to shield ourselves from people who are full of themselves and think they know it all. These people act the way that neutron absorbers do in a nuclear reactor: they absorb energy.

Quality better than quantity

If our instincts tell us that someone is not a serious person--then we need to learn to LISTEN TO OUR INSTINCTS. If someone does not have the ability to listen to us and think about what we say--then they are not serious. Period. Focus our time and energy instead on the serious people. Given a choice between investing in quantity and investing in quality--we are nearly always better off choosing quality. This is fundamental to real work.

Our Emotional Bank Account

The principle here is that we all have an "emotional bank account" with a finite reserve of revolutionary enthusiasm and confidence.

Withdrawals from this account take the form of the sacrifice of life energy (ie: labor, time, enthusiasm) in order to contribute this energy to people or projects we believe will prove to be useful.

Deposits to this account take the form of some kind of credible evidence that the investment of our precious life energy has not been wasted but instead:

(1) has been transformed into some kind of living material force that has life in the world and that

(2) this life serves the consciousness and organization of the working class and oppressed.

Note in particular the phrase (above): "credible evidence". I will get back to that shortly.

When we enjoy a strong positive balance in our emotional bank account, we are energized and feel wonderful. We wake up in a good mood and cannot wait to get up in the morning and, so to speak, kick butt. We feel alive!

Chronic anxiety

On the other hand, when our emotional bank account is chronically overdrawn, we eventually find that we have a nagging sense of anxiety that we cannot shake. Anxiety (ie: a vague or free-floating feeling of impending doom) is the "little brother" of fear. We have anxiety that, at a very deep level, our daily activity is not in alignment with our deepest aspirations. We feel miserable and experience crisis: things take longer than they should, we procrastinate. In addition to anxiety or depression, we may feel exhausted, find it difficult to relax and feel a strong need to "escape" into one of the countless avenues our society and culture provide for that purpose. We feel "trapped", like someone condemned for all eternity to having to listen to music he cannot stand.

This is pretty much a reasonable description of "hell".

This principle is important because it allows us to understand how essentially all sectarian groups function: they manufacture counterfeit, fraudulent "evidence" to keep their supporters active and engaged. And they manipulate, intoxicate and (above all) attempt to isolate their supporters in an effort to maintain this illusion. They must do this in order to maintain confidence in the organization. If they do not do this--their organization will cease to exist (ie: face annihilation: what for many people is the most fearsome thing imaginable) in the cutthroat (and highly unprincipled) competition for survival between rival groups.

2. Recovery requires relaxation

Your account of your political recovery (which came as a result of seeking "fun" and relief from boredom) translates (in material terms) to your recognition of the need to respect your emotional bank account.

There is a principle here and a story.

The principle is that we can only think clearly (and overcome gridlock in our minds) when our minds are relaxed. It is only when our minds are relaxed and calm that we have the ability to effectively integrate all the complex and opposing elements of our consciousness--which require an opportunity to come together and repeatedly combine and recombine.

Our most important weapon
is our ability to think

We need to be relaxed and calm in order to think clearly. And we need to think clearly in order to fight. So if you are in a life and death fight (and, beneath a mountain of smoke and mirrors, we are)--then learn how to relax and think with clarity. If you study military history (ie: something I highly recommend--a good place to start is: "The Spartacus War" by Barry Strauss or "The Peloponnesian War" by Donald Kagan, based on Thucydides (both of which are highly absorbing) or something like "Fifty Battles that Changed the World" by William Weir or many of the interesting articles on wikipedia) you will get a clear sense that all the successful military leaders had this ability to be calm and think clearly under pressure.

The most well-known story (that illustrates the principle that complex thought requires relaxation) is that of Archimedes, who, reaching a dead end on a difficult problem, finally gave up and took a hot bath. As soon as he did so--as soon as he relaxed--the answer hit him and in his excitement he ran naked through the streets proclaiming "Eureka" (ie: "I have found it"). But everyone knows that story and that is not the story I want to tell. I want to tell the story of the brilliant physicist, Richard Feynman. (If you don't know who he was--you need to. A good place to start is his famous essay on "cargo cult science" or this YouTube video where he explains how science works in a single minute. We need to know how Feynman thought because of his absolute disregard for authority and his fearless devotion to scientific integrity. This is precisely what we all need in a period in which our movement is paralyzed by a theoretical crisis.)

In the years after Los Alamos (ie: the project to create the atom bomb) Feynman had tried very hard to make some kind of important contribution to physics. He tried and tried and could come up with nothing. Finally, in frustration and despair, he decided to give up serious work and just goof-off. Simply to amuse himself, he would watch the rotation of plates that students would spin in the cafeteria at Cornell. Something about the nature of this rotation caught his eye. He found the forces governing this spin to be fascinating and was inspired to jot down some equations. This "work" (done solely for the purpose of fun and relaxation) became the basis of his Nobel prize related to the spin of sub-atomic particles.

Respect and listen to
our subconscious minds

So the issue here concerns the need to respect the emotions, instincts, dreams, aspiration and immense power of what is sometimes called our subconscious mind.

If we disrespect or abuse our subconscious mind, if we arrogantly or ignorantly or incompetently attempt to boss it around, force it to do something, poke, prod, pester, annoy or attempt to deceive, manipulate or intoxicate it--our subconscious mind will eventually find a way to go "on strike" in one way or another and we will eventually find ourselves in crisis, large or small.

I learn this from my own experience (often on a daily basis). My conclusion from my recent experience is that, in relation to my own subconscious mind, I need to act less like the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert comic strip and more like the way Spartacus acted toward his people's army.

Never underestimate the need to RESPECT and LISTEN to (with all the humility of which we are humanly capable) the shouts, the whispers, the dreams and all the faint and diverse mass of contradictory fragments and nonsensical currents within our subconscious mind. This is now to extract meaningful information from the 100 trillion connections (ie: 100 billion neurons averaging 1000 connections each) in our brain. Above all, we must have respect for the primal passion of our subconscious mind. Suprisingly often, it will know more than we do. This is the key to all creative work. And this is the nature of revolutionary work.

(Continued in Part 3) (go to part 3, part 4 or part 5)

Updated 16th January 2011 at 14:16 by Ben Seattle

Decisive principles


  1. Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
    Answer: no one since there isn't one.
  2. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    Hi there Rosa,

    My title was: "Who Controls Your Subconscious Mind?"

    Your answer was: "No one since there isn't one."

    So, first, I would like to thank you for coming by and visiting my blog.

    Second, you have spirit.

    I like that.

    Third, my title was designed to be a bit provocative and grab your attention.

    You must admit--that this appears to have worked.

    Fourth, I hope you will visit and the read the following sections of this essay as I complete and post them.

    Fifth, concerning your assertion that the subscious mind (supposedly) does not exist:

    Do you have some other (ie: maybe better) phrase or terminology for those parts of your mind that might lie outside of the sphere of your immediate conscious awareness at the present moment?

    And, if not, is it your contention that such does not exist either?

    In other words, do you assert that, on the contrary, we all have conscious awareness of all parts of our mind at all times?

    Sixth, it is ok if you do not answer the questions above. Maybe you sense (on a subconscious level) that such an exchange would not support the assertion you have made?

    In any event, I look forward to developing an exchange of ideas with you, hopefully at the level of engagement with the more serious issues that are important for the recovery of our movement.

    All the best,
    Ben Seattle
  3. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    I changed the title of this article from "Who Controls Your Subconscious Mind?" to "Relaxation Will Reveal the Road to Victory" (which had been the sub-title) for two reasons:

    (1) It more accurately reflects the content and
    (2) after my experience (exchanging private messages) with one reader, I have concluded that my experiment in having a provocative title did not work because it tends to attract the wrong kind of energy (ie: impulsive and lacking in depth).


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