Love for community & land, not fear, is a sustainable source of motivation
Part II. Pushing back against the pathologization of the "lack of motivation"
This is a continuation of a two-part series. Part I broke down the common myth that capitalism (to some degree) is the driving force behind human innovation & creativity. Today, we’ll specifically hit on the personal and collective impact of modern medicine’s pathologization of the lack of motivation which is considered a primary symptom or defect under almost all psychiatric disorder labels. Here’s Part I—
I also write a little about my experience in academic medicine as a case study of how systems that are framed as the pinnacle of creativity are designed to suppress the most beneficial forms of unprofitable innovation.
In the video, Ciro (my partner) & I talk about how our motivation has waxed & waned over the years depending on whether we were pushed to do harmful things & conform under institutions or beneficial things for our community. Through more political awareness, unlearning/ learning, we’ve realized that our greatest source of sustainable motivation will always be caring for our community members. Maybe our lack of motivation to succeed or joyfully & uncritically engage in oppressive systems is a sign of our burning desire for collective liberation?
Quick aside: You can still sign-up for the April Heal in Community session happening next Saturday, April 29!
Fear— capitalism & the state’s greatest tool
Since as far back as I can remember, fear has been a major motivator in my life. A dark ever-present cloud hanging over my head. Even in the moments where I was motivated by love or curiosity— this cloud lingered & gradually crept up onto me before it consumed me yet again. Fear of not having food/ water/ a roof over my head, fear of abandonment, fear of “failure”, fear of being unwanted/ alone/ neglected, fear of grief & sadness, fear of the unfamiliar or uncertainty, fear of the state & deportation, fear of not belonging anywhere, fear of being “wrong”… so much fear it became hard to tell what I was living for rather than just knowing what I was running from.
This isn’t just me, this is 99% of us. As a 4 year old entering school (this was in India which means it was modeled after the British education system), I was viscerally aware that I had to spend my childhood learning not to learn but to “prove” my worth, compete with my friends, all to one day have a shot at a “job” where I will essentially be someone’s glorified indentured servant so I can have shelter & eat. Even with community members caring for me, it was terrifying & confusing to suddenly be thrust into the capitalism’s claws & then slowly begin to unravel the many layers of marginalization that will make my life harder moving forward.
Fear was, at times, one hell of a motivator that jolted me up from my nightmares every morning as I pushed myself to work 100 hours a week. I entered romantic relationships afraid that I was unlovable, desperate to settle for anyone, rather than intentionally pursuing connection with a desire to build an equitable, nurturing, nourishing relationship. It hurt me & prevented me from showing up for the people I love. Ultimately, this constant deeply-ingrained fear gets us to do things that enable suffering for us personally & for the collective, even if we may not realize it in the moment.
Capitalism & the state intentionally create an ever-present atmosphere of fear (by depriving us of the right to live AND preventing us from building community or providing for each other). Institutions are designed to make us feel dependent on those in power & eternally at their mercy— this is why somatically stepping away from dominant social norms or even thinking outside these cages… feels terrifying.
Fear. THESE are the conditions which some claim are the “optimal” conditions for creativity. How can this possibly be? How is hanging a guillotine over people’s heads the optimal condition for them to be “inspired” & “motivated” to create or innovate? Do we really need the ever-present threat of death to motivate us? How can we possibly have accepted that depriving people of the right to life & dignity is what will bring “the best” out of them? How is an inequitable class-based system designed to hoard power & wealth in the hands of a few a system primed for innovation?
The antidote to fear is community care— only we can give each other the safety & stability that we deserve. The more I focus on building meaningful relationships and reconnecting with my cultural roots & the land, the more desire I have to be creative.
“Avolition”- against the pathologization of lack of motivation
From school to modern medicine, these systems are designed to blame us for our own misery, ailments and inability to thrive.
I learned recently that “Avolition” is a new medical term used increasingly in psychiatry to describe the chronic lack of motivation. It is described on many problematic “mental health” websites (like verywellmind, psychcentral etc) in very cringe ways. Here’s some snippets I copy pasted from these websites.
“Avolition is a term used to describe the lack of motivation or ability to do tasks or activities that have an end goal, such as paying bills or attending a school function.”
“The term avolition describes a significant decrease in initiation, motivation, and goal-directed behavior.1It is not a specific medical health condition but rather a symptom experienced by people with conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.”
Almost all “indicators” of avolition involve failure to comply, follow & obey capitalist/ colonial norms among which WORK is highlighted the most. “Lack of zest & passion for work related tasks” is supposedly the most common symptom.