We conflate familiarity with safety & it prevents our personal + political growth
Microdosing on change- a sustainable approach to embrace the unknown
Anything can be normalized if we are gradually eased into it. Anything that is completely ridiculous, violent, abusive, no matter how preposterous can become “normal” if… we are slowly and gradually exposed to it over time without experiencing any alternatives. It begins to define our reality and eventually prevents us from imagining possibilities outside the realm of what feels “familiar”. This doesn’t just apply to the personal sphere. Capitalism and the state are forced onto us as the ‘way it’s always been’. Competition & exploitation of the many by a few is framed as ‘natural’. It explains why it can be so hard for us to dismantle our internalized capitalism/ colonialism- like the cop in our head.
Capitalism and the state groom us to fear change through out our lives and prime us to categorize the unfamiliar as ‘dangerous’. This is done by slowly conditioning us to somatically feel “safe” with whatever we are most familiar with even if it is oppression. Flash forward- we’ve normalized living in a lonely society where no one has the right to live. We are socialized since birth to cling to the status quo because we are told “the monster you know is better than the monster you don’t know”. But what if change and deviation from these oppressive norms wasn’t a monster at all but collective liberation? How can we be more critical of what the state has told us to fear as ‘the monster’ & ‘the other’? How can awareness of our personal & collective trauma help us practice & build alternatives in our relationships? How can we ease into personal and political change such that it is sustainable?
The personal is political
Capitalism/ colonialism, carceral systems like prisons and police, hierarchical systems like education, colonial healthcare systems that individualize our distress and all parts of the oppressive state— it’s all we’ve ever known which makes it exceedingly difficult for us to question our “reality”. I feel visceral pain and anxiety even questioning the way I’ve been socialized to obey and conform. I feel embarrassed that I’ve uncritically engaged in the rat race competing with a superiority complex believing I am innately “better than” my peers based on made up metrics that are designed to pit us against each other. I feel discomfort when I think about the oppressive norms I’ve internalized.
Unlearning involves me first admitting that the way I’ve existed thus far may not be serving me or my community in any capacity. A million environmental/ sociopolitical variables influence the trajectory of this journey. When it’s time for me to face hard truths, I consistently feel ashamed and afraid of being “wrong”. But, all this is a result of me centering my own “personal” journey as though this isn’t a collective, shared struggle. This is me thinking the personal is not political. When I think about my trauma or my pain or even the hurt I’ve caused others through a political lens, I realize that I’ve been socialized with an individualistic ego which makes even evolution and growth feel “unsafe”.
It may be difficult to dismantle our egos & the cops in our head planted by capitalism but without doing so, we remain stuck, disassociated, numb, robotically accepting the monotony of capitalism, unable to even begin to imagine alternatives. Without understanding how the personal and the political are ONE and the same- at best, we end up chasing the illusion of happiness without ever truly embodying it. Most importantly, if we don’t dissect the trauma we’ve experienced from being socialized under oppressive systems (ALL OF US), we end up blaming ourselves or each other for our misery. We end up turning inward or on each other. We end up sticking to the familiar even if it is hurting us- both in the personal and political realm.
Oppression is slowly titrated over our lifetime
The state makes sure to titrate oppression gradually over time, capturing us in our childhood (our first exposure to the world) and this is how any form of violence & brutality becomes “normal” to us. Even if we think we understand oppression, we may fail to realize how we embody oppressive norms, carceral values and individualism in our daily life merely because we’ve had these concepts drilled into us. State propaganda shapes our perception of the self and the world.
It takes a lot of intentional effort to build self-awareness & practice accountability with compassion in relationships. It’s hard to know when we’re falling back on our own bulls**t or being self-centered. It’s difficult to identify when we’re falling back on binaries of good/ bad or right/ wrong or when we’re uncritically projecting our hurt and trauma onto people around us by embodying the values of the empire. However, breaking our own patterns, being critical of our feelings instead of always presuming they are valid or “correct”, and just practicing moving thru conflict with mutual compassion- this is how we practice liberation.
The personal is the political. In fact, the state is aware of this which is why it wants us to caress our egos, compete with each other, pursue being ‘right’ or ‘better than’ others, avoid relational conflict or approach it solely with combativeness instead of mutual understanding. Oppressive systems wouldn’t stand without people being pit against each other- divide and conquer is the oldest tactic of colonialism.
What is familiar & ‘normal’ to you? Question it.
We’ve normalized living in a world where we have to earn the right to live and fight for crumbs thrown at us even though resources are abundant. We’ve normalized spending the majority of our lives toiling away, living paycheck to paycheck, one major health or personal crisis away from being homeless. We’ve normalized having no time or free will to do things that make us happy as we spend the majority of our day coping with the strict confines of a capitalist society. The oppression of many communities has been normalized such that we think poverty, inequity and state violence is “normal” for some to experience more than others. We’ve normalized being grateful for “personal achievements” like a degree, job, promotion, weekends, vacation, accolades etc.
We’ve normalized the meaningless, self-centered, aimless pursuit of “success” within capitalist systems (beyond what is needed for our survival) without ever questioning how that could possibly make us happy. Contentment comes from being in community not being successful and alone. We’ve normalized aspiring to accumulate material possessions to exponentially grow our net worth and achieve arbitrary goals like a marriage and a white picket-fence life. So we end up living milestone to milestone chasing the carrot capitalism dangles in front of us which is an illusion of a “happy future” to justify any suffering or self-exploitation in the present.
Whether we are aware of it or not, oppressive systems take a detrimental toll on our wellbeing and the health of our relational dynamics. No one waltzes into healthy, equitable relationships because inequitable, transactional relationships is what we’re born into and socialized to create. OPPRESSION IS THE NORM. Inequity is the norm. This also means that LIBERATION IS NOT THE NORM and our sheer unfamiliarity with freedom makes it feel very unsafe in our bodies.
Reciprocal relationships are not only NEW to us but also can feel terrifying because we’ve never been taught how to build them….