Monday, November 15, 2010

Vertigo, illyngophobia and humanity

We have fears. Since the onset of Meniere's Disease more than 20 years ago, I go through spells of illyngophobia, the fear of vertigo. This, for me, is the result of sudden attacks that make me unable to stand, the world is whirling, and I often vomit and just have to lie down, essentially paralyzed. Sometimes I'll get a warning feeling and that is how I know I have developed a sort of phobia. It is terrorizing, quite literally.

Interestingly, the long list of phobias to which we are susceptible includes those which are amusing to some, such as linonophobia, the fear of string. We get tetanophobia, a fear of tetanus, but how can someone be phobic about string? Well, a good investigative therapist might find out that the person was beaten frequently by a father who obsessively played with string--or that a string-loving cat had severely and frequently bitten and scratched the little infant. Perhaps either could create some sort of association with obscure, consciously unremembered roots.

I find it interesting that with the long list of phobias, many that seem completely obvious--tyrannophobia, fear of tyrants--there is no listed fear of violence. Why not?
A fear of violence is called being human. It needs no special name, as it is nearly universal, from birth, massively instinctual. What is sad is that there are some who are masochistic and sadistic, attracted to violence. The sickness of that may not be the fault of the sufferer, but in the case of the practicing sadist, that suffering is certainly spread around. I suppose the matchup between sadists who love to inflict pain and masochists who love to experience pain is up to those sick people, but our societal problems come when we act like a masochistic civil society. Indeed, that helps us understand nonviolent resistance in the first place; we need to stand and say, "I am not a sadist, so you may not kill and injure and threaten people in my name. I am not a masochist, so you may not expect my compliance when you rob from me to pay for inflicting violence on others."

Why is nonviolent resistance so rare? We are back to the normal fear of violence and other rough consequences. I've been grabbed, cuffed and stuffed, tossed in a cell, gone on trial and served time in jail and prison cells. What normal person would wish to be treated like that? None. The accusation by some that people who practice nonviolent resistance "want to go to jail" are 180 degrees wrong. I've met just one person in my entire 30 years of doing nonviolent resistance who might qualify for that description. I think she is either so free that prison is irrelevant to her or she is so institutionalized that life "on the outs" is a worse one than behind the walls. She is quite rare, unique in my not-so-limited experience.

But sometimes it is bad enough to prompt some of us fearful folk to offer up nonviolent resistance.

If it never gets that bad in your mind, please ask yourself if you are really paying attention. I am much more afraid of vertigo than of the power of the state to lock me up. The vertigo of violence is what our war system inflicts and if we ever wish to regain our balance, we need to overcome our natural fears.

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