Coping with Long-term Militarization - how?
June 5, 2020 4:33 AM   Subscribe

How have people in other places and times dealt with long-term military-related upheaval? Can you share books or point me to personal experiences? Example: do people just go to work and not discuss it with colleagues to avoid disagreement? Do they go home and play video games?

I am arranging therapy but I'm skeptical that will suffice. This isn't like trying to manage a personal crisis. Others have survived. How? I reached my breaking point and stopped watching the news after the DC wtfery but that doesn't help when I can imagine what's going on and deeply fear the inevitable future.
I'm not looking for yoga tips or religion. I'm looking for "I was living in X place while this happened, here's what happened, how we managed day-to-day."
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My parents lived through worse conditions than I can imagine seeing in the US anytime soon: bloody regime change And upheaval that saw tanks on the streets, and several years of a long war. My uncle and several other relatives were imprisoned and my young pregnant aunt was killed (civilian casualty) in a bombing. What worked for them was maintaining social routines to whatever extent possible. For eg They got married in a dark room in the midst of unrest because someone cut the power to their neighborhood that evening in retaliation for an attack
They found it provided the emotional anchor they needed, and helped keep them sane and tethered to reality. It helped break up the incessant ruminations and intrusive thoughts about what was happening to their lives and nation

It was traumatizing but humans are amazingly resilient and after a certain period they naturally adjusted and survived, psychologically intact
posted by shaademaan at 5:48 AM on June 5 [6 favorites]

There are a lot of accounts of the last gasps of communism in eastern Europe during the 70s and 80s. You might be particularly interested in Vaclav Havel's "The Power of the Powerless", which is a more theoretical approach.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:35 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]

I would suggest How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed and Sarajevo: Survival Guide, which I'd describe as darkly comic.
posted by FencingGal at 7:39 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]

A Woman In Berlin survived the occupation of her city by the Red Army.
posted by Rash at 8:50 AM on June 5

Hi, I grew up in a communist Eastern European dictatorship; for me or others my age there was no before and after, since we were kids and didn't know anythings else (so maybe this isn't what you are looking for).

- As people are saying above, a lot of life routines. You still have a tummy that can ache, teeth that need brushing, you still need shoues to walk in, people you need or want to talk to, a way to earn your existence etc. Given that all these things are harder to take care of if only because of psychological reasons at times, you have to focus on them intently.

- Most of the time, the anxiety you feel is at the level of 'zebra aware that she lives in an environment where lions can pop up at any time', not 'zebra currently being chased by lions', which is good in some ways, but disastrous in others. Big time yes to escapism: playing cards, books, music, nature. Big feelings about personal stuff, weary indifference and reactivity when it comes to public stuff. I think in some ways your situation is worse - we felt (and where) so personally impotent that there was 0 guilt associated with escapism (even now I feel bemused when people in the west talk about it as a morally bad thing - it's pure survival and you take it where you get it!)

- People. Making an effort to be good and forgiving. Forgiving yourself when you feel peevish, angry, or even irate. But without people you have nothing.

- Related to people - we are much more physical than what I've seen in (some) western cultures. Touching people and being touched anchores you.

- This is a strategy I have developed and, I'm sure, has helped me survive, at certain times (I've sort of lost it in the last few years and it shows): romanticize the shit out of my situation. Read adventure stories that somehow echo our/ my situation, mainly stuff set in very dominance-and-power-determined social setting where you could use wit, or cleverness, or playing dumb, or anything other than physical force to subvert TPB, and then play out similar scenarios in real life. The Brave Soldier Svejk became a personal inspiration (and I realize I Svejk up cerain interactions even now). This might not work in an older person, and I know escapism is seen as a moral failure, but personally I don't even know how I would exist as a person/ have an inner life without it.

- For many people what was helpful was to keep in mind what kind of life is POSSIBLE. Don't allow the mire of the current to swallow you; daydream if that's what serves, or be more analytical - whatever works for you. This CAN have a darker side when you wake up from your daydreams, but many of us of all ages had some sort of dream for elsewhere or elsewhen, as it were, and they kept us ticking.

- Be ready and train yourself to see opportunities and grab them instantly when they present themselves, whatever they might be. This is true for the mundane (like if you saw produce, you insta-queue) but also for more abstract things.

- This is kind of the opposite of daydreaming in some ways - be as present as possible with the minutia of your minute-to-minute environment. For some, this meant escaping into nature as much as possible, others virtually compulsive socializing, when you read, read with your whole being, like a dog sleeps with a passion, learn to feel extasy listening to music, whatever it is.

- Refuse to overstretch yourself unless it's really worth it (this and probably many of the others don't apply to a warzone). There is so much statal-social pressure already, avoid people who would heap their own pressure on top of that. I grew up in a fairly dysfunctional family with tons of threads of dominance dynamics interweaving, and I think that was harder than the external stuff. You're an adult - eliminate toxic people from your life while wishing them well. Living in a dysfunctional society is difficult enough without allowing others to get you to breaking point in your personal life.

- Having said that, just people. Other people, whether that's Beethoven or your neighbours or your best friends.

We also had a revolution, but honestly I found that incredibly exciting as a young teen, which I wouldn't find very useful 30 years later.

The last thing I will say is that it was at a very young age that I also reflected very much on how I would react in certain circumstances (like, would I betray a friend if tortured? These were not entirely theoretical questions - we had a few family members who had been to political prison etc and were still as a family somewhat 'under observation'). It is then I decided I'd try to act in such a way that I can live with myself, but not to hold myself to an impossible standard. I tried to figure out what in meant to act in a way that I can respect and also under what circumstances I would forgive myself if I didn't. At the time I knew nothing about things like mental fatigue, depression, etc; I'd just hear/ read about torture methods and tried to figure out which I could live through without doing the 'bad thing; whatever that was. I since learned that mental circumstances can be as bad as physical stuff and that depression for example can make you do things you cannot fully respect. You just learn to forgive yourself and do differently next time.

I hope you find a way to a new balance and truly hope that this is a watershed moment in the US.
posted by doggod at 4:39 PM on June 5 [10 favorites]

Sorry, after a long answer I still have 2 things to say:

1. It was traumatizing but humans are amazingly resilient and after a certain period they naturally adjusted and survived, psychologically intact.

In reference to shaademaan's words above, I'd strongly agree with the first part (though I wouldn't say as a people we are psychologically intact; I think even now we are suffering from collective trauma, privately felt). But I really agree about human resilience. I can't tell you how much laughter and joie de vivre there was interspersed with the more terrifying or depressing times.

2. I think my previous answer can be summarized as 'create spaces for human bonds, joy, even ecstasy, and abandon' and 'create spaces and activity for self-respect and self-love'.

I say self-respect rather than self-esteem because in my head self-esteem also presupposes self-efficacy, confidence that you can positively impact your environment. This is hard if not impossible to have, at least in some regards. Find where the difference between the two is for you.
posted by doggod at 4:51 PM on June 5 [3 favorites]

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