Recently, after resting for a year,
I prepared myself to return to work for a large
bureaucratic company. The prospect of going
back into the corporate world filled me with
dread, but my money had run out so it looked
like I had no choice. I got the job after a
successful act of deception at the job interview.
This involved hiding all my real motivations
and feelings, and over-using words like opportunity
and challenge. The interviewer seemed
convinced that I was there out of free choice
and enthusiasm, rather than financial dilemma
and survival anxiety.
Financial anxiety turns most of
us into useful idiots, a term used
by the intelligence community, meaning those
who unwittingly end up serving the purposes
of others, while still believing in their own
freedom and autonomy. In the everyday world
of tedious wage-slavery, useful idiots can be
identified by their claim to like their jobs.
When so many people seem to enjoy being economic
slaves, or at least pretend to, one begins to
suspect something beyond deluded sentimentality
something sinister and pathological.
When so many people
seem to enjoy being economic slaves, one begins
to suspect something sinister and pathological.
Were living in an anxiety
culture and were driven by fear. If that
sounds like an exaggeration, take a look at
some figures. According to a recent major survey
commissioned by the government, more than 10
percent of the population suffer from a neurotic
anxiety disorder (1). The most common
problem is a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder,
affecting 7 percent of people. Vast quantities
of tranquillisers and anti-depressants are prescribed
in the UK eighty million prescriptions
in 1994, and rapidly rising since (2).
Sixty percent of employees suffer from feelings
of insecurity and anxiety. Forty three percent
have problems sleeping because of work worries.
Fifty four percent fret over inadequate income
This statistical picture seems at
odds with the grinning, self-assured yuppie
reality beamed into our living rooms during
commercial breaks. The advertisers portray a
world where all normal people drive expensive
new cars and smile perpetually. The message
is: good sex-bonding is available only to those
who live like this. The use of sex in advertising
may seem crude and obvious, but the effect,
through repetition, is to emotionally sensitise
social comparison, so people feel humiliated
driving old cars, for example. No one is really
immune from these social-comparison anxieties,
not even the marketers themselves a recent
survey shows advertising executives to be plagued
by self-doubt and insecurity (4).
Schools are factories
for turning carefree souls into obedient, economically
There are strong vested interests
in keeping public anxiety at a high level. Anxious
people make good consumers they tend
to eat and drink compulsively, need more distractions
(newspapers, TV, etc) and more external buttressing
of their fragile self-image through lifestyle
products and status symbols. Insurance companies
and the whole financial services industry make
billions from our financial insecurities. The
unsubtle targeting of our fears is evident in
adverts for vehicle recovery services, cars,
alarms, security systems, mobile phones, private
health care, chewing gum, deodorant and so on.
Employers benefit if the workers fear losing
their jobs fearful people are less likely
to complain or rebel. Studies show that people
are more suggestible and compliant when anxious.
Politicians quote public fears as
justification for more freedom-eroding legislation.
Insecure populations show a tendency to elect
authoritarian governments. You can probably
think of many more examples. In a word, governments
and corporations gladly reap the harvests of
high public anxiety.
Anxiety can be induced in a population
by constantly focusing on the threat of crime
in an exaggerated way. This has the advantage
of directing fear towards bad individuals
who break the law, rather than the institutions
which make the laws. In a recent MORI poll,
half of those questioned believed that tabloid
newspapers have a vested interest in making
people more afraid of crime. In 1995, the makers
of Frontline, a Channel 4 documentary
on crime, requested interviews with the editors
of the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Sun, Daily
and Sunday Express, Today, People and
Star, to ask how they justified their
sensationalised crime coverage. They all refused
to be interviewed (5).
The real function of
individual responsibility is social
The news headlines often give the
impression of paedophiles or killers on every
street corner, murdering every passing child.
The official statistics present a much different
picture. According to government figures only
five children are murdered by strangers each
year in England and Wales, on average (6).
Most child homicides are in fact committed by
the parents. Over the last 25 years there has
been no increase in child murder by strangers.
The overall murder rate (all ages) is the same
now as it was in 1857 (roughly 13 per million
of the population per year) (7).
Unfortunately, many people believe
the crime hype. A third of elderly women fear
going outside, but only one in 4000 will be
assaulted (8). Statistically, the elderly
and young children are the groups least at risk
from attack but because the newspapers
cover all violent crimes involving the
young and the very old, they seem common. Meanwhile,
the climate of fear being created is out of
all proportion to the real threat of crime for
One effect of our over-stimulated
fear of crime is increased paranoia and suspicion.
If I take a stroll through the park, will the
woman ahead think Im stalking her? If
I see a child in distress, do I assist or mind
my own business? Some school teachers were recently
reported to be in difficulty deciding whether
to apply sun-protection lotion to young children.
On one hand there was the risk of skin cancer,
and on the other the risk of child sex-abuse
accusation. Welcome to anxiety society.
The climate of fear
being created is out of all proportion to the
real threat of crime for most people.
Most anxiety results from what weve
been thinking, rather than external events.
Were immersed in fear-inducing belief
systems, but its invisible to us. Unfortunately,
exposure to these fearful beliefs starts in
early childhood, before we can develop any intellectual
defences. We receive a thorough anxiety
conditioning, which is our real childhood
education. Schools are factories for turning
carefree souls into obedient, economically frightened
clones. Children are also exposed daily to the
anxious thoughts of their parents generally
known as parental concern, although
the less sentimentally inclined may prefer to
call it neurosis. Parents demonstrate how loving
and responsible they are by worrying all the
time. This is regarded as perfectly normal in
So what are the main anxiety-inducing
beliefs? Perhaps the most insidious is original
sin the notion that, in essence,
were morally bad, and must
redeem ourselves through hard work and suffering.
This beliefs poisonous tentacles reach
into your mind, causing you to see life as a
burden to endure, rather than as a fantastic
adventure. It manifests as the idea that youre
infinitely undeserving that reward, ie
happiness, will always be contingent upon the
endurance of some unpleasant activity such as
work. It surfaces as the feeling that youre
not good enough, or that something is wrong
with you a tendency exploited to the
maximum by big business. It also makes you feel
The original sin worldview can,
however, be subverted with psychological gimmicks.
For example, try believing that you deserve
to be paid for doing nothing. Dismiss the notion
that you have to earn anything.
You earned your life by being born now
you deserve to relax. Quit your job and go on
holiday, or call in sick as often as possible.
Remove all forms of guilt from your mind. Go
to extremes of laziness and indulge yourself
deluxe-style every day. Spend the day in bed
watching videos, eating Belgian chocolates and
drinking Green Chartreuse, or whatever gets
you relaxed and high then take it easier
in fear-inducing belief systems, but theyre
invisible to us.
Another insidious anxiety-inducer
to watch out for is the belief that you should
be responsible. This puts people under tremendous
strain. You dont choose your genetic make-up
or the conditions in which you grow up, yet
all the unfortunate things that happen are your
fault. This sense of responsibility is obviously
false you cant even be responsible
for your next thought. True responsibility would
require all-seeing, all-knowing divine power
its not something for fallible
individuals to attempt.
Of course, the real function of
individual responsibility is social
conformity. Society holds you accountable if
you dont comply with its definition
of your responsibilities. Its a big social
con-trick with the responsible
individual as dupe. The attraction of
responsibility (all con-tricks have an attraction)
is that it allows people total conformity without
removing the facade of individuality
its the kind of concept that advertising
agencies dream about.
Responsibility sees everything as
a problem needing a solution usually
involving endless work and expenditure. Its
part of a conspiracy of stupidity undermining
claims that we can work less and take it easy.
Any intelligent attempt to drastically cut working
hours is resisted on the basis that its
irresponsible. As a result we continue to work
for a responsible (but arbitrary) 40 hours a
week instead of a more sensible 40 minutes.
Politicians the experts on
responsibility see joblessness as the
ultimate irresponsible lifestyle. It never occurs
to them that their idea of responsibility might
not be universal. Many people feel a responsibility
to quit work in order to widen their knowledge
and develop their potential. From this viewpoint,
work is an irresponsible cop-out
a last refuge of the fearful and ignorant.