Imagine what kind of country we would have if people had as much fun voting as they do catching a drink with their loved ones. Imagine if you dressed up to go to a Community Council meeting. What if there were magazines full of beautiful people discussing all the latest trends in legislation. The Dopamine Party is out to cross your wires.
It doesn’t take a weather man to tell you both the parties blow. Whether it’s the Republican or Democratic party, mindless adherence to either is worth rolling your eyes at. While I’m not one to falsely equate the left and the right, I will admit there are a number of reasons to be disgruntled with the money-driven, sweaty-rat-handshake party politics that seems too often to stalk and saturate work done under the standard of either the “Big Blue D” or the “Fat Red R.”
The Zeitgeist has turned on the two parties, leaving a great number of Americans mired in doldrum apathy. When you ask someone their political orientation, what are you most likely to hear?
“Who cares, right? They don’t.”
“Oh I’m not for either side.”
“The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.”
Others say the truth is instead in the wings; a growing collection of malcontents mutter “Two Party Paradigm Corruption” to each other post-election, calling themselves either Progressives or Libertarians. In many ways, the radicals and the plebian apathetics want the same things:
A safe home
A healthy family
Freedom to live out the promise of our be-wigged and be-nobled forebears: The pursuit of Happiness.
It is in this spirit, ladies and gentlemen, that I humbly put before you, “The Dopamine Party.”
I’m going to give you a little science here, so bear with me.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that lives in your brain and fires up when something really good is happening to your human body. Your responses to the brush of a leg, that one song from high school, a happy dog running toward you, all these are things which unleash a surge of dopamine into your brain. Psychology Today says that dopamine regulates “emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. .”
That’s the most significant bit. Dopamine lets you know what’s good, then tells you to go and get it. It’s how your biological heritage gets you conditioned to do things that encourage evolutionarily successful behavior. Things like eating, drinking, lying in a comfy bed, getting social approval, having sex. Dopamine is the wind rushing against your face when you’re falling in love. Or even when you’re doing something you love. If more Americans lived like that, things might be pretty awesome.
Hence, the Dopamine Party.
Pleasure Molecule Heart Ornament from What, No Mints? at Etsy.com
This is the party of doing the things you love, with the people you love. This is the party of blanket forts, of skiing highs, of spooning and being spooned. This is the party of spending eight hours creating, building, breaking…anything. Even if you aren’t that good at it. Certain good things content the biological human within you, and the love of creation and each other is what makes us something more.
But we’re not done. The platform of the Dopamine Party is simple, but unyielding. Not only does the Dopamine Party support your pursuit of all that which doses you with dopamine, it requires you recognize the rights of others to the same. That’s all, and then you’re in.
There’s just one caveat. We heard it growing up, something about a Golden Rule? But in the midst of driving our cars, breaking up, developing drinking problems and worrying about money, we’ve hardly put it into practice. This is probably because shit’s really hard right now and if everyone would just give you a break for one goddamn second you wouldn’t have to be so mean all the time. We hear you, parents and drama queens. That’s exactly what we’re all about. You’re way more likely to be less of a jerk-muffin, or even actually do something helpful for another person, if you’re being well treated yourself.
There’s actually some science to back that up too.
Dr. Gabor Maté, keynote speaker at the Alaska Public Health Summit this month, has contributed to the growing body of works on the effect that dopamine, and the deprivation thereof, has on brain circuitry, particularly in the first few years of life. According to Dr. Maté and others, growing up in a house that isn’t safe, being the victim of any kind of abuse, being abandoned, these things keep you from developing a healthy dopamine circuitry. This affects how you form attachments, your ability to focus, your mood, impulse control. Later in life, this can mean drug addiction, as you seek to fill the desperate void, depression, criminality, further abuse, prison, death.
It would seem we have a means to break the cycle.
“Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle.” – Bertrand Russell.
Commit an act of love. Come on, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and there shouldn’t be any kids on this blog. (ProTip: do it before your big dinner date or binge.) And when you’re done, recognize the right of another do that same thing. Safely. Happily.
George Orwell understood it, in the classic sci-fi novel, “1984.” In a dystopian world of complete and crushing repression and surveillance, the author shows us that love and sex are the most fundamental way to rebel against those who would put a choke hold on our freedoms. He posits and the Dopamine Party agrees: Acts of love are a kind of activism. And activism without love is just party politics. On a chemical level, passion is passion, whether it’s fighting for justice in a guerrilla war, writing the Watergate story, feeding a stranger’s child or holding tight to the one you love. It’s dopamine that gets you there.
That includes geek-dom, because that sets it off too. The Dopamine Party means the right to totally geek out, whether it be to Skyrim, Shakespeare or monster trucks. The right to marry the person your heart dictates. The right to love your God.
“But,” say those of you who have taken a seminar class, “Isn’t this all just neurology-babble-covered-hedonism?”
To a point, yes, smarty-pants, perhaps.
Hedonism asserts the best possible life comes from pursuit of that which is pleasing. Hedonism is therefore self-regulating because too many chocolate bars results in a stomach ache, which is not pleasing, and therefore it would not be pursued under Hedonistic guidance. It also butts hard against the stony goat forehead of both the Greek Stoic tradition and our New World Puritan heritage, to which we still irrationally cling. But let’s look long and hard at the hypocritical mess those approaches have landed us in and ask whether maybe we could please, please try something else.
You may also say The Dopamine Party is vaguely reminiscent of nineties NeoCons’ disastrous Enlightened Self Interest, which rallied d-bags in fast cars to sell liar loans to Americans and as a result, nearly destroyed the global economy. This isn’t like that. The Dopamine Party is based on the ability to recognize what someone else truly loves, feels passionate about, and recognize their right to protect it. Perhaps their home, their retirement fund, their grandkids.
“But what if killing people makes me happy? Or raising irritating questions, for that matter?” First, it probably doesn’t, you obstreperous YouTube commenter, and if it does, I beg you to turn yourself in to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and commit yourself to a lifetime of Jeopardy and Jell-O. Nonetheless, you raise a valid hypothetical. In such a case, we can look at the net quantity of dopamine either gained or lost as a result of your actions. We can deduce this from feelings in your own brain and the brains of those around you, and reach conclusions about your actions in that way. In this tragically complicated and (to anyone with half an eyeball open) morally complex world, the Dopamine Party provides a humane yet quantifiable metric.
We don’t require you give up your current party affiliation. We don’t ask you to swear an oath or put on a badge, or even attend meetings. The Dopamine Party is just a name for the office already present in the chemicals of our minds, as social primates. It follows the precepts set down in the Constitution of our DNA.
Rebecca was raised in Alaska and is continually fascinated by the way its communities grow and change. Her interests include housing and homelessness, food and transportation policy, and new ways to think about “economic growth.” When not working, Rebecca enjoys the local film scene and spending time with her beloved St. Bernard.