Love, Money & Being Ungovernable

I am addicted to the promise of love. 

I am addicted to the promise of love. 

It is two a.m., the light of the blinding star of street security streams through my window, and I’m fighting sleep — my friend, ostensibly — waiting for a notification from you. Waiting for that hit of euphoria. For all I know, you’re already fast asleep, dreaming about anything or anyone else but me — but behind this screen, at this moment when I can’t quite conceptualize you as real consumed by waiting as I am, I’m free to project my addiction onto you. 

It’s dangerous, the promise of love. I learned about relationship anarchy some months ago and it clicked — the political practice of decoupling your interpersonal relationships structures from the colonial, capitalist templates conditioned into our brains. The practice, more or less, of building connections to people based on what we actually want — hugs, a shopping buddy, a cooking partner, sex, a co-parent, all of these desires separate from one another — rather than adhering to a prebaked set of expectations and then placing all of them onto a single person. 

But GOD, sometimes I just want to be bugged all the time by someone who can’t get enough of me, even if in practice it would be horribly irritating and restrictive to be devoted mindbodysoul to one other, limited, flawed person. I crave the daily psychological and emotional pain inflicted upon my ancestors by economic and social conditions far less restricted than mine. Why?! The seduction of capitalist romance has centuries of carefully weeded and sculpted cultural muscle to stand itself up with. It promises eternal bliss, a mindless and symphonically washed out happily ever after. Never mind the generations of children scarred by parental relationships that lasted too long, marriages whose strongest merits are tax or citizenship-related. Never mind that love is totally antithetical to the very fabric of the US economic society, never mind that capitalism breeds addiction and not love because the former, not latter, is what compels people to become customers and consumers, keeping cycles of demand going long after their expiration date, colonizing new generations into seeking an unlimited stream of dopamine and oxytocin from other members of a universally limited species. Limits are not a bad thing. Boundaries are good, actually. 

I learned about love from bell hooks, who defines love (in her book All About Love) as “[a] choice…made to nurture growth…To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication” (hooks, 2001). Love is political because our relationships are political; not only the ones that were or are still explicitly or implicitly illegal but purely by virtue of how money and love are locked in a centuries-old battle to claim dominance in our relations to each other. The trouble of course is that with enough money, you can create a culture that defines and teaches love a certain way — you can create books, ad campaigns, film, news networks, religious and educational institutions, and companies that market love as a feeling you get through the satisfaction of possession. That bag must be mine — two hundred dollars later, I love this bag. I love your dress! Where did you get it? I love you — you’re mine and I’m yours. Do you want me? 

We subjects of the United States empire have not yet collectively escaped the psychological inheritance of society built on people owning each other as property — which both begets the treatment of love as possession and that of people as disposable for their flaws and mistakes — because the empire in question reproduces this culture as a fundamental function of its survival, like industrial factories producing cancers as an inevitable aspect of their existence. All this is inherently tied up in carceral culture, which has of course led to a large body of work by prison abolitionists like Mariame Kaba on

concepts of love. Are our relationships transactional, or are they other? Could we become ungovernable by the forces of money, the owners of superyachts, and the creators of cancers, if for a start we all understood and taught each other and ourselves about love as something beyond the simple pursuit and possession of disposable objects? 

What are unions, after all, holy or otherwise, but agreements to partner up in the pursuit of mutual spiritual and practical happiness? What is the radical labor movement, both of old militancy and modern ferocity behind Starbucks counters, if not a political practice to reclaim dignity and quality of daily life for individuals based on collective partnership? What, ultimately, is so different between class liberation and the liberation of our practices of love? 

For myself, every day is another day to break myself free bit by bit of the all-surrounding, always-nagging culture of love as possession. The obsession of consumption. We weren’t put on this planet to swallow each other, nor to throw each other away. Decolonizing love in ourselves is a practice that inevitably heralds rebellion. To become ungovernable by the promise of codependence may be the single most terrifying and powerful first act we can commit against the forces killing us and our planet. 

Reading list: 

  • All About Love by bell hooks 
  • We Do This Till We Free Us by Mariame Kaba

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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