Monday, November 15, 2010

How To Read Peoples' Diaries


      People seem to have the strangest relationship to disagreement. They seem to defend the most irrelevant assertions or differences in perspective as though the assertion of one variation of viewpoint over another threatened their very selves. They also treat a statement that contradicts or adds to the collective conception of what is true as an attack on territory-they mistake a suggestion of what might be true for an assertion, a command, an act of violence, an invasion of what is currently true. 

This is an everyday hassle for people of all walks of life (happens to everybody-watch drunks at bars argue sometime) but I see it as especially problematic in circles where language and critical thought are deliberately and consciously used to develop theory-a tool that reshapes thought and behavior in social life-circles like the social milieu of Anarchism and Punk Rock here in the US. In other words, we, who have made it our business to advance certain dialogues, seem to have placed ourselves in a position in which disagreement-the means by which dialogue is advanced-is a highly risky proposition. Slander and ostracism are no joke. Advance a dialogue once and it might take you years to find the courage to speak again. I want to find a way out of working this way, and I need your help to find it. This is an open conversation.
               If you tell people what you really think and feel, you put yourself in danger. Their ability to hurt you rests in their ability to touch on what you have always suspected about yourself-that your feelings and thoughts make you weak and foolish, that your thoughts are a theoretical dressing around your essential cravenness. Saying what you really think and feel is hazardous because nobody, no matter how earnest, can conform perfectly to the standards of their community, no matter which community they belong to.
           All communities, even (especially?) radical ones, tend toward a hegemony of thought-it’s part of what defines a group of people as a community in the first place. And while the tension between the standards of the group and the perspective of the individual is itself what lends dynamism to social groups, it’s just as easy to be judged an asshole for your honesty as it is to be a hero. Honesty offers no assurances.
        It is my intention to give you, reader, plenty to judge me with.
        I would rather not write than keep us both safe from my self, from what might later become Truth but what currently constitutes me, my thoughts, my feelings. I am at your mercy. I only hope your humanity is as strong as your politics.
    Nobody gets to speak or act, to say nothing of write, without being judged. Evaluation of actions and their consequences is a natural and indispensable part of social existence. You will judge me, which you should. But whatever judgement you make, and especially if you find something you disagree with, take your feelings and do something with them. All disagreements are potentially utilitarian; they all have a potential to turn into dialogue, which itself contains the potential seed of theory, the flashlight with which we stumble toward the Future, if you, reader, refuse to refuse to discuss them. It’s easy to stay in a social/theoretical space where ideas are Good or Bad, where they are considered as propositions or rejected outright; it’s easy (and, currently, less socially hazardous) to deal with an idea by agreeing with people that agree with you that this idea is Bad. It’s harder, and more useful, to take an idea that you disagree with seriously for a few moments. It is a leap of faith, and that leap of faith is the root of critical thought.

1 comment:

  1. I like this point you're making. It's hard not to get excited and defensive sometimes and, like you say, take a posited idea as something much more serious and meaningful. Not surprised this is came shortly after voting time. It's obvious that there are many anecdotes and examples begging to burst through the seams of this essay. I hope you let a couple of them. It would be a worthy challenge to think through how this concept plays out in different complicated real life scenarios (without airing anyone's dirty laundry somehow of course). Good writing fool!