On Tolerating Not-Me

and on abstracting broken people

How can we not all be broken, at this strange point in time where so much has ended and so little has yet begun? We are dependent on the world the sociopaths continue to destroy. We are dependent on each other but we are nowhere to be found. We are the raggedy out-breath of a person whose body needs the forest but is sleeping under a cardboard box in the corner of a car park.

How can we not all be broken, at this strange point in time where so much has ended and so little has yet begun? We are dependent on the world the sociopaths continue to destroy. We are dependent on each other but we are nowhere to be found. We are the raggedy out-breath of a person whose body needs the forest but is sleeping under a cardboard box in the corner of a car park.

How can we not all be broken, at this strange point in time where so much has ended and so little has yet begun? We are dependent on the world the sociopaths continue to destroy. We are dependent on each other but we are nowhere to be found. We are the raggedy out-breath of a person whose body needs the forest but is sleeping under a cardboard box in the corner of a car park.

No, fuck that broad consideration. Now, if you want to talk about strengthening men while at the same you’re strengthening women, you’re not strong but you’re weak. You’re giving into timeworn conceits of playing the role of the female nurturer, abandoning yourself in order to perpetuate the patriarchy.

Identity politics in the hands of people who have abandoned themselves to abstraction will never be anything more than a tool of personal gratification. It’s not that it goes too far; it’s that it never goes far enough. It is ahistorical, a boat cast loose from living experience by an abstracted theorising and a square tweet boz. It will never achieve anything more than an instant panacea, a sherbert tingle of self-righteousness, achieving nothing. It sees people as unchangeable, as carved in stone. It likens itself to radical progressiveness but it is as centrist and as Fukayama as they come.

I’ve found in my personal life that to gain an understanding of how life may look to someone, to see more clearly how they got to be where they are, is not to abandon myself to them.

There are people who I will never speak to again because they are incapable of treating me with the kind of respect I now insist upon. But to try to gauge why they may be the way they are? To desire to come to an understanding of them, even if you must remain separated from them for your own wholeness? That is not weakness. That is taking a step outside of yourself in order to begin the process of undemonisation. That is Rumi’s field — out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there. You may not always be able to meet someone there, but you can certainly inspect them from there.

To refuse to reduce others to manageable caricatures is at this point of time a revolutionary act. And you can be sure that whenever you do choose to see frail humans as something beyond their awful behaviour, the same shitty way they have behaved will also be ascribed to you. Guilt be association. It’s the terminal cancer of intellectual abstractionists.

I suspect we shoot the messenger because we are so weighed down by our own awful loneliness, by the heavy shame that’s been piled on us from multiple angles living in this version of this world, that until we work out how to find some kind of release from this relentless pain we are unable to resist othering everybody else. When you have lost any sense of connection to those you historically depend upon, you lose not only your ability to see your own reflection in a mirror but you ascribe to everyone-who-is-not-you a gargoylish creepiness.

And when you see some strange people getting about being so accepting and tolerant of the unacceptable, you are filled with rage at their stupidity. How dare they be so accepting of their friends and relatives who are overtly racist, or are showing awful signs of white supremacy? After all, we know that people are set in stone, unchangeable. We read them flat, like icons, and so if they are racist now, they will always be so. We owe them nothing. They deserve our contempt. It is acceptable for us to cut off all of those people because they stand condemned by their current position and they deserve to fucking well die.

I listened to Russell Brand’s Under the Skin podcast interview with Jordan Peterson the other day. I actively sought it out which, according to the prevailing purity code of guilt-by-association means that I am now a Nazi sympathiser or something. But the reality is, I find people who are not exactly like me quite interesting. I understand that from the extremely dark edges of young American liberal faux-progressivism, for people who have grown up in horribly rocky soil and who are scrabbling to put the shards of glass of a fragmented society into something cohensive so they know who the hell they are, that this is weakness.

But I have never found it to be anything other than a source of strength. The more I have understood that diversity runs through not just race, gender, culture but also through thoughts, ideas, imaginations, the more I have understood how I myself am positioned in relation to those who I am not. It becomes an anti-reaction serum, most especially after you’ve considered a range of ideas about complicated, paradoxical subjects from different angles and found, a little dispiretedly, that there is no right way to think about some issues, even if we can agree on some wrong ones.

It is dispiriting to learn how non-binary the world can be.

And so even though I quite dislike Jordan Peterson’s ideas on politics, I very much like listening to him talk. Even if he seems stodgy in his thinking. Especially when he recounts how, though not a conservative himself, he has received tens of thousands of comments from people — likely mostly young white men — thanking him for bringing them back from the brink of white supremacist ideology.

But of course that’s not likely the way he will end up being viewed. He will come to be seen as a white supremacist himself. Because that’s how excessive abstraction makes some of us roll now, in the relentless Purity Olympics of guilt by association.