More Paralysis Than Usual

For weeks now, I cannot write, I cannot speak clearly, I cannot communicate well. I’m not visibly upset, I’m more… endlessly analytical. Deeply concerned. Skeptical.

Reading the news right now acts as a kind of low-grade stimulant, it feeds you a cheap, sweaty kind of buzz. More DMAA than street crank or Ritalin.

(DMAA is a banned performance enhancer. It was the stuff that was in all the energy supplements that used to work, the ‘old’ formulas. The ones that always tasted of artificial cherry and plastic, and kept you up all night if you were dumb enough to bang it in the afternoon.)

I fully expected every revolting detail of the last week in American political life, it’s just that I’m also unprepared for watching it happen. It reminds me of being punched. You can expect it, but when you actually really get hit, there’s an instant process of being re-familiarised with the sensation. You are never fully ready for it, for the violence implied by the corruption of your wetware, and for the curiously personal component of what was previously abstract pain. This is the same.

When not working, I endlessly consume media in a variety of forms, attempting to analyse, to find an emotional center to the self-harm. The enormity of the discussion taking place all over the world right now is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I try to fit it all in my head, and at some point even the most heartfelt and legitimate expressions of outrage become anodyne. There’s so many of them, and they’re stacked like cordwood. Trying to read them all is like trying to eat a Madam Tussaud’s sculpture.

My sleep has graduated from its normal ‘patchy’ to ‘robustly awful’. I learned years ago not to fight this, I stay up until I’m tired. “Just go to bed earlier!” I will lie fully awake in bed with my eyes open, and it will feel like I am making a mockery of the thing.

I am beset with confusion over things I wish to say clearly. The normally straight line between thought and script is bent and buggered and banjaxed. Every sentence is deleted and re-written. A good day used to be more than 1000 words. Right now, it’s any words at all.

I admire the people who are manning the barricades, and producing valuable work right now. Documenters and dissenters. They’re writing what will probably be part of an important historical record. Anyone who is writing well right now is to be greatly admired. Their better-crafted works will be read and text-mined in future. Whereas words are failing me entirely.

More than anything, watching such a noisy, confused, pointless blood-letting feels like it trivialises anything else. I have half a dozen drafts of ideas I like very much. Heuristics, red wine, the sociology of exercise. Another half-dozen have been sketched out and deleted. Does anyone have room to care right now, though? I doubt it. If I can’t maintain enough abstract thought to write, it feels presumptuous to expect anyone to read.

Many, many people I know are not doing well. Not crying and drinking gin on a staircase, but engaged in a period of extremely difficult re-evaluation. Am I in danger in America? Am I welcome in America? Can I stay sane in this America?

And what happens next?

What indeed. This must be how people in failed states feel all the time. Armored cars in the street. A PA tells you to keep calm. A knock at the door… just a neighbour, this time. Exhalation all round. Who is in power now, this week? Of what should I be afraid? What threat can we smell in the wind? Horrors A through E seem to have occurred recently… at Horror J, my world crumbles. At Horror L, we’ll be walking to the next landlocked country. Pack your shit, Hakim — we have to go.

It is hard to feel vulnerable, but everyone does.

Will some good come of this? Is a grand re-making on its way? Is some kind of decent beast moving its slow thighs?

Maybe. Won’t I feel silly in ten years if this was the moment America decided that people matter?

It will take courage to push the Publish button now.

I’m off my game. We all are.

Sorry about this. I hope you’re OK.