Writing

As strange as it may seem, I kind of hate writing. There’s just something so miserable about what it’s become. Anyone can be a good writer, the talent to it is simply to learn how to combine sincerity with articulation. And yet, at the same time, these skills are more often than not mutually exclusive. To be burdened by education is to learn the dangers of sincerity. The greatest gift you can provide a predator is your motives, after that they know exactly what to offer. It’s dangerous to be sincere, and yet it is what is the most important part of writing.

And as literature has been mutilated by publishing offices, commercial venture, editorial boards and academia, sincerity is a most punishing trait to possess. You will be met by an army of functionaries and gatekeepers who will, at your most vulnerable state, with great forethought, do everything they can to break you down if you challenge their motives of profit and prestige. To write well is to invite some of the world’s lowest minds to actually be able to do you harm. Parasites like critics and analysts whose task it is to explain to the general public what is or is not considered clever.

This mechanism of alienation, wherein cliff notes, reviews and recommendations permit people to treat their intellect to modes of convenience is like a renewal of the censorship institutions of the Holy Roman Empire. Whether it is Amazon or Cambridge University is just a matter of flavour. Snobs and pedestrians alike can be treated to the numbing poison of philistinism.

Personally I find writing to be a compromise between what I wish to be and what I am able to be, a thing that I did not want, but simply had. Because anyone can have it, that is precisely why literacy is such a dangerous thing. It is not in any natural sense exclusionary, so you need functionaries make it so, whether it is book burning or editorialism is simply varying gradients of dramatics to a function that becomes identical in its outcome.

But the saddest thing of all I suspect is what a loss it has been to the art of sincerity. There is no greater tradition of enterprise than that of lying to people. It truly is the magic of the ages, the only way in which to conjure up something out of nothing. The easiest way to sell writing in our times is to simply put a false promise in the title. Even as you discovered this piece, you scrolled past dozens of lies. “10 habits that will make you more productive.”, “How to change your life with this one psychology trick”, nonsense and snake oil and pseudoscience that we call self-help.

I think self help is probably the cruelest way in which to scam people. The very notion on the face of it is a paradox, help is definitionally something that is ontologically external. Self help is just a twisted effort to steal time, money and attention away from people who, in some existential sense, are bleeding.

As rich people began to rule the world, compassion was seen as a sort of vice, a bad habit done by radicals and extremists. So self help has become a cultural movement to offer methadone to those who are addicted to their fellow human beings. Who suffer from that dangerous pathology that we call eusocial evolution. A miserable industry that turns functional human beings into an isolated and self destructive species.

What in particular irks me is affirmation psychology. Where, instead of making genuine and sincere connections with others, you replace friends and family with your own reflection in the bathroom mirror. When people are driven to making their mirror image tell them that they are loved, then I cannot help but to think it is the sardonic trickery of the devil. That some otherworldly evil will look upon this and laugh a twisted laughter.

Because self help is a wonderful way in which to kill sincerity. Rather than to recognise oneself as a miserable and alienated wretch, to see how something is terribly wrong and that it needs drastic change, the snake oil merchants offer a quick fix in the form of new lies and new illusions that you can use to cover up what is an ever growing and ever festering wound. It is likely the most rueful thing to mental health since Walter Freeman laid his hands on an icepick.

As public hospitals and national funding towards medical research shrinks with each election cycle, we hear marketing jackals sputtering about how self help is the largest growing book industry in the world today, and I am not surprised. Rome had a great absence of real medical science, and that is precisely why they would tie fox testicles to their foreheads in order to cure the common cold.

So when I see some motivational speaker pressure a suicidally depressed office clerk to walk barefoot on hot coals, I cannot help but recollect the vestiges oracles and soothsayers of the past, who performed similar rituals for similar gains.

I also notice a particularly delusional aspect to self help, which is the constant denial of how we live in a universe. Apparently we’re all instructed as though we were gods who are slumming it in the mortal planes, as though the power of the mind and the will can magically warp the very atoms in the air if we just want something enough. As though, by some extremely ambitious precept, the key to success is to have an enormous sense of entitlement.

And what worries me the most is how well it works. Because that’s precisely what the people who rule the world have right now. It makes perfect sense that the gatekeepers to the upper classes would open the gates at the sight of other people who, much like them, have learned to preach the gospel of the almighty individual.

Who are completely detached from any and all understandings of what it means to be a compassionate and responsible human being who are a citizen of a functional society, those are precisely the kind of people who can lie through their teeth during a press conference about a toxic waste spill, or who are unfased by getting an quarterly bonus after firing 600 employees.

And I think the worst part of it all is how you can’t even debate the matter with them, because their world view is so conveniently self contained. When you ask them to consider the wider implications of life, society, civilisation and morality, then they will simply dismiss it on the grounds that they are only interested in working for themselves, and that such things are not of any pertinence. As though you can somehow, by some magic, separate yourself from the universe you live in and the species that you are part of.

In this sense, modern literature takes on a surprisingly feudal quality, as it produces within its adherents a state of mind not unlike the destructive faculties of inquisitors and crusaders. Who will gladly swim through a sea of blood if it means that they are finally able to live up to their fullest potential.

But I’m not sure anyone stopped to ask if they should do so in the first place. Maybe if your potential only allows you to be some kind of usurious and rapacious parasite businessperson, then perhaps ambition is not something that suits you, maybe you’re better off condemning yourself rather than condemning a hundred others. Perhaps this potential should be left unrealised. Maybe if your potential will lead you to making billions as an executive from the Bhopal Chemical plant, then perhaps it’s better if you remain mediocre.

And then on the other side of the literary spectrum you have intellectuals, who are some of the more tragic creatures that, in many ways, speak very emphatically towards God’s propensity for mystery. Because I cannot think of a sadder being than these individuals who have the constitution and bravery of roaches, and yet the moral integrity of mercenaries, it is truly to be of the worst of both worlds.

To inherit the physical traits of a genius, and the mental traits of a brute. And yet it is precisely these weakened and feeble specimen that are selected for higher education. People who will spend their whole lives affirming the biases of commerce, military and government. Who will insist upon having an evidence based world view, in spite of how they are the ones in charge of manufacturing said evidence. Who would eat a worm plucked straight from the garden should their board of trustees demand it.

Who, for some strange reason, cannot quite see the great contradiction in how every historical period have had nothing but horrors to tell of the ruling classes, and yet with great exceptionalism proclaim themselves to have finally overcome history and are now living in some epochal Shangri-La even though, should they think critically for a moment, they’d see how it’s more like a dilapidated circus tent full of emotionally neglected donkeys.

And these donkeys are very amusing especially when they attempt to perform some kind of dissident exercise. As they find themselves holding the exact same biases, prejudices and ideals as the rest of society, in spite of examining the many atrocities which such biases, prejudices and ideals have produced. Who see the slavery, misery, bloodshed and war that has been produced by our primitive and crude notions of parliamentary democracy, and yet say that these are not signature to such a system, but rather contradict it.

And yet, should they be so contradictory, then why did it happen? This is where the conspiracy theories emerge, as we now have psychologists and anthropologists who are working tirelessly to figure out new and ridiculous ways in which to outline how politicians, bankers and aristocracy are in fact not feckless criminals so much as it is an inherent fault of the species. That there is a kind of human nature to be selfish and cruel, and that when you think about it, the orphaned child in some favela in Sao Paulo is just as much to blame as the CEO of the US holding company that killed his parents and stole their farm.

Point is, some days it’s hard to write about things, because you know that people will not want to read them.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vince

Vince

Scholar, minister, musician, engineer, technician, reformed criminal