Folks who follow this blog, or my social media presence generally, have probably noted that I’ve not had much to say lately.
Part of that is feeling overly busy, but it’s more the consequence of a growing sense of perplexity and unease about online discourse, about academia, and about the political moment (both domestic U.S. and global). I feel as if I’m losing my voice, or as if it’s not worth speaking up. Or even, sometimes, that the risks to speaking outweigh any benefits to myself or to others. Also, about my inability to easily distinguish between my feelings about all of that and my middle-aged anomie. One of the great failings of some public writers is a narcissism that encourages them to confuse a confessional for an analysis, to think that their moment in life is the world’s moment. Just because at fifty you’ve seen what seem like a few recurrent cycles, have learned to hurt and be hurt, or have seen predictions fulfilled and consequences dealt out, doesn’t mean you’re right about what you think you’re seeing now. Though perhaps that’s middle-aged anomie as well, at least my version of it. I started this blog uncertain about whether to trust my own readings and arguments, and have become less trusting with each passing year.
But just as all honest writing–perhaps most of all truthful fiction–has its inevitable cruelties, so too does all argument have its narcissism, its vanities. To give voice to any opinion at all about how the world ought to be? That means you hold your own thought in higher regard, even if just for the moment that thought is ventured, than the thought of someone else. To share an insight into the way the world is means you think you know something that others haven’t, can’t or won’t see. So very well. Here’s to self-regard, however provisional, and to trying to see clearly, even when it hurts.
I want to start a new year of writing in public with a series of fragments that will repeat each other, as well as some old themes at this weblog. An exploration of this moment in public conversation, in politics, in the lives of academic communities. Rather than tie up all my thoughts in a single logorrheic essay, as I usually do, I’ll try to break up this exploration into smaller overlapping parts and see if it all weaves together. Call the whole thing Grasping the Nettle, and we’ll see how it goes.