In my last post, I had let slip the fact that I feel inclined to use this blog for political essays but see this as a risky endeavor. Now I have made up my mind. I could write more here on many subjects— my regular life, general media criticism/analysis, philosophy— but while I may eventually write about plenty of those, I do myself a disservice if I designate some subjects off-limits in turn. I am the sort of person who easily compartmentalizes emotion; however, I am also the sort of person who suffers internally whenever I deny myself a full range of expression, whenever I render my persona even slightly bland or inauthentic. So I will write here about politics, sometimes. Possibly often.
But the reason behind that choice is, in fact, only one reason. To explain the other reasons, let me first explain why I saw such a project as risky. It may be obvious, but I think not entirely. These were, and are, the risks I face in “going political”:
- The usual reactionary, threatening, cyberattack rubbish. I don’t really need to outline all the ways that harassment occurs on the Web, and in fact, while I’ve never been doxxed, there was an incident more than a decade ago that made me very wary of non-anonymously sharing my more strident opinions. I intimately know what entitled, insecure people are capable of doing when they see a vulnerable but confident person daring to show an assertive voice. This blog has almost no traffic, but if it ever gets more, with desired attention also comes undesired attention.
- Having some of my political opinions found out by employers, family, or similar figures with whom I’d rather not have such discussions. The more publicly “fringe” I allow myself to be, the less employable I become in a 9-5 sense, and that’s a pure fact. And the more awkward conversations I may have in relationships where I would rather actually not talk politics.
- Being categorized or feeling obliged to engage in discourse with opinion-havers whose ideologies are at best overrated and at worst a vile sham of anything remotely resembling moral philosophy. That’s an admittedly harsh way of mentioning that while I can’t deny being a leftist, this label comes with many attendant labels and subcultures that I do reject. Not wholesale rejection in all cases, but usually significant. Whether these concepts mean anything to you or not, I do not align myself with any of the following: (neo)liberalism as unconsciously distinct from leftism; (neo)liberalism as consciously distinct from leftism; leftist political parties; political parties with leftist factions; self-described social justice warriors; leftists whose bone to pick with social justice warriors has overdeveloped to the detriment of their ability to self-criticize; state socialism; vanguardism; platformism; sex-positive feminism; sex-negative feminism; queer theory; critical theory; intersectional theory; class reductionism; poststructuralism; deconstructionism; anarcho-primitivism; historical reenactment anarcho-syndicalism; veganarchism; some other anarcho labels; deep ecology; and the list would go on. As for what labels I do accept, that requires me to write several more essays. Which I will, but first I need this out of the way.
- Putting myself under pressure to write about every conceivably political topic under the sun, and failing to follow through. My personal life and beliefs give me numerous inroads to discuss an array of political issues, and even when speaking outside of my own experience, I think it is still possible for me to bring critical thinking skills to bear on less familiar topics. Still, I know I would inevitably ignore something, and this could fairly or unfairly be read as a flaw on my part. I’d rather only fairly, and nobody could guarantee that. Nor do I want to make too many mistakes in general.
- A heightened profile across corporate data mines/state agency records of who is improperly political (read: leftist, radical, and/or anti-establishment) and active about it. Again, this blog’s Alexa rank is a fart in the wind, but I’m not stupid. I would be concerned with this even if Trump had not won, and I have reasons to believe I could prove a person of marginally greater interest for monitoring purposes, even though I also shouldn’t be that interesting. The United States’ probable shift on Friday from soft to hard totalitarianism only heightens this problem.
These risks are either irritating in the short term or severely compromising in the long term. But while they weigh on my mind, I have ultimately settled on the following counterpoints:
- For good or ill, harassment and threats are part of being a public figure in this society. I may be far from a public figure, and I don’t want to tell real public figures that they should simply put up with the horrifying filth flung their way. (At least, I won’t tell them that if they’re in the moral right, and of course there are certain sources of terror and disgust that nobody deserves.) Nevertheless, I’m a writer, and professional advancement as a writer doesn’t happen in obscurity unless you’re the extraordinarily rare Salinger type, in which case you might have gotten famous before going into hiding. In my case, I could continue confining my public political comments to the occasional tweet, but as I work more on building my reputation as a writer, virtually anything I say could be an excuse for some awful brat to come along and try to ruin my life. Particularly since some of my demographic factors are often regarded as publicly unacceptable in the first place. C’est la vie. I may have to draw a line one day, but meanwhile if I keep worrying about this before it’s even affected me in the present, I do myself no favors.
- “Employability” for my generation has peculiarly broken overtones, and we waste our breath apologizing for ourselves anymore. There are still some opinions and beliefs I am not ready to declare to all and sundry, but that’s due to exactly what they are— things I am still sorting out, things I know I must be prepared to re-explain until the end of my life if I want to initially explain them at all. Beyond those, I think the bulk of my views, though combined in unorthodox ways, are not outside the realm of what even vaguely left-ish mainstream papers and magazines have a history of publishing. It’s also honestly more lucrative to publish a writer with lots of opinions than a writer with few. Weighing that against those employers in fields where the reverse is preferred— all life is short. I should do what I can to advance the writing career, because that’s what I’m really born to do. Should this be a problem with some gatekeepers or private judges: the 3010s called. They’d like that future for the human species back.
- If someone wants to mistake me for an identitarian, a dirtbag, or [insert leftist or leftish subvariety here]— or to argue with me as though I am— from this point forward I’m declaring that “not my responsibility.” I would venture that about 70-80% of internal leftist debates are semantic in origin, and at least 50% of any political debates— online, at least— derive from at least one party’s catastrophically bad reading comprehension skills. If anyone wants to claim I’m arguing something that I’m not, I’m going to repeatedly refer them back to this point until or unless they can offer a concrete example of why my argument could fairly be misconstrued as x ideological position.
- I will write about what I can. The rest is again not my responsibility. I may define “can” rather broadly and set a high standard for myself. Regardless, there is some limit to that definition, that standard. My essays can get so long that if I’m ever outright expected to discuss Topic #2408 of the approximately 184,238,934 political topics available, especially when I have only even had a chance to cover up through Topic #40, then that is utter silliness. Unless #2408 has a glaring connection to #3, #15, #23, and half a dozen others such that I would look equally silly in not considering this one tree in that situational forest.
- The chief form taken by my activism has kept reshaping itself over the past year, but whatever it really becomes, I will not be cowed by fascism itself. I will discuss fascism itself, alongside other such delightful topics as the Holocene extinction, in another post, probably my next. But let me say right here that if you are not willing to frame Trump’s regime as fascist, never mind any other US presidency, then you and I likely have almost nothing in common. Meanwhile, as I see it, in the ways I am not at significant risk under Trump, it’s my obligation to speak out in solidarity with those who are more vulnerable, and in the name of declaring what I still wish to voice from my own life. In the ways I myself am vulnerable, I have a few possible panic buttons of which to avail myself, and failing those, my gut twists more at lack of integrity than at some alternatives.
The last point was what really made me decide, what really made me write this essay. It is 2017, and I essentially anticipate that I may potentially end my life anywhere between the ages of 40 and 90, under deeply fraught circumstances. If I lived long enough to reproduce, my child would face a severe likelihood of global environmental collapse, independently of even greater political repression; and their own children, if any, may die as one of the last human populations. Perhaps not, of course. But I have thought apocalyptically since I was young, and every passing year has only further convinced me of the necessity for such thinking. I will take the political risk of speaking politically, because it is more dangerous than ever but also more important. This is one of the final chances. And if it isn’t, it could be folly not to proceed as if it were. For now.
D. Llywelyn Jones