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2010-04-10 - 10:58 p.m.

I think the thing, one of the things that happened to me in the aftermath of finishing my PhD was that I stopped writing pretty much anything, and in the process I lost one of the important habits that one needs in order to write, and it is this: blurting. You need to just start saying something and let it unravel that way that it does. Not worry about whether you're being original or if you're right or if you've said it before or is it too cryptic or not cryptic enough or are you just being obvious or giving something away that you should keep hidden or does this sound right or does it make sense or is the tone appropriate... or any of that crap. If you want to show it to someone, maybe some of that stuff can come later. But if you want to write, you just need to let it all unfold in a mad profusion of... whatever it is, because if you're too wound up to do that, you won't write anything. I wrote a rough, rough draft of an essay this week and it was the first really sustained writing I've done in... years, actually, and it really felt good to be doing it and it was such a great reminded of what a *mess* the whole process is, or ought to be. And then I was reminded, I said something about alienation here and there was an interesting response and I wanted to write something back, but I held off because I wanted to organise my thoughts. Well, protip to myself: don't both trying to organise your thoughts. Write first, and, if necessary, organise later.
So, here's something about social vs individual alienation. I think social alienation is rampant in our societies because the institutions that once safeguarded our sense of social connectedness & solidarity are in a state of decline. Especially the churches. I'm not religious in any sense that most people would recognise but I think that most atheists have a very poor understanding of the incredibly important role that churches once played in maintaining a sense of social aliveness, belonging, in our communities and societies, and how little the... toxfying remnants of those institutions resemble what they were in the past. Anyway, as a consequence we now have people who have so little grasp on the concept of social solidarity that they can't even argue against the idea... it doesn't even make sense to them as a *thing*, because they are so totally enveloped in the rationalist/alienated/individualist model of what personhood is that they can't recognise it as an ideology. It's totally, terrifyingly naturalised. And of course, part of the... tragedy of the consequence of this is that there's very little than can be done to restore the old havens of solidarity or create new ones because, of course, these things can't be done by individuals. But we've lost the channels through which effective collective action would or could have been... what's the word? Signalled, stimulated, created? In an alienated society, one is alienated as a participant in the mainstream, and one is alienated as an outsider. The two types of alienation are different in important ways, but the fundamental... what's the... ontic, experience of it, is basically unchanged from one to the other. And we're helpless to respond. We have co-ordinated mass action through the market, and compelled mass action through our political institutions, but collective action has virtually disappeared from the landscape. I don't blame people who join cults, actually. If there was one that even half-inspired me, I'd seriously consider it. Hmm.
Where was I?
We're doomed to be alienated in and by the societies that we live in, but we're not doomed to live in a state of total alienation at all times. (Although, some people will definitely try to tell you otherwise. Attempts to carve out a space for authentically living, relating, loving, in our world of utility-maximising pleasure-calcubots is liable to ridiculed as dreamy idealism or quaint, hipsterish perversity. I would say, on the contrary, that nothing could possibly be more practical.) So, what can we do? Try to make walls around little enclaves where something can live, and offer what care and attention to the seeds of joy we find there that we can. It's not a radical program - basically it's a consequence of despair of being able to do anything better. But nonetheless, it may feel radical. One may find that people react as though you were a radical. But what else is there to do?
"Surprise, surprise
She ain't home" - Chris Smither

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