Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The winter of our discontent

As the long winter of our discontent drags on, I struggle to find something to say here that isn't simply repeating the several million messages of escalating daily outrage in Twitter or that doesn't sound entirely frivolous--like posts about writing.

To do the former is to pile more doom and gloom, and you already have enough of that on Twitter to sink your own feelings ever deeper. People are recommending books that are ever more dystopian both ecologically and politically, as if they figure you can't get enough of "I told you so" misery.

To do the latter is to suggest that you're gleefully dancing on the grave of American democracy, as in people hissing, "Don't you even care?"

Both positions can leave you feeling powerless, despite the actions you've taken (calling legislators, etc.)

What to do?

Well, "fight on," obvs.

But maybe also give a little time and space to some things that help mentally.

One, for me, is contemplating pictures from the past of my region --not to go back there politically (because nostalgia = racism, sexism, and all that, I do get it, I really do) but just . . .  to look and imagine being there, in that time and space, to see if it can be recaptured for --

Two, some writing that's not academic but might be fiction or creative nonfiction, never to be published (since it's neither sci-fi nor dystopian nor memoir) but just to turn the brain over to a different place for a while.

And then I'll write more about writing if everyone promises not to hiss at me in the comments.


sophylou said...

I won't hiss at you. I'm trying really hard to stay away from Twitter because I feel like I can't absorb all the reactivity and outrage etc. there -- it feels like watching commercials for anger, somehow, and it's started to make me physically ill to be there. Waking up in the middle of the night choking on vomit after a day of attending to Twitter = potentially dying a rock star death, so, gotta pass and figure out what works for me. Which I'm pretty sure isn't at all What I'm Supposed To Be Doing (hence my not blogging for a long time).

gwinne said...

No hissing! I'll read whatever you write :)

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

You know what I think: I don't want to lose these years. I refuse to let the Orange One take over my life. So writing posts are grand by me. Whatever happens, the work will still be there; it is real; it matters. Consider Auerbach writing his masterpiece in exile in Turkey.

xykademiqz said...

As someone who grew up in a country with a considerably more chaotic than the US has ever been or will be, I a) will not hiss and b) assure you people are resilient, and the day-to-day lives and the things that matter (families, students, friends) are very robust against political $hit. People can be truly happy in a variety of situations and systems. Hang tight, hold on to your loved ones, hold on to things that are really near and dear to your heart. This too $hall pass.

sophylou said...

Dame Eleanor, I am with you: I just had an ends-with-zero birthday, and that comes with "so, how much time do I have left" thoughts (that combined with being in a depressive episode means, er, let's be careful...) I have, sadly, a lot of experience with being around narcissists, and I want to avoid being Orange Satan's narcissistic supply as much as possible.

xykademiqz, I really appreciate your input. I find that all the outrage on Twitter in particular is working against my sense of resiliency -- it feels disconnecting and actively makes me feel more isolated and lonely. Maybe I do need to start blogging again as a way of connecting to my research and creative work, since those are sustaining and, I'd like, can be points of connection.

<3 to everyone here!

JaneB said...

My writing groups, online at TLQ and in person, are really important things keeping me grounded in rough political seas, locally and politically at all levels. Writing is real, it matters, and it's as important as breathing for the academy and for making sure people have the hope and flexibility of mind to imagine other ways of being - so do write about writing!!

Contingent Cassandra said...

I think it's important to remember what we felt was important (in small and large ways, for a variety of reasons) before the election, and to spend time and energy on that, instead of or at least in addition to responding to anything the new administration does. Because responding is important, but not getting pulled into their cyclone of crazy is also important. And there were plenty of very real problems (including ones in higher ed, and including more practical pedagogical ones related to effectively teaching the current generation of students, and ongoing ones related to fitting writing and research into increasingly busy lives) that already existed, and still deserve attention.

So yes, doing good, useful work is a form of resistance.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

All the anger and disbelief is going right into my writing. This is why I think it's both the best of times and the worst of times in America. I am pumping the creativity out while watching in disbelief as these utterly incompetent idiots destroy our country. While America is riding the rack, artists and writers will have a prolific period that might outstrip anything that came before it. I simultaneously can't stand it and am grateful to feel so passionate.

undine said...

sophylou--"commercials for anger" is a great way to describe it. I'm sorry that Twitter's been making you ill that way. FB has been doing that to me--all the "if you care at all, repost for action NOW" things.

gwinne--thanks! I feel the same & will keep reading your blog.

Dame Eleanor--that puts our work in the long stretch of history and is comforting. And you're right: if we stop, he gets to fly a "Mission Accomplished" banner (likely misspelled) above the Trump (TM) White House.

Xykademiqz--I so value (we all do) the broader perspective and sense of resilience you bring to this, and as a scientist, to boot. They want to ignore the humanities, but they're trying to kill science, and I don't know which is scarier.

JaneB--the writing groups probably help with that feeling that writing matters. You're right that it's real, though it's hard to keep that sense of being grounded when new things happen every day, and not in a good way.

Contingent Cassandra--that's the thing: it's not as though the old academic problems have gone away; they're just being drowned out under the noise of lurching from crisis to crisis. Writing as resistance, even if it's not about resistance, is a good way to look at it.

Fie--your comment makes me think about Harry Lime's (Orson Welles's) statement in The Third Man: "Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I love that quote so much I put in on Facebook. Thanks for that. It gives me more hope.