A Disappointed Idealist is Still an Idealist

For anyone who reads my blog, please take my criticisms with a grain of salt.

I’m a cynic, but my cynicism is rooted in idealism.  As George Carlin said (I presume in reference to his own cynicism), “Scratch a cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”  If it weren’t for my depression, I suppose I might be a contented idealist.  But years of struggling with depression has a way of beating one down.  I don’t have much confidence in myself and I don’t have much faith in the goodness of others.  I sometimes sense that such a thing as goodness might exist, but this sense is far from my everyday experience.

My ideal of truth keeps me going, but barely because at the same time my desire for truth makes me constantly discontented.  And in general my dour moods make me easily irritated.  To be honest, I don’t like life.  If I had been given a choice in the matter, I would rather not have been born.  I try my best to accept my fate of having been born, but life is tough… endlessly tough and it just gets worse and worse as I age.

My criticisms don’t come from a moral high ground.  I simply feel critical and so that is what I express.  But at least I’m somewhat fair in that I’m as critical of myself as I am of others (actually, I’m probably more critical of myself).  I would share on this blog more of my self-criticisms, but they’re in some cases too personal and in other cases they would just be boring to most people.  It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid of writing about my own failings, although there are definite fears of being judged.  Moreso, it’s just that I journalled for years about my personal issues and for the most part I don’t want to use my blog in that way.

My critical tendencies are tied up with my identity as an intellectual.  I always try to give good arguments for my criticisms, but these arguments are secondary to that which motivates my criticalness in the first place.  My reasons may be logical and I may have relevant facts to back them up.  Still, my cynicism/idealism is what is most central to me.  Even as a disappointed idealist, I’m still an idealist.  I want to believe in something.  I want to believe that life matters.  And often I think about this in terms of my ideal of truth.  But I don’t just want to believe.  I want to know, to feel that there is something worthy in this world.  But I’m tormented by doubts.

I’ve at times tried to be a good person, but I feel like a failure in that regards.  If you were to meet me as a stranger, I probably wouldn’t come off as one of the more friendly people you’ve ever met.  I try to be at least civil, but that civility is often a facade hiding my unhappiness.  I want to be understanding and compassionate towards others.  I have tried and I do try, but all of that trying has tired me out.  I feel frustrated and angry.  I’ve been struggling for years.  Even during periods of my life when I was doing relatively well, I still struggled.  Struggle is the one thing in my life that has remained unchanging.  When I was young, I struggled with learning.  As I grew up, I struggled with fitting in.  As I started living on my own, all of my early struggles transformed into full-blown depression.

I don’t see much to hope for in my life.  I’m pretty much stuck in survival mode.  Just getting by is good enough, has to be good enough because I don’t have much else to show for myself.  I hold down a job and pay the bills on a semi-regular basis.  That is all I can expect of myself.  But this isn’t a good place to be stuck in.  I constantly fear that my life will fall apart, that depression will really hit me hard, or just some unexpected event wil shatter my precarious existence.  I try not to think about it.  I have plenty to worry about without worrying about endless future possibilities.

Instead, I try to focus on what interests me.  This blog is my way of expressing myself, a way of maintaining a sense of purpose instead of giving into just drifting along.  Plus, it just gives me something to do, something to occupy my mind during my free time (which is often spent alone in my apartment).  And the fact that some people read what I write makes it seem worthy in some basic sense.

In certain ways, I often feel like I’ve been dealt a bad hand in life.  There are certain things I’m very appreciative of, but other things have made my life very hard.  I don’t wish to describe the details of the difficulty of being me.  The details don’t really matter.  Some have had harder lives and others have had easier lives, and I couldn’t really say where I fit in the spectrum.  All that I know is life sucks.  All that know is that I’ve struggled immensely at times putting my heart and soul in my endeavors… and yet nothing ever seems to work out, I somehow always fail or give up.  There is just something lacking in me or somehow things never quite click.  I feel jaded.  I hold onto my hopes despite their having been dashed again and again.  Some people do seem to manage to attain what they desire, but maybe it’s just that their desires happened to coincide with their fates.  Whatever it is, I admit to being slightly envious.

I want to understand and be understood.  But I’m just a confused lost soul and who could possibly understand me other than other confused lost souls.  It makes me feel rather pathetic.

To wrap this all up, I don’t know why my opinion matters… but opinions I have a’plenty.  My only hope for this blog is that my opinions, even when overly critical, are at least moderately intelligent and insightful.  Or, failing that, I hope they’re mildly amusing and not too mean-spirited.

* As a note, I’ve been having a discussion about nihilism as it relates to personal experience in a blog post by Quentin S. Crisp entitled No Future.

42 thoughts on “A Disappointed Idealist is Still an Idealist

  1. Ben, you have me with you in that boat but lets not classify ourselves lost. That seems to be the origin of the depression.

    Bushido entails politeness but sincerely I don’t know what it is but I claim to admire the philosophy.

    Suggestion: Get into a philosophy program and see what happens. You have the ability to excel there and my faith in you is huge. You can rise to prof., world-renowned easy.

    • I was just thinking what being classified as lost might mean. There is more than one way of considering it’s meaning that comes to my mind.

      From the perspective of society, being lost means underappreciated and misunderstood or means unworthy and unwanted as in being a loser. Or it could imply a positive judgment such as losing a good soldier which would involve pity at the loss of someone of recognized worth, and such a pitiful soul could say to himself that, “They’ll miss me when I’m gone.” But none of those are optimal ways of being perceived by others or of perceiving oneself.

      From the perspective of the individual, being lost often means being in unfamiliar territory or means being stranded. I think it’s something along this line that was my intended meaning. Lost is potentially only a temporary state although when lost one doesn’t know for sure. It’s a state of uncertainty which entails certain opportunities.

      Being in unfamiliar territory is the terra incognito of both adventure and doom, and as such one might discover something entirely new (if you play out the whole hero cycle then you can bring your discovery back to society and all will praise and love you). Being stranded doesn’t necessarily mean one doesn’t know where one is, but it is the sense of being isolated for the foreseeable future which allows one both the time for contemplation/introspection and a vantage point to see the world unencumbered by the past or else unencumbered by certain constraints of society.

      From an entirely other perspective, we are all lost souls. Almost every culture has the religious hope of being saved. In the West, we tend to think only of Jesus, But I know that Hinduism and Buddhism have various salvific figures. No matter which salvific figure one prefers, it seems that typically a person has to recognize they’re lost before they can be saved. Those who don’t know they’re lost may very well be lost beyond redemption… or maybe they’ll just have a tougher time of it in the sense of the challenge rich men have getting into heaven.

      Anyways, in my case, the sense of being lost might contribute to my depression but wasn’t the original cause… or I don’t think it was. My sense of being lost or rather the more general sense of loss may be related to the fact that my family moved around 4 times before I graduated from high school.

      Thanks for the suggestion about getting into a philosophy program.

      I did go to college after high school but dropped out after one semester. I then later went to a community college where I dropped out after a semester. And I then even later dropped out of massage school (actually, I took all of the classes and training, but never took the tests to get credit because I realized I didn’t want to be a massage therapist).

      The two semesters after high school were during my darkest period of depression. Relative to that time, I’m fairly stable these days.

      I honestly don’t feel a desire to go back to college. Even though it might be hard to understand from reading my blog, I do have a fairly major learning disability. School has always been hard and frustrating for me. It takes great effort for me to rote memorize facts. I’m really bad when it comes to names and dates. The reason I’m always connecting things is because that is the way I best memorize and understand information. Combined with depression, if a subject doesn’t intensely excite me, I’m not going to learn it.

      I don’t know what potential I have in me, but where I am is where I am. At the moment, I enjoy just writing this blog. Eventually, though, I may want to try my hand at doing something more serious and maybe just maybe I’ll get something published.

      • Hello! My name is Tori and I dealt with a great amount of loss at a very young age. I got through it and I learned how to be happy with what I have and that simple act will bring you much more. I had a terrible mindset and very dark days right out of high school, just like you. I went through a period of severe depression and I am still dealing with it. I have done the same as you by focusing on my interests and I think that is a wise choice. I applaud you for not giving up. May I suggest trying your very hardest to be happy with what you have. Thank the sun for shining everyday, thank your favorite actor for being so entertaining, thank the earth for sustaining your growth. Think of life as just wasting time! Just try to enjoy yourself, even if the world is a mess and your idealism has been crushed. Maybe we are living the idealism. Maybe all the hard times you have struggled through are lessons to be learned. Maybe, just maybe, we are all about to learn a very big lesson in humanity. For now, just be you and don’t apologize for being you, we need YOU! I know this was so corny, but i hope it provided a little bit of inspiration and light in your life. Just remember, you are not alone!

        • Hello, Tori!

          I can’t say I experienced a lot of loss at a young age, but I think moving around is what created my own sense of loss early on in life. When younger, I often wished I had some more tangible reason for my feeling of loss so that I’d have an objective reason for my subjective experience. Human experience is a weird thing and isn’t rational.

          Most people probably would consider your attitude to your own loss to be healthy. I completely understand your perspective. I grew up with that mindset because I was raised in New Thought Christianity. You might find this odd, but I’ve always connected my depression to being brought up with such idealism. I know that kind of attitude inside and out.

          I’m fine with corny. I’m not critical of you for having this attitude, but it’s just not for me. Been there, done that. 🙂

  2. Learning disability? Don’t agree. I have the same problem. Connections? My style too. If the thing isn’t interesting to me, I won’t even look at it.

    Thing is, philosophy is at the centre of all education. It is going to be interesting surely cos everything is there. Though the depression can attenuate that.

    I also used to think I had a disability but I found a way out. Physics and Chem helped me out. I saw that with those two, it was primarily making connections thus the concept; understanding. Memory is still in there but it is in tune with my style. Then particulars I write down somewhere for quick reference. Its really helped so far.

    Maybe this formula is out there and I guess you know it already but I’m just trying to say there can be a way out.

    • Sorry it took a while to reply. I was busy thinking about other things.

      When I said learning disability, I meant it in a literal sense. As a child, I was diagnosed with a learning disability. I had difficulty remembering words and I learned reading late.

      The school I was attending at the time happened to be in a very wealth suburb of Chicago and so one of the best specialists was working there. I got the kind of help few kids ever get. It was a lifesaver. This teacher taught me how to work around my word recall difficulty.

      I learned to use alternative words and so have developed a decent vocabulary. This helped me survive school, but to be honest I had a tough time passing my classes in high school and that was with my constantly cheating on tests. It took me many years of studying on my own to learn the method of connecting info to help my recall.

      My learning disability isn’t obvious while interacting with someone on the internet because I have plenty of time to reply. But if we were in person, I’d constantly be stopping to think of some word or fact.

      So, I did develop a learning style that has turned out to be very effective in certain tasks, but it has some drawbacks. I suffer from lack of focus. Despite my rambling thinking style having its benefits, it isn’t very efficient. My intelligence doesn’t show up well in traditional tests.

      Combined with severe depression, my learning disability has forced me to find my own path. I like to study, but it has to be on my own terms. If I went to college, I’d struggle to keep my head above water.

      It’s taken me decades to figure out how to use my own mind. For the most part, teachers don’t teach students how to learn. Or at least they don’t in US schools. Education is pretty much sink or swim here in the states.

  3. Sorry, I didn’t think it was actual. It honestly is incredible for you to have that. You’ve done very well for yourself and that teacher did a wonderful job.
    I think I have the same problem though, just, where I live, specialists like that are only in dreams so I had no help.
    Still, I can’t believe it.

    • I wonder what countries have good public schools. Where I’m living now in Iowa used to have one of the best public school systems in the US, but I don’t know if it still is as good. Unfortunately, I went to high school in South Carolina which isn’t known for its quality public education. I’m sure there are some really good private schools in the US, but I don’t know anything about them.

      I’m sorry you didn’t get any help when younger. Such specialists are only in dreams for most kids in the US as well. I’d guess that a lot of talented kids never live up to their potential because of a lack of good education.

  4. harmonies ..
    dont know what to say , but .. these feelings inside keeping me away from living , even simply living , even struggling ..

    • I just now noticed I never replied to your comment. I hope life isn’t too much of a struggle for you.

      I find life’s struggles go up and down. The best thing I know to do is just go with the flow. Life is going to take you where the current goes whether you like it or not.

      Struggle overall may be unavoidable, but there is plenty of struggles that can be avoided. No reason to make life harder than it already is, unless your into masochism.

  5. That’s incredible. You know, I have literally just read the entire story of my life on this page. I feel exactly the same way. Im still struggling with it to this day.

    • I’m glad it touched you. I try to communicate well. Emotions can be hard to express well, yet they are the most important things to express well.

    • It is nice to see a positive response to something I wrote, especially something so personal as this. This post still is relevant to my life and to my blogging. I’m still the same person. This the type of post that probably shoul be more prominently featured on my blog.

  6. Greetings. For the record, your writing is brilliant. I’ve been reading through your insights and you have a spectacular analytical mind. You have the curiosity to read everyone’s ideas and the honesty to examine them with unsparing regard for fact. I am learning from reading you.

    It’s regrettable that human society finds intellectualism unattractive and punishes honesty, especially the kind of honesty which ignores tribal boundaries and emotional sensibility in the pursuit of truth. The trouble is that intellectualism requires enormous investments in time and specialisation, which come directly into conflict with the personality requirements for in~group acceptance and socioeconomic advancement. We are social beings, and survive and flourish as biological organisms as social beings. Truth and survival are different specialisations, and happiness is a function of survival/success/power, not truth or reason. The right kind of unexamined life brings more happiness than the examined one; the exceptions occur in socieites which (perhaps wisely) subsidise truth.

    Your mind is lovely. I wish you were happier. This species devours its best.

    • Welcome to my blog, Alice.

      “I’ve been reading through your insights and you have a spectacular analytical mind.”

      Out of curiosity, is this the first piece you read by me. This piece represents a particular mood. I was in a bit of a different place 6 years ago, but the basic style and experience remains the same in my more recent blogging.

      I don’t go into a lot of details about my personal life. Yet I use the personal as a touchstone. I did that with my the post I just finished. A question from my father was central to my exploring an issue. I must admit that I’ve never been overly capable of separating the subjective from the objective, even when I avoid mentioning the personal. It’s always lurking in the background of my thoughts.

      “You have the curiosity to read everyone’s ideas and the honesty to examine them with unsparing regard for fact.”

      I’ll definitely take that as a compliment. You describe what I strive to do. I’m glad that I’ve maybe succeeded to some extent.

      “It’s regrettable that human society finds intellectualism unattractive and punishes honesty, especially the kind of honesty which ignores tribal boundaries and emotional sensibility in the pursuit of truth.”

      That is regrettable, indeed. I know what you mean about a particular kind of honest that serves truth-seeking. I try to be a bit careful, though, in how and what I write about, especially as it crosses over into the personal and interpersonal. I want to tread lightly. The greatest truths are grounded in compassion.

      “The trouble is that intellectualism requires enormous investments in time and specialisation, which come directly into conflict with the personality requirements for in~group acceptance and socioeconomic advancement.”

      Ain’t that the truth!

      It is not unusual for me to spend weeks on a blog. I sometimes spend months writing a single piece. My writing process consists of immense amounts of thinking, researching, and reading.

      I will obsess over a topic until I’ve wrung every last drop out of it or until my curiosity gets drawn in a new direction. But even in the latter case I constantly return to the old haunts of my mind. I’ve spent many years off-and-on reading about particular topics.

      I do all of this while working a day job. I have to pay the bills, and I don’t feel hopeful about making money through writing. I don’t have the business type mind to be a profitable professional writer. I’m only capable of writing what I want to write, not what others want to publish. I speak my truth as I can and that is all I can do. I realize the subjects and style of my writing wouldn’t be of interest to most people.

      “We are social beings, and survive and flourish as biological organisms as social beings.”

      I’m constantly repeating that simple truth. This society can feel quite isolating at times. It’s a sink or swim world, and thrashing about as I do I have managed to not yet drown.

      “Truth and survival are different specialisations, and happiness is a function of survival/success/power, not truth or reason.”

      It does seem that way. I’ve specialized in an ability that gives me no economic benefit or even much social reward, besides the pleasure of interacting with people I meet here in my blog.

      “The right kind of unexamined life brings more happiness than the examined one; the exceptions occur in socieites which (perhaps wisely) subsidise truth.”

      Subsidise truth? Damn! That sounds nice. Where is this utopia? I’d love to have the freedom to more fully pursue this path of writing, without worries of survival. That would be really really nice.

      “Your mind is lovely. I wish you were happier. This species devours its best.”

      I appreciate your kind words. I wish I was happier as well. Still, maybe I’m happier at the moment than I was when I wrote this post. I’m in a fairly good place at the moment, relatively speaking. Life could always be worse.

  7. Benjamin~

    I’ve been reading through your blog thouroughly for several days.. I followed a link to a post on the social psychology of political identity, and have been reading through in no particular order since, mainly on the subjects of politics and American history and ethnography. I wrote here because you’ve essentially written a major work on social theory, and you have my greatest respect for this. It’s rare to read a writer with liberal value commitments who faces the essentially liiberalism of much of humanity without blinking, and without giving up on Enlightenment values (which I also strongly support as social norms and hegemonic narratives). I especially appreicate you taking on Johathan Haidt; I find the easy endorsement he has recieved from liberals troubling. Haidt identifies as a liberal, but he has a disturbing need to surrender to conservatives absolutely fatal concessions of intellectual territory. As a woman, and a bisexual and transgendered person, he’s selling off my autonomy and survival.

    Forgive me, I should introduce myself. I’m an escort, hostess, and professional dominatrix living in Wellington, New Zealand. Politically I’m somewhere between a liberal and a radical leftist, altho’ psychologically I’m at the untenable extreme of atomistic individualism. I’m also an ex~Southerner, having grown up in Northern Virginia to a Cavalier family from “Eastern Carolina”. The experience of having been raised in an illiberal and essentially feudal culture makes me quietly very different from the urban leftists who surround me, most of whom take a cosmopolitan society which permits individuality for granted. I studied philosophy at university, and have never lost a fascination with the intellectual life. Ideas are my greatest pleasure, but even in leftist bohemia I find it socially impossible to discuss foundational premises deeply or honestly. Society is built upon symbolic conflation down to the molecular level of everyday conversation, and one questions what a soul or a community needs to be true at one’s peril. It’s awful, and it spells endless suffering for sincere intellectualism. I find this stark dichotomy between truth values and survival values something akin to cosmic horror.

    One thing I appreciate from your writings is that your read and learn from people all over the poliical and demographic spectrum. I attempt to do the same. May I ask if you’re familiar with Leo Strauss’ writings, or those of his populariser Allan Bloom? Strauss’ work on the tension between the philosopher and civil society parallels much of your analysis.

    • “I followed a link to a post on the social psychology of political identity”

      Was it a post that someone else had linked to? The social psychology of political identity has been one of the major themes of my blog. My thoughts, however, have changed in many ways.

      “I wrote here because you’ve essentially written a major work on social theory”

      I have many disparate interests. My curiosity takes my writing all over the place. But over time, as I develop the individual strands of thought, I increasingly realize how much of it connects in various ways. That isn’t too surprising, as the common denominator is my mind. I’m good at connecting ideas, maybe my greatest talent.

      “It’s rare to read a writer with liberal value commitments who faces the essentially liiberalism of much of humanity without blinking, and without giving up on Enlightenment values (which I also strongly support as social norms and hegemonic narratives).”

      A lot goes into my liberal view. I see it as primarily personal influences that have shaped me.

      I was raised by conservative parents who were going through a liberal phase when I was a child, which I suppose early on set up my mind to be sensitive to the close relationship between conservatism and liberalism. I grew up in two different regions, the Midwest and Deep South, neither known for the kinds of liberalism and leftism as found in the Northeast and the West Coast.

      My father was a professor and my mother a public school speech pathologist. So, I learned my intellectual abilities and my love of learning from my conservative parents.

      I’m a college dropout and have spent my life in working class jobs, and so I’m also sensitized to class issues. Even when living as middle class in the Deep South, my mom raised her children to have Midwestern working class values. Still, my being working class in a liberal college town is a different experience, when one is surrounded by well educated people who value learning, many also having working class jobs. The class shame is not quite as strong in a small Midwerstern liberal college town, but there are other kinds of class issues in a town like this, often overlapping with race issues (one of the highest racial arrest disparities in the country), and my time in the Deep South left me highly aware of race issues.

      Even more personally, there are other factors as well. My childhood learning disability has left a permanent mark on my somewhat odd thinking style, and this cognitive idiosyncrasy influences my liberal-mindedness. Also, of course, there is my decades-long struggle with depression, which has roots in my struggles in school.

      More than anything, depression has forced me to think deeply and question everything, including my own values and experiences. Plus, my depression is inseparable from all the rest, from dealing with my conservative parents to my having a working class job because I’m a college dropout. It is because of my depression that I can be so righteous about compassion and so strong in my defense of the underdog.

      My liberalism is not of someone who is of the professional class nor of someone who lives in coastal big city. I’m very much a Midwesterner, especially in my liberalism, and my years in the conservative Deep South has put this in stark contrast, especially as it was in the Deep South that my parents became reactionary in their conservatism.

      I would add that my liberalism is in many ways more of a predisposition. It is my sense of self and my experience of the world, and so I recognize the inherent biases of my worldview, even as I seek to justify them. My liberalism is personal, as is my relationship to conservatism. I tend not to be overtly political and certainly not partisan, although I acknowledge the obvious political implications of my views.

      I’m conflicted in many ways. This helps me to see the divisions in the world, the messiness and confusion. There is no way to surgically separate liberalism from conservatism. Our society doesn’t just have illiberal tendencies. That illiberalism exists within liberalism. I would go so far as to say it also exists within liberals. We all have a potential reactionary within us, as we all have a potential radical.

      “I especially appreicate you taking on Johathan Haidt”

      I felt an intellectual duty and moral obligation in challenging Haidt’s analsysis.

      “I find the easy endorsement he has recieved from liberals troubling.”

      I too found that troubling. His model is powerful. It needs to be challenged, because it is dangerous if left unchallenged. It isn’t that Haidt is entirely wrong, but the way he frames his theory is ill-advised.

      “Haidt identifies as a liberal, but he has a disturbing need to surrender to conservatives absolutely fatal concessions of intellectual territory.”

      I see that tendency in other liberals as well. It has made me curious for a long while. There is something strange about liberalism, its ability to take in opposing views and even assimilate them (or be assimilated by them), and that can be rather dysfunctional at times.

      “As a woman, and a bisexual and transgendered person, he’s selling off my autonomy and survival.”

      As I see it, Haidt is contributing to the confusion. His theory doesn’t help anyone understand liberalism better and definitely doesn’t promote liberalism.

      Yet I think in his own way he is trying to defend some kind of liberalism. If you read between the lines, he has some clear and maybe even harsh criticisms of conservatism, but most people don’t notice them.

      I think he is trying to be sneaky in his attempt to lure conservatives into his liberal framework. The problem is in doing that he ends up jettisoning some of the best aspects of liberalism. He isn’t as clever as he thinks.

      Haidt’s being a liberal studying conservatism is like the undercover cop investigating a drug cartel and ending up addicted to drugs. It takes a special kind of person who can enter into the conservative worldview and come back out with their liberalism intact. As I show with symbolic conflation, there is something truly profound and powerful about conservatism.

      A liberal better have their wits about them if they plan on grappling with that. There is always the risk of a liberal turning reactionary and that is never a happy result.

      “Forgive me, I should introduce myself. I’m an escort, hostess, and professional dominatrix living in Wellington, New Zealand.”

      It’s nice to meet you. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you end up in New Zealand? Have you read Brian Hackett Fischer’s book, Fairness and Freedom, that compares New Zealand and the United States?

      “Politically I’m somewhere between a liberal and a radical leftist, altho’ psychologically I’m at the untenable extreme of atomistic individualism.”

      I suspect there always has been a radical strain to my liberalism, but it has become more strongly expressed as I grow older. It is my radicalism that allows me to both take liberalism seriously and to question it. This has led me to have greater contact with leftism.

      Still, maybe I’ve been tainted too much by conservatism to be fully a leftist. Most conservatives are too confused in their thinking for my tastes, but there is a community-oriented variety of conservatism that appeals to me. Then again, there are community-oriented varieties of leftism as well.

      I’m not quite sure what to make of atomistic individulaism of extreme liberalism. I understand it to some extent. I understand the kinds of oppressive social orders it is a response to. So, I understand the appeal. But I worry that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. We modern Westerners, especially in the US, have too often forgotten the meaning and value of social capital.

      I’m a bit unusual in my liberalism in this regard. I can go to an extreme in another direction. I’m attracted to philosophical pessimism, because of my doubts about atomistic individualism in terms of free will. I see the free will as equivalent to the soul. Interesting ideas, but they become rather fuzzy with a bit of introspection, so it seems to me.

      Of course, to question individualism and free will is to question the foundations of mainstream American thought, both left and right. It is also to probe at the heart of the entire Enlightenment project, and yet I refuse to dismiss it and in fact I can be quite vociferous in my defense of Enlightenment values. That is the kind of contrarian I am. I’m conflicted and I accept my conflictedness, because I don’t know how to be otherwise, but I’ll nonetheless keep it within my awareness and allow it to agitate my thinking.

      “I’m also an ex~Southerner, having grown up in Northern Virginia to a Cavalier family from “Eastern Carolina”.”

      Have you or your family done genealogical research? By ‘Cavalier’, do you mean that you descend from one of the early families of British Royalists that escaped the English Civil War?

      Maybe you’ve seen some of my posts where I discuss my family history. I’m not technically of Cavalier lineage, but one line of my family (paternal grandmother, Peeble being her maiden name) goes back to a 1650 lowland Scottish plantation owner and slaveholder in Virginia. When England and Scotland were united, the Southern England Anglo-Norman Cavaliers were allied with the lowland Scots.

      “The experience of having been raised in an illiberal and essentially feudal culture makes me quietly very different from the urban leftists who surround me, most of whom take a cosmopolitan society which permits individuality for granted.”

      I have some similar experience. I lived in the Deep South from 8th grade through a couple semestes of college. I visited regularly after I moved away, as my parents lived down there for more than another decade (20 years in total).

      However, the two places in the South I lived were a bit more moderated in their Southern culture.

      My family lived in Columbia, SC, which is a rather cosmopolitian big city, although still clearly Southern. I still got plenty of direct experience of racial issues and redneck culture. I even experienced some of the culture from the old aristocracy, as a neighbor was a Southern Bell from old money.

      The other place I lived for a time was Black Mountain, NC. It is near Asheville, an alternative town, as you probably know. Nonetheless, living there gave me the most direct experience I’ve ever had of Southern fundamentalism, as I was working at a YMCA center and for a time dated a local.

      “Ideas are my greatest pleasure, but even in leftist bohemia I find it socially impossible to discuss foundational premises deeply or honestly.”

      Yeah, such premises are foundational for a reason. If they were easy to discuss deeply or honestly, then they wouldn’t have so much power and therefore would lack their hold on mainstream thought.

      “Society is built upon symbolic conflation down to the molecular level of everyday conversation, and one questions what a soul or a community needs to be true at one’s peril.”

      That seems to be the case. I originally saw symbolic confaltion as a simple concept. I’ve come to see it as being much broader and more challenging.

      “It’s awful, and it spells endless suffering for sincere intellectualism. I find this stark dichotomy between truth values and survival values something akin to cosmic horror.”

      I like the way you put that. I too would connect it to something akin to cosmic horror.

      I sometimes read philosophical horror, of which Thomas Ligotti is the greatest example. He has also influenced my philosophical pessimism. I’ve never been able to quite bridge the gap between my liberalism and my pessimism. Both define who I am.

      I long for truth. Yet I realize that idealizing truth is no more rational than idealizing anything else. If truth-seeking is to mean anything, it can’t be divided from survival values. I have my doubts that our society will survive for the very reason that we don’t take truth-seeking seriously enough.

      This issue isn’t just about you or me or any other individual, of course. There are many divides in our society. This is just one particular divide and I’ve come to internalize it.

      “One thing I appreciate from your writings is that your read and learn from people all over the poliical and demographic spectrum. I attempt to do the same.”

      I think it’s a good thing to do. But it can take an emotional toll. It’s challenging to try to internally process all these divides in our society, to take them in and make sense of them. There is no way to take other views seriously without entering at least part way into those views.

      “May I ask if you’re familiar with Leo Strauss’ writings, or those of his populariser Allan Bloom?”

      I’ve often come across references to both Strauss and Bloom. I think I may have glanced at a book by Bloom, but I know I haven’t even looked at a book by Strauss. They are just names to me. In my reading around lately, I did see someone recommend Strauss’ writings.

      There is no particular reason I haven’t read them. I simply have too many books to read. But that never stopped from starting to read yet another book. Any particular books you’d recommend as an introduction to Straussian thought?

      “Strauss’ work on the tension between the philosopher and civil society parallels much of your analysis.”

      You have piqued my curiosity. I’m sure it would be interesting.

      • “It is not so much stupidity that closes men to philosophy but love of their own, particularly love of their own lives, but also love of their own children and their own cities. It is the hardest task of all to face the lack of cosmic support for what we care about. Socrates, therefore, defines the task of philosophy as ‘learning how to die’. Various kinds of self-forgetting, usually accompanied by illusions and myths, make it possible to live without the intransigent facing of death—in the sense of always thinking about it and what it means for life and the things dear in life—which is characteristic of a serious life. Individuals demand significance for this individual life, which is so subject to accident. Most human beings and all cities require the unscientific mixture of general and particular, necessity and chance, nature and convention. It is just this mixture that the philosopher cannot accept and which he separates into its constituent parts. He applies what he sees in nature to his own life. “As are the generations of leaves, so are the generations of men,”—a somber lesson that is only compensated for by the intense pleasure accompanying insight. Without that pleasure, which so few have, it would be intolerable. The philosopher, to the extent that he really only enjoys thinking and loves the truth, cannot be disabused. He cherishes no illusion that can crumble. If he is comic, at least he is absolutely immune to tragedy. Nonphilosophic men love the truth only as long as it does not conflict with what they cherish—self, family, country, fame, love. When it does conflict, they hate the truth and regard as a monster the man who does not care for these noble things, who proves they are ephemeral and treats them as such. The gods are the guarantors of the unity of nature and convention dear to most men, which philosophy can only dissolve. The enmity between science and mankind at large is, therefore, not an accident.

        “This hostile relationship between the prevailing passions of the philosopher and those of the demos was taken by the philosophers to be permanent, for human nature is unchanging. As long as there are men, they will be motivated by fear of death. This passion is primarily what constitutes the cave, a horizon within which hope seems justified. Serving the community that lives in the cave, risking one’s life for what preserves life, is honored. Vulgar morality is the code of this selfish collectivity, and whatever steps outside its circle is the object of moral indignation. And moral indignation, not ordinary selfishness or sensuality, is the greatest danger to the thinker. The fear that the gods who protect the city will be angered and withdraw their protection induces ecstasies of terror in men and makes them wildly vindictive against those who transgress the divine law.”

        (Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind, http://iwcenglish1.typepad.com/documents/14434540-the-closing-of-the-american-mind.pdf)

        Bloom’s language is Continental (Strauss was a Jewish German refugee from the Nazis strongly influenced by Heidegger), and he uses the term “philosopher” in a slightly idiosyncratic and archaic sense, to mean one who seeks truth regardless of acceptance or consequences, rather than a specific disicipline of knowledge. But the term applies to your work. Genuinely independent thinking, willing to follow the argument wherever it leads and create new conclusions, is so ridiculously rare. It look me a long time to understand that most people not only don’t but *can’t* enjoy it, and in most places feel comfortable in psychological spaces incompatible with truth values.

        Incidentally, I don’t look at you at having a disability, or at least I think that’s a very simplistic judgment by society and partially made true only by the actions of that society. Your writing evidences what I call unsocialised cognition; thought patterns which have not internalised those of others and thus show an unusual degree of independence. I consider this a blessing, altho’ I realise it can come packaged with other things which are not blessings. I personally think owning your own mind is more important than whether people like you. Admittedly this is an individual judgment and I speak from a position of privilege.

      • That is a nice definition of philosopher. That is what I aspire to be. The reason I take truth-seeking so seriously is at least in part because of my parents. There are three reasons that combined with my personality and abilities.

        First, as I said, I gained my intellectual abilities and my love of learning from my parents, most especially my father. They taught me the value of education, including self-education, but more than that. My father would always patiently listen to me and taught me to think more clearly. He also taught me basic intellectual skills such as how to write well.

        Second, also as I said, my parenets were going through a liberal phase when I was growing up. They raised me in extremely liberal New Agey churches. This implanted an extreme form of idealism into my psyche. Idealism has haunted my mind ever since. I’m no longer religious, but my idealizing truth has its roots in that earlier religious idealism.

        Third, there is an aspect related to their conservatism. They instilled in me some of their conservative values. They were in many ways strict parents and doing wrong always came with being punished (no beatings, mostly just being grounded). They drilled into me the values of honesty and hard work. I lied a lot when I was younger, and they would preach to me about honesty. I took it to heart and it took it to a further extreme, as expressed through truth-seeking. The hard work part comes out in that Protestant work ethic sense, where I work obsessively in my truth-seeking because I both want to know truth and be worthy of truth, if that makes sense.

        All of those combined with my unique set of experiences and predispositions. My brothers turned out differently than I, although they both also became liberals. One difference was that I struggled with school much more than my brothers. There is a connection between my ambiguous feelings about school and my love of learning. Part of it had to do was discovering it was more fun to read what I wanted to read.

        I agree that my cognitive style is not a disability, at least not in an objective sense. But to think differently can be quite the handicap in our society and I suppose in most societies. I’ve come to think of school having failed me, rather than the other way around. The only teacher who ever taught the way I think was an art teacher, which is interesting in that he may have been the only teacher I had who had real world experience in what he taught.

        It feels like there is a connection between my “learning disability” and my depression. But the link isn’t necessarily simple. It’s not just my thinking but my entire sense of self that can feel out of sync with the larger society.

        One psychiatrist diagnosed me with a thought disorder or something like that. Along with an anti-depressant, he put me on Risperdal and one of its uses is as an anti-psychotic. I wish I could talk to that psychiatrist today so as to know what the heck he specifically diangosed me as having. I realize I can have some strange thought processes at times, but I never liked the idea of drugging myself to be normal. I’m no longer on any medications. For years, I’ve managed my depression through exercise and diet, but mostly I’ve come to accept being in a permanent state of depression, to one degree or another.

        I like your notion of unsocialised cognition: “thought patterns which have not internalised those of others and thus show an unusual degree of independence.” You say that my thinking is unsocialised and yet you should have seen my thinking in the past. My present writing abilities are the tame version of my thought process, that I learned in order to communicate. My thought process typically is sprawling and goes off at odd angles. My mind is creative disorder. I sometimes have to sit on posts for long periods of time, just to try to bring some order to my thinking and writing.

        I do appreciate my own thinking for what it is. It has taken me a long time to learn how to use my mind well, for my own purposes. But it was a struggle, as I had to learn how to learn.

        Also, my predispositions come along with a lot of dysfunction. It is hard to know if my cognitive ability is enough of a compensation. When I was younger, the desire to be normal was strong. As I became a little older, I simply wanted to be happy and to be a good person, i.e., not spread misery around. But I’ve failed to be either normal or happy, and I don’t even know what to make of being a good person. My thinking ability is all I got going for me and so I make the most of it, for as long as I can.

        I wrote a post about learning disabilities and related issues.

        https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/aspergers-and-chunking/

        I brought up issues of race and class, in terms of education resources. I struggled in school and yet I received more help than most kids get with similar issues. Our education system fails so many kids, especially those living in poor neighborhoods and attending underfunded schools.

        The social darwinism of this country saddens me to no end.

        How is it like in New Zealand? Is there a quality education system there? Or do the poor fall through the cracks as they do here in the US?

        • I came from a Cavalier family in terms of culture. Technically my father’s ancestors arrived in Plymouth colony in the early 17th century and migrated South several generations later, but they heavily assimilated to plantation culture and ended up lording it over a tiny town in North Carolina. I’m not sure of the details, as my father was was less than epistemologically honest when it came to matters of family and Southern honour.

          I don’t feel as constrained by upbringing and family as you seem to. My father raped my mother for twenty years, and as a transgender woman my father tried to erase my personality by social isolation and minute control of my existence down to the most minute gesture. Of course, being that sort of Southern culture, the family closed ranks to avoid having dirty laundry damage their respectability, so it went on until my mother smoked herself to death shortly after her last child left home. I ran away from home in my first year of college and never looked back.

          I just rejected my family and its culture. I left first my family, then the South, then America. for a society where the people around me (mostly) treat me as a human being and equal citizen of society. In America people threatened me on the street and threw me out of housing for being a queer woman; for my choice of profession Americans had vice cops calling me twice a week to lock me in cages where I would be raped and medically tortured. So, please forgive me if I do not share your sympathy for conservatives. They do not treat me as human, and I return the same sentiment to them. My wishes for American social conservatives are those of a Jew in New York watching the Allied war effort against the Germans. Total war and unconditional surrender. If they don’t like it, they can treat me respectfully any time they want to. If they can’t, they can have fun with the Red Army.

          You mentioned individualism, and finding it difficult to understand? Well, I think my greatest gift has been a freedom from attachment to people. Many if not most LGBT people have their spirits broken by love for parents and cultures which abused them, living lives in shame and concealment and devaluation.The same is true of so many women, who become sentimental about social expectations which snuffed out their dreams in service to husband and children. When we cannot escape a cage, we often become accustomed to it, and make a romance of counting and cataloguing the bars. I’ve been very happy to be free of that.

          For the record, not all of us extreme individualists devalue social capital. Far from it. I intensely value the Wellington arts/bohemian/left/queer community I find myself in, and go to some effort to maintain a reputation as a good citizen within it. Keeping yourself together and playing well with people on your team is totally worth it, as any game theory situation processed over a few iterations will tell you. Life is networking, so I throw rather extravagant parties (I’m hiring four local artists this June) and actually try to build community around me. I don’t have a family, so I’ve created my own, and that means being supportive to my inner circle of allies. I’ve also founded a role~playing group (in our fifth year) and a women’s business circle. I’m very much in a social profession and spend an increasing portion of my time socialising and maintaining connexions. You can be an extreme individualist and be social; it’s just a different style of sociality.

          My policy preferences are probably pretty close to yours. I confess I did start off as a Randian libertarian. Writers like Rand, Stirner, and Nietzsche appeal intuitively to me, and I spent far too long within the right~libertarian movement. I wanted a society which recognised absolute individual freedom, and I thought that the libertarian world would be a place I could live without restraint or inhibition. What I discovered—and it took me too long to recognise this—is that in an atmosphere of Darwinian freedom there’s nothing to stop people using the catastrophic power of unanswerable social trump cards against you. Rich/white/male/straight people don’t need access to political coercion to crush and subordinate people on the wrong side of social power structures. I came to see civil rights laws laws as a condition of survival and a strong social wage as a gauranteur of freedom against the conformity and servility those with resources can exact from those without. The best way to break the power of husbands to control wives and parents to control children is to have a generous and accessable safety net available for anyone with the courage to leave. In terms of economics, I like a mix of small businesses, cooperatives, and public ownership. And, of course, as a queer woman, all of my allies are leftists, which would be a good enough reason to become a leftist anyway.

          • BTW, I notice that you write a lot (all very high quality) about race and class, but very little about sex, gender, or sexuality. And yet, you state clearly that you recognise the patriarchal family as the emotional heart of conservative consciousness. This is a strange lucuna which jumps out at me.

          • I had an additional thought that I meant to add, but I kept forgetting about it.

            You said that, “This is a strange lucuna which jumps out at me.” I must admit when I first read it, that it sounded a bit accusatory, whether or not you meant it that way. It was just a gut sense.

            I was wondering why you only mentioned “sex, gender, or sexuality.” There are many important issues that I only occasionally mention or else never mention at all. I recognise lots of things as important, but I’m just a single person writing a blog in my free time and that free time is limited. More importantly, my experience, knowledge, and insights are limited to a few subjects that I’m familiar with. Still, the topics of my blogs come from a wide array of issues.

            I realize that for you these issues of sex, gender, and sexuality are centrally important. For someone else, disability or economics would be centrally important. Thousands of different things would be of major concern to different people. That is hardly surprising.

            I could turn it around and say it is a strange lacuna that you didn’t mention all these other issues. It isn’t strange, though. You simply are focused on what is on your plate, as am I.

            Anyway, I see lots of things at the heart of lots of things. I could quit my job, read and write 24/7, and I still wouldn’t be able to fully deal with it all.

            Besides, I’m not sure that the patriarchal family is the greatest issue at the heart of our society or even just of conservatism. Yes, it is immensely significant. I just don’t know if it is more significant than a whole host of other issues.

            I try to focus on what I see as most significant. To be honest, I do see race and class as being more significant in many ways (for American society, at least) than sex, gender, and sexuality. The reason is that, as I see it, race and class get conflated with one another in a way that neither gets conflated with gender. That conflation is a major crux of our society, one of the most powerful of symbolic conflations.

            Even so, none of that is to ignore that sex, gender, and sexuality don’t intersect and overlap with all of this. I see great insight to be had from intersectional theory. It is quite likely that I’ll write about other issues in the future, but I feel compelled to follow where my intuition and curiosity lead me. I’m not one to command myself to write about particular issues, not that such a method would likely be useful. My mind goes where my mind goes.

            Plus, In other ways, it maybe doesn’t matter which issues one focuses on. The underlying patterns and forces are what draw my attention the most. Many different issues can be used as openings into deeper factors and understandings. I want to get past superficial analysis.

            By the way, I would point out that the entry point for my entire thinking about symbolic conflation came from issues related to sex, gender, and sexuality. It was because I was thinking about premarital sex, unwanted pregnancies, and abortion rates that I came to that original insight.

            I didn’t at the time think about the particular issue being important in and of itself. I suspected any culture war issue or any other highly emotional issue could be used as an example to explore the underlying patterns and dynamics involved, but maybe I was missing something. It could be that I came to my insight precisely because it was an issue involving sex, gender, and sexuality.

            Reading Hyde’s analysis of the trickster has made me think deeper about why that original example was so useful. He sees the body and pysicality as being central to how this all plays out. Obviously, that connects to the issues of concern to you.

            Trust me, I’ll give it all more thought. It’s just my thinking has to develop naturally on its own. It needs to follow its own path.

          • Sweetie, when a man implies that his issues are rational, but her issues are emotional (which you’ve done twice now), women leave the table to talk to someone else.

          • Let me give you a direct apology. The way you took my words wasn’t what I intended. The point, however, is that intention wasn’t communicated and I accept my responsibility for I want to communicate well.

            There is often a critical edge to my voice. It comes from decades of depression. It has nothing to do with your gender or anything about you. I have no doubt that you sensed that edge in what I wrote. So, you were correct in sensing something was there, but realize that is merely my own emotional issues poking through.

            Anyway, I’m sorry that I offended you. I don’t know if that means anything to you. It is sincere. I try to be a good person, and I don’t want to hurt other people, even if unintentionally, but trust me when I tell you that I have many issues.

          • Let me be straightforward with you. You seem like a nice person and a good person. I trust my judge of character. I think you mean well, as I mean well.

            Still, misunderstandings on the internet are dime a dozen. I’ve grown used to miscommunications and I’ve also grown used to apologizing. It is hard to interact with someone you just met when you lack all of the personal cues and social context.

            The internet doesn’t always bring out the best in me. I’m an introvert and I don’t casually interact with many people in my everyday offline life. I do like meeting people in my blog and elsewhere, but it takes a lot of effort connecting with someone new. As I write this, I’m involved in four other discussions with six other people. My time and emotional energy is divided. I find too much online interactions to be stressful and draining, and I’m sure that shows.

            That is why I mostly stopped using social media like Facebook. I can feel overwhelmed easily. But I enjoy writing my blog, for various reasons. It’s replaced my private journaling, but there is always a personal element to even my public writings, even when it isn’t overtly personal.

            I feel a bit conflicted with my blog. It is in a sense part of my personal space, but it also represents an aspect of my public persona. I try to negotiate between these two, albeit imperfectly. I do want people to feel welcome in my blog.

            As such, I don’t want you to feel like I was attacking or dismissing you. However, please understand that I have a tendency to be forthright with people. I’m going to let you know how I feel, but you are free to let me know how you feel. I think that is a fair deal.

        • “I don’t feel as constrained by upbringing and family as you seem to.”

          I wouldn’t necessarily use the word constrained, but there maybe is a truth to that. My depression has created in me an experience of constraint about life in general. That is largely what drives me to understand the world. I don’t know how to change many things that I dislike and I don’t know how to escape them. So, my best defense is understanding, for I want to at least to know what I’m up against.

          “So, please forgive me if I do not share your sympathy for conservatives.”

          I’m not sure I sypathize with conservatives. I would say that I empathize, which is a different kind of thing. I want to understand, but that doesn’t imply I simply accept and tolerate.

          I didn’t have as a traumatic as an experience with my conservative parents as you had in your life. My parents actually are rather liberal-minded for conservatives. They raised me to be a liberal and instilled in me certain liberal values, strangely as that sounds. For example, they raised me in a church that was so liberal as to do gay marriages. This has caused me to see conservatism and liberalism to be complex. Still, I realize there are conservatives who are worthless scum.

          “You mentioned individualism, and finding it difficult to understand?”

          I’m not sure I find it hard to understand exactly. I was raised in individualism. It pervades American society. My parents are strong individualists. They raised me in that worldview and taught me its values. I’m not saying that individualism is wrong. It’s more that I philosophically perceive the world differently. It goes deep into my personal experience of reality, and so it just is what it is.

          “Well, I think my greatest gift has been a freedom from attachment to people.”

          Each person has different experience. That shapes who we are. Also, we all seek to make meaning of our experience. Of course, our experience makes sense to us and it is integral to what we value.

          I too sought freedom from attachment and so I understand that impulse, but different experience led me in a different direction. A lot of that has to do with depression. I realized I could seek freedom from attachment to people, but I couldn’t escape the suffering that was within me. Depression has a way of making a person into their own worst enemy.

          “For the record, not all of us extreme individualists devalue social capital.”

          I understand that. My conservative father has strong libertarian tendencies that include individualist values. One of the issues I can often agree with my father about is the need for social capital. Obviously, the two aren’t inherently opposed.

          “Keeping yourself together and playing well with people on your team is totally worth it, as any game theory situation processed over a few iterations will tell you.”

          Yeah, that is true. I’ve argued that social capital is of central importance. If there is social capital in place, that goes a long way to solve many problems, no matter one’s beliefs and values. Social capital can express in endless ways.

          “Life is networking, so I throw rather extravagant parties (I’m hiring four local artists this June) and actually try to build community around me.”

          You remind me of one of my closest friends who lives in Portland, OR. She divorced not too long ago. Since that time, she has become even more social. Like you, she goes to great effort to build community around her. She considers it her greatest talent.

          “You can be an extreme individualist and be social; it’s just a different style of sociality.”

          I’m actually not an overly social person. I have my family and a few close friends. One of my friends I’ve known since 3rd grade and we still hang out every week.

          I don’t build relationships easily. I’m an introvert, always have been shy, and I suspect I have a bit of social anxiety (although never diagnosed). My long term close relationships are how I maintain psychological stability.

          I admit that I fear becoming isolated, because with my depression that could lead to some very dark roads. There have been times of my life when I became more isolated and I didn’t find it liberating.

          “My policy preferences are probably pretty close to yours.”

          It does seem to basically the same.

          “BTW, I notice that you write a lot (all very high quality) about race and class, but very little about sex, gender, or sexuality. And yet, you state clearly that you recognise the patriarchal family as the emotional heart of conservative consciousness. This is a strange lucuna which jumps out at me.”

          That is a fair observation.

          I find myself limited to my personal understanding. I’m not a person that goes very far outside of what I personally know. Race and class issues are within my life experience. I appreciate the importancce of sex, gender, and sexuality, but I’m not sure how insightfully I could speak to all of that. I know my limits.

          Plus, those are in some ways more difficult issues than that of race and class, which can take on extremely overt systemic forms (e.g., Jim Crow). I do read about sex, gender, and sexuality in various books I have. I’m just not sure how to think clearly about these.

          I feel quite conflicted about my own sexuality, being a bachelor who has never been talented in the romance department. I also used to be highly critical of my parents’ marriage. I saw it as a relationship of convenience, rather than that of love. I still don’t like the idea of marriage just for the sake of it.

          There is one area in which I’ve thought about gender issues quite a bit, but I’m not sure how much of that thinking ever made it into blog posts. I used to belong to Myers-Briggs forums. One major issue in personality theory and research has to do with gender differences and stereotypes. I test as an INFP, which is not a stereotypically masculine personality type.

          There is an area of feminist thought that has influenced my recent thinking. You can find it in some fairly recent blogs, some of it related to race and class. It is about intersectional theory. I’ve had a number of discussions with skepoet about this.

    • I bet there is an interesting story of why you left the South and ended up in New Zealand. I left the South because it never felt like my home. I had developed an attachment to the Midwest in my childhood. But I assume you spent your childhood in the South.

      There is another ex-Southerner who comments on my blog sometimes. His username is skepoet, but his actual name is C. Derrick Varn. He has his own blog, which is how I met him. Like you, he left the South (Georgia, as I recall) and has been living in other countries. Presently, he lives in Mexico.

      He teaches and writes, some articles and poetry. He often writes about politics. His political views are a bit mixed. When he was living in the South, he was initially more of a libertarian or something like that. But an experience made him question his beliefs, as he saw how much social environment contributed to the problems of individuals. He shifted to Marxism for a number years. He now is still more or less on the left, although I’m not sure how he would choose to identify himself.

      Anyway, he is an interesting guy. Intelligent and insightful. He has challenged my views on a number of occasions. I like debating with him, as he comes from a different vantage point, along with different experiences and knowledge.

      The last time he commented here was maybe a month ago. He sometimes comments more often. If you look around at my old posts, you’ll come across many comments by him. We’ve had some lengthy discussions.

  8. “Sweetie, when a man implies that his issues are rational, but her issues are emotional (which you’ve done twice now), women leave the table to talk to someone else.”

    To be fair, you are speaking to your own perception of what I said. That may or may not correspond to what I actually said and the intention behind what I said. That issue of perception is why prefaced my own comment by saying that it felt accusatory to me, but I realized that I may have been reading into what you wrote. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt and not assuming I had you figured out.

    You are judging me based on a stereotype of men. That is unfair and I’m sure you realize that is unfair, as your central complaint seems to be that you felt I was stereotyping you because of your gender (well, since its the internet, we are going by each other’s claimed gender).

    The reason I say that is unfair is because no one who knows me would think that way about me. I’m an atypical male. First of all, I test on Myers-Briggs as an INFP, which is the complete opposite of the masculine male stereotype (ESTJ). Second, I was raised in New Agey churches where I was taught from a young age to be touchy-feely. Third, I’m one of the mmost emotional people I know, to such an extent that it can be extremely dysfunctional at times.

    All in all, I’m not the type of person that you portray me to be. That would be out of character. That isn’t to say that I’ve never been disrespectful of other’s feelings, but it isn’t my style to attack someone merely on the basis of what they feel. However, I will sometimes crticize how someone uses their emotions in relationship to me, specifically if it seems unhelpful, mean, or whatever.

    If you look back at my comments, what you will noticce is how open I am about emotions and all things personal. If anything, that is my failing. I’m one of the last people in the world to deny my emotions as to feel superior to others. I admitted that the limits of my blogging are based on personal reasons, such as life experience. I never claimed that my motivations were purely rational, in contrast to you. I was trying to make the point that I was no different than you, that both of us have our respective personal experiences and issues of concern.

    I obviously failed to communicate that well. I often fail to communicate well. In fact, I have a regular habit on my blog to admitting to this. Communicating well is difficult, but I try my best.

    • Dear, dear goddess. So you follow up second classing gender issues as emotional rather than seriously material with this gem:

      “[Y]our central complaint seems to be that you felt I was stereotyping you because of your gender (well, since its the internet, we are going by each other’s claimed gender).”

      Wow. You know, I actually about 50% believe you probably didn’t mean how that sounded. But that’s not the point. Out of an entire English language of things you could say to a transgender woman, this is what you end up throwing out? Do you have any idea just how dehumanising, excluding, and insulting that is? You literally couldn’t have said worse to another human being without employing hate speech.

      Please don’t give me another defensive textwall about your good intentions. First of all, ignorance of how one is actually hurting people is a textbook corollary and component to privilege, which is something I kinda expect a competent 21st century liberal to know by now. But, more importantly, *your intentions do not matter* to the people you damage with your language. If you had said those words in a public or social setting, the result would have been to traumatically invalidate another person, in a way that threatens their inclusion in society and quite possibly their physical safety. You’re establishing an immediate social precedent that it’s okay to deny people their most basic selfhood, which in practice means either other people stand up for someone’s right to be treated with human dignity, or you’ve just made whatever space you said that in unsafe for someone else to remain in. It would cause an ugly scene, and someone would probably be asked to leave permanently.

      It’s the exact same issue as if you shouted the n~word about, even if you thought you were only discussing Mark Twain. You think that wouldn’t threaten people? The way you are acting *seriously hurts human lives* no matter what your feelings and intentions are.

      I can never really know, but I’ll go ahead and assume you didn’t “mean” to be hurtful. But no one cares. If the way you treat people makes people in your vicinity less valued, less safe, less *human*—then that’s what you are doing to them, and that’s what they have a right to respond to.

      • “So you follow up second classing gender issues as emotional rather than seriously material with this gem”

        My point was simple in that particular comment. I was just meaning that the internet is an unusual social situation.

        Many people online go by different kinds of identities that may or may not correspond to their everyday identities. For example, a person who identifies as one gender in their personal relationships may identify as another gender for their online persona, for whatever reason. Or someone might be transgender and not speak about it online because of personal reasons.

        So, I only know how you present your gender identity in one particular situation. I have never met you. My sense of you is extremely limited. The same goes for your sense of me. Still, I understand the desire to size people up who you have met online, to ascertain whether they are worthy of further interaction. That is a fair thing to do, if too often it is superficial under the circumstances.

        “You know, I actually about 50% believe you probably didn’t mean how that sounded. But that’s not the point. Out of an entire English language of things you could say to a transgender woman, this is what you end up throwing out? Do you have any idea just how dehumanising, excluding, and insulting that is? You literally couldn’t have said worse to another human being without employing hate speech.”

        I tend to first and foremost think of people as humans. I don’t know how what I said sounded to you, as you don’t know how what you said sounded to me. I can’t actually know where you are coming from. Being a transgender woman would mean different things to different people with different experiences.

        In the context of neither of us fundamentally understanding the gender identity and experience of the other, all statements involving gender terms easily fall into the trap of generalizations and stereotypes, which is to say dehumanizing. My comment apparently felt dehumanizing to you, along with excluding and insulting. Guess what? Your comment to me also felt dehumanizing, excluding, and insulting.

        That is precisely what I was expressing in that comment that you interpreted as you did. Are we going to argue about whose feelings are more important and valuable? That doesn’t seem helpful. Why not avoid generalizations in both directions and instead acknowledge each other’s common humanity?

        “Please don’t give me another defensive textwall about your good intentions.”

        Why? Are only you allowed to give me defenseive textwalls about your good intentions?

        “First of all, ignorance of how one is actually hurting people is a textbook corollary and component to privilege, which is something I kinda expect a competent 21st century liberal to know by now.”

        I understand about hurting people, but it goes way beyond privilege or only particular kinds of privilege. Your comments were hurtful to me. Your further belittling me is also hurtful to me. I hope you take that into consideration. I do expect mutual respect. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

        “But, more importantly, *your intentions do not matter* to the people you damage with your language.”

        Intentions do matter, of course, as words and intentions are inseparable. What you mean is that we should both attempt to have good intentions and to express them well. Anyway, even going by the notion that intentions don’t matter, that would apply to you as well. In that case, “*your intentions do not matter* to the people you damage with your language.” Specifically, no matter what your intentions were, your comments toward me felt dismissive and condescending to me.

        That said, I was saying that we should both give one another the benefit of the doubt. Internet interactions are known for their miscommunications, not just of words and intentions, but also of interpretation according to life experience and background.

        “If you had said those words in a public or social setting, the result would have been to traumatically invalidate another person, in a way that threatens their inclusion in society and quite possibly their physical safety. You’re establishing an immediate social precedent that it’s okay to deny people their most basic selfhood, which in practice means either other people stand up for someone’s right to be treated with human dignity, or you’ve just made whatever space you said that in unsafe for someone else to remain in. It would cause an ugly scene, and someone would probably be asked to leave permanently.”

        From my perspective, you seem to be reading into what I wrote. I don’t see how asking someone not to gender stereotype me would lead their safety being threatened.

        “It’s the exact same issue as if you shouted the n~word about, even if you thought you were only discussing Mark Twain. You think that wouldn’t threaten people? The way you are acting *seriously hurts human lives* no matter what your feelings and intentions are.”

        I understand your perspective. I’m just asking you to hold yourself to the same moral standard you are holding others to.

        “I can never really know, but I’ll go ahead and assume you didn’t “mean” to be hurtful. But no one cares. If the way you treat people makes people in your vicinity less valued, less safe, less *human*—then that’s what you are doing to them, and that’s what they have a right to respond to.”

        Same back at you, except for one part. I do care. I care to an extreme degree what people mean and intend. I care because I realize I’m imperfect and that I’m capable of misinterpreting. Keeping this in mind is the only way we can protect ourselves against projecting onto others. This is relevant to all humans and has nothing to do with only those with privilege, real or perceived.

        If you can’t treat me as an equal human as you would want to be treated, then I don’t see this going anywhere positive.

      • The thing is it is you who put this entire thing into a gender context. I didn’t do that. I wouldn’t have even thought about your gender identity if you hadn’t mentioned it. Even then, it didn’t mean much to me, as I don’t personally know you. I take with a grain of salt all claims of people I meet online, at least until I get to know the person better. Nothing I said had anything to do with your self-identified gender. Everything that you’ve said about gender is what you are bringing to the table.

        I don’t know why you want to create a conflict where none existed, but I’m not particularly interested. I want that to be clear. There are plenty places on the internet where people want to argue about their respective gender identities. I do occasionally talk about various identity issues, including gender, but I feel no grand desire to argue about my gender identity or others. I must admit that I’m not strongly attached to any particular rigid gender identity and so feel no need to defend it.

        My political and social views are more broad than generally having to do with particular identities. Even the identities I do take on, such as being a Midwesterner or liberal, I hold very lightly and try not to take them too seriously. Such labels are words. Yes, words are important, but words are also tricky. We humans have a way of getting caught up in our own words, especially when identity is involved.

        Life experience has humbled me, often against my will. I’m a confused person in many ways. There is more that I don’t know and understand than what I do, but then again that is true for everyone. We are bumbling in the dark here. It is too be expected we will knock into each other on occasion. The best we can do is try to be empathetic and understanding, compassionate and forgiving. Still, I have my limits, which include my personal weaknesses and failings.

        In discussions like this, I feel like no matter what I say it is going to be interpreted in the worst light possible. As it has been said before, when someone doesn’t want to understand you, you are helpless to make yourself understood. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way in your own life, and so maybe that could be a point where we could agree and find mutual understanding… or maybe not.

        I wish you no ill will. I have nothing against you. How could I? I don’t even know you. I realize that I’m just pissing you off. If you stay here commenting in my blog, I’ll probably continue to piss you off. I speak both my mind and heart, as well as I can, and I’m not one for censoring myself to others demands. I want to be kind to others and I want others to be kind to me. This blog was created as a space to express what is important to me. If you don’t value that, then this isn’t the place for you. No hard feelings.

      • This is not my first time to take issue with identity politics.

        https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/there-are-no-allies-without-alliances/

        Our exchange here further demonstrates a problem I see too often. Identity politics is powerful, both personally and collectively. But it can be a blunt tool at times. It can divide as easily as unite.

        What makes me a liberal is partly my desire to seek a common humanity. I often times half jokingly call myself a pansy liberal. I genuinely want everyone to get along.

        If identity politics fails that ideal, then fuck identity politics. It is less than worthless, in that case. It can become a genuine threat to all that I value. I will fight against that kind of bullshit as strongly as I’ll fight against the haters and fearmongers of the world.

        I may be a pansy liberal, but I’ll fight for what I believe in.

          • Have you considered not being a self-righteous arrogant asshole? You might find that, if you work on your interpersonal skills, your interactions with others will be happier.

            Going around projecting your personal issues on others and starting fights with strangers is probably not helpful, not for you or anyone else. It certainly is counterproductive to whatever political ends you hope to achieve.

            You are annoying, not because you are a transgender woman. It’s just how you’ve chosen to behave and treat others. It’s a choice. Your gender issues are yours, not mine. Projecting them onto others won’t make the world a better place.

            Yes, there are important social issues in the world and some of them do indeed overlap with gender, along with a thousand other things. We all have our crosses to bear. You aren’t a special snowflake.

            Another problem with identity politics is those who advocate for it tend to be people who are themselves in positions of relative privilege. Most identity politics activists are some combination of white, middle class, well educated, professionals, and Americans (or citizen of some other Western country). People like you attack others for their privilege while refusing to acknowledge your own relative privilege, such as the freedom and relative ease of moving to another Western country.

            Let me provide some examples. It galls me when a white middle class feminist makes statements as if she can talk about all women. What such a person doesn’t realize is that most women who are abused, raped, and oppressed aren’t white middle class feminists. It is the same reason it annoys me when someone like Cosby or Obama talk about blacks, as if they have a fucking clue about the experience most blacks live on a daily basis.

            Talk about checking your privilege.

            As I said, we all have crosses to bear. A poor white straight male quite possibly experiences a harder life than someone like you could ever imagine. Yet you feel your identity politics allows you to judge them for their privilege of being a white straight male. That is just bullshit. Being born and living your entire life poor desperately poor is no walk in the park, no matter you race and gender.

            You think you can judge me, when you don’t even know me. Your comments demonstrated how far off the mark you were about me. I don’t dismiss the sufferings of others. I’m sorry you’ve had a hard life. I’ve had a hard life as well. It’s a stupid game to play, trying to compare suffering and seeing who is superior by suffering the most. Suffering just sucks. Instead of a badge of superiority, suffering should open us up to compassion, not shut us down.

            Identity politics has its place. I don’t dismiss it out of hand. Use it to the degree and in the ways it can be empowering. But use it carefully and wisely, and most importantly use it with self-awareness.

            I’m sure you can be a very nice person, our interaction notwithstanding. But you’ve obviously been hurt by life. You carry your bleeding wounds around with you. You are ready to attack anyone and everyone. You’ve forgotten who your enemies are, for in your mind every shadow is a potential enemy. Your lashing out wildly even at people who may largely agree with you and understand where you are coming from.

            That is no way to live. I realize how bad life can be. I understand the need to defend one’s self. It is a tough world, but you need to learn to tell the difference between those who mean you harm and those who don’t.

            Yes, I’m imperfect and have my own problems, just like you. That just makes us both human. I too could work on my interpersonal skills, as could we all. I tried my best to reach out to you, but you simply attacked me for my efforts. I offered you understanding and you gave me judgment in return. Did you really think I would submit to your willful personality just because you think you are right about everything? I will admit to what I’ve done wrong, when I do wrong, but I’m not going to play games.

            Why did you think it was too much of me to ask you to treat me as an equal, to treat me as you would want to be treated? Don’t you appreciate it when others treat you as an equal, when people give you the benefit of the doubt? If those aren’t what you value, what are you fighting so hard about? Is it just fighting for the sake of it? Have you been fighting so long that you’ve forgotten the reasons why?

  9. I wanted to more fully return to the comment that led to our confllict. You wrote:

    “BTW, I notice that you write a lot (all very high quality) about race and class, but very little about sex, gender, or sexuality. And yet, you state clearly that you recognise the patriarchal family as the emotional heart of conservative consciousness. This is a strange lucuna which jumps out at me.”

    My first response was to make two statements.

    First, I don’t write in detail about many important issues. These are important issues to you, as other issues that you don’t focus on are important to others. No one has the time and energy to focus on all important issues.

    Second, like everyone else, I’m limited by my personal experience. That was an admission of humility that you didn’t acknowledge. I can’t speak about that which I don’t know well. Nor can you.

    For example, I’ve never personally known a transgender woman. But if I had gotten to know you, then I would have had some basis for thinking about the issues that are important to you. I learn from people when I’m able to personally connect with them. It’s too bad you weren’t willing to let down your guard and interact with me on normal human terms.

    In one of my last comments above, I mentioned identity politics, specifically in relation to this post:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/there-are-no-allies-without-alliances/

    But there is also this post about the topic:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/who-is-to-blame/

    I’ve written about identity politics on a number of occasions. Those posts are directly relevant to our conflict here. There is this post where I talk about intersectionalism, a topic I thought you would be wise to keep in mind:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/black-feminism-and-epistemology-of-ignorance/

    In another post, I tackled the “Not All Men” fiasco:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/a-fucked-up-world/

    Here is a snippet from that post:

    “That is a major problem with both partisan politics and identity politics, or really any kind of ideological dogmatism. It leads to groupthink, an us vs them mentality. It is pointless and stupid. It just makes everything worse. The larger problems are ignored, the problems that are so immense that taking them in would lead some to suicidal despair. Maybe many people know on some level how fucked up it is and they want to avoid that awareness at any and all costs, even if it means never dealing with the problems they claim to care about.”

    That resonates to how I feel about this present interaction. It’s a refusal to face up the immensity of suffering in the world. Not just one’s own suffering and the suffering of one’s perceived group.

    In another post, C. Derrick Varns (skepoet) made a good comment:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/minority-majority-us-vs-them-and-racism/#comment-7543

    Here is something that he quoted that was a response to an article:

    “So wringing your hands about racism and privilege might make you feel morally superior but that isn’t going to get a poor kid a sandwich regardless of what his skin color is. What is going to get him that sandwich is a unified effort pushing for policies and funding to get those kids fed. Unfortunately what I see among fellow progressives is an increasing focus on identity politics and fighting over scraps.”

    That is the problem. In my comment following his, I pointed out a further problem:

    “Race is often a distraction, for that is the purpose of race as a social construct. The black/white frame (and other identity politics frames) is dangerous territory for political action on the left. Us-vs-them is an inherently conservative worldview and will inevitably lead to conservative politics. Identity politics always is mired in an us-vs-them frame.”

    Anyway, I wanted to point out that I have written quite a bit on issues of sex, gender, sexuality, and related issues. I haven’t written about them as much as I’ve written about race. Then again, some personal issues that are important to me also haven’t been written about as much as race. I’ve focused on race because it is one of those issues that cuts deeply to the heart of our society.

    Besides the above links, here is a small sampling of the other posts where these issues come up that you say I’ve written “very little” about, where I explore these issues from diverse perspectives:

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/survey-on-love-sex-kids-gender-roles-reversing/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/masculinity-presidency-sexism-politics/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/unseen-influences-race-gender-and-twins/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/political-party-morality-personality-gender/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/plowing-the-furrows-of-the-mind/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/boys-adrift/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/alexander-mckay-on-teen-sexuality/

    https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/thinking-outside-the-box-worlds-gender-games/

    I think your real complaint is that I haven’t written about transgender women, such as yourself. That is true. The entire transgender issue has never been the topic of any post, although it was brought up in a few comments in my blog. Maybe you should have been more clear about what you were specifically referring to.

    I wouldn’t argue that transgender issues aren’t important and maybe I should write a post about it, but we should keep things in perspective. Race is so central, because most of the population on the planet is non-white. White racism impacts way more people than transgender oppression ever will.

    There are endless ways people are oppressed. I tend to go after the big game, for the simple reason that is where the greatest impact can be had and the greatest good can be done.

    Still, I will keep gender issues in mind, especially the broader issues beyond niche identity politics. I’m sure it will inform my future writings. I’m always looking for new perspectives. That is why I started reading about femminism in recent years, especially the more radical varieties of feminism.

    • As I was going for a walk today, I was thinking further about this altercation. I’m used to this kind of thing on the internet. I’ve come to expect it. But it is frustrating.

      I’m not against identity politics on principle. I’m not against most things on principle. Context is everything. Also, I judge things by their fruit. In this case, I’m assessing the value of aliceraizel’s views by her behavior toward me. I doubt I’m the only one she treats this way. It is typical of a certain kind of identity politics advocate/activist.

      I do think identity politics can potentially be a force for good. It is sometimes even necessary to push for positive change. But, for that reason, we must judge it to the extent that it achieves or fails to achieve this end.

      Identity politics is good when the identities involved are uniting rather than dividing, when they are broad and inclusive, when they are inspiring and bring out the best in people, when they are complex and comprehensive enough to deal with the social realities we all face. When identity politics fails accordingly, it is not good.

      We should have the courage to call out failure, even if it involves good intentions. I don’t doubt that aliceraizel has good intentions, but as she argues intentions don’t matter. It is actual behavior that matters and that is precisely the failure here.

      This is why I see intersectionality as so important. It potentially offers a genuinely radical vision that can lead to a transformative reinterpretation of social experience. It points to identities being more complex than previous forms of identity politics allowed for. It has been around for a while, and yet it still poses a potent challenge to mainstream identity politics, especially as it has been brought to bear upon issues far beyond the traditional areas of feminism.

      So, the question is: How can we create a new social and political vision that gets beyond what too often becomes mere righteous posturing and divisiveness?

  10. I stumbled upon your blog recently and “A Disappointed Idealist is Still an Idealist” is probably the best way that I’ve seen my experience described. I also wanted to compliment you on the way you handled the altercation with one of your commenters a little bit later in the page and (several years later time-wise!) Your approach was empathetic and honest, both intellectually and socially. Instead of taking the bait, you attempted to refocus back to the issue at hand and when pushed beyond a certain point, firmly stated your boundaries all while maintaining a level of respect.

    I’m struggling with a degree of Nihilism myself. Cynicism has started to take root and I find myself making the transition into a long comfortable lifetime of survival mode as there don’t seem to be another options. Your post came along at the perfect time just as my alienation was starting to reach a fever pitch. Somehow, knowing that there are others out there fighting the same battles makes things feel more “normal(?)”. Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing and I just wanted to let you know that this post is still having an impact, even years later.

    • I do try to treat others as I’d like to be treated, although I don’t know how often I succeed. In the situation above in the comments, I really felt no ill will toward that person. I understood what it is like to feel hurt and defensive. I wish there was something I could do for that person, but apparently nothing I did was going to be helpful or accepted.

      There are times when I can be mean and dismissive. The internet sometimes brings that out in me. I’ve tried to limit where I spend my time on the internet. The comments sections on many sites don’t bring out the best in me. I mostly avoid social media these days. i can get sucked into pointless interactions and it rarely leaves me in a good mood.

      I truly am glad that this post resonated for you. I don’t normally write things this personal. It isn’t that I don’t mention personal things in my blog all the time, but something like this is emotionally raw for me. It’s my letting the world see a glimpse of my inner life. Depression is mostly a private issue for me. It is my personal problem and I mostly suffer in silence. There just doesn’t seem much point in bringing it up a lot. Depression is just there in the background, an ever-present experience. It’s surprising what can become normal after a while.

      BTW I assume you are the same person who sent me a friend request on FB. I accepted it, but I must admit I don’t spend much time there these days. I used to be on there all the time. I noticed you like Adventure Time. I’m a big fan of that show. Great stuff!

      Do you blog? I follow a few blogs. Mostly, I just do my own blogging. If you’ve looked at my posts over the years, you’ll see that my mind goes in many directions. I’m focused on a number of things right now, sort of. I’m not very good at staying focused. Race has been a big issue for me for a while now. As a white guy, my only explanation for that is that I spent so many years in the Deep South and it sensitized me to the race issue.

      I think I’d be happier writing fiction, which I occasionally do. Depression for some reason, though, makes it hard for me to focus on fiction. Depression dulls my creativity. I have to watch shows like Adventure Time to remind myself of the more playful side of my personality.

      • Thanks for your reply! Yeah, that was my FB invite. I enjoy Adventure time for pretty much the same reasons. A personality can be a big place and it’s easy to get lost in some of the more unsavory parts. Adventure Time and shows like it help me access a lighter perspective on some otherwise challenging issues which can be a source of strength. Rick and Morty is also a great one. It’s less hopeful and more cynical but overall has the same effect. I also usually limit the amount of time I spend on Facebook, but I added you partially as a way to curate a more positive experience for the time I do. I agree with your take on social media being a mood sucker. You mentioned elsewhere that you tend to be a critical person but not from a place of moral high-ground. Much of the comments bring out my critical side but mostly out of disappointment and frustration rather than ill will – which further feeds my sense of alienation.

        In terms of the comment situation, what impressed me was not that you avoided launching into anger and personal attacks but rather the way you expressed yourself. Often times I get flustered in those situations so seeing a demonstration of the right attitude combined with the eloquence to back it up was both satisfying and a learning experience. You were patient and genuine, offering numerous opportunities to diffuse the misunderstanding and advance the discussion while avoiding getting distracted by rhetorical tactics. When it became clear that it wasn’t going to possible, you drew a line for what was an appropriate way to treat you and ended the conversation with dignity. I understand the desire to do more but ultimately, they’re on their own journey of self discovery. I think it went as well as it was going to and that’s a credit to your efforts. I saw it as a net positive interaction and a great example of healthy online discourse no matter the viewpoint.

        I haven’t done any blogging myself, though I have thought about it. It mostly comes from a lack of motivation from depression combined with self-esteem issues and impossibly high personal standards for what I believe constitutes a valuable contribution to the world. Some weird quirk of my personality makes it feel like stating my opinions is presumptuous and indulgent. I’m chock-full of uncertainty about my beliefs. The last thing I want to do is give someone the false impression of my authority on a subject. I’m almost allergic to the idea of being held to opinions I may have stated in the past just as a way to explore them. I’m sure you witnessed this first-hand, but it’s also incredibly easy to be taken out of context on the web. You mentioned that you tend to avoid writing on personal matters. I think that everything someone writes is personal on some level. Even phrasing and topic choice can reveal small things about them. To me, writing represents making a bold statement about what you believe is valuable and important enough to pour your time and energy into. A cocktail of depression and nihilism make it so that I can’t logically defend such a statement to myself. It seems disingenuous to signal a false certainty to others. As a result, most of my writing quickly starts drifting into reduction and pessimistic meandering on meaning while I try to navigate back to something resembling a stance. (Case in point!) I don’t want to stand for something in people’s minds until I actually stand for something in my own. Not that they’re good ones, but for these reasons, I tend to keep a low profile online.

        All that being said, these judgement only apply to me. I don’t usually think of content creators in this way and on the contrary, I have a lot of respect for them. We tend to admire that which we feel is lacking in our own lives. I’ve read a handful of your posts so far and I didn’t get the impression of a lack of focus. I noticed that you’re into MBTI, maybe it’s just my fellow Ne following the trail of overlapping connections and associations and saying “everything seems to be in order, nothing to see here!” But it seems healthy to me to have a variety of interests. More often than not, it’s the synthesis of two disparate areas that produces the most novel insights. Anyway, I wanted to express my gratitude for sharing a window into your personal struggles. I know all about suffering in silence and not wishing to subject others to it but I figured I’d let you know it had a positive impact in case you’re ever considering posting more like it.

        This went on a little longer than I intended but I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff!

      • I get what you say about the personal. There is always a personal edge to everything I write. My emotions are a strong current just below the surface.

        About confidence, I do lack that in many ways. But it has never stopped me from throwing out my two cents worth. I have confidence in my intellect, and confidence in discerning what is of value within my own mind and experience. I read deeply and widely, and have been doing so for a couple decades now, starting in high school. I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know.

        In case you’re interested, the common blogging topics around which my mind revolves are (in no particular order):

        some local interest, often in terms of community and tangible issues;
        race and class issues, and all that goes with it, often in a historical or sociological context;
        occasionally politics, although I try to limit that and keep it focused on the psychological, demographic, and polling;
        history, culture, regionalism, and genealogy;
        origin and development of ideas, and philosophy in general, with some interest in philosophical pessimism;
        personality theory and research, along with psychology and the social sciences in general;
        religious studies, ancient civilizations, and anthropology;
        the weird, from the Fortean to the daimonic to the imaginal;
        issues of empathy, compassion, imagination, what I call symbolic conflation, and ignorance;
        fiction, largely SF such as Philip K. Dick and some philosophical horror;
        et cetera.

        In my mind, it all connects together. My interests are always personal. As for posts such as this one, there are a few others similar to it in my blog. The personal is the hardest to write about, I must admit, especially to do so in a way that connects to readers.

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