Tag: Politics

No Final Defeat

“There is no final victory, as there is no final defeat. There is just the same battle. To be fought, over and over again. So toughen up, bloody toughen up.”

Tony Benn, Socialist

“If we take the widest and wisest view of a Cause, there is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph.”

T.S. Eliot, Poet

“Never confuse a single failure with a final defeat.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Novelist

This Year’s Reading (2021)

  • Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher: Only 81 pages but an eye-opener. Is common sense re: the economy and your place in it really common sense or have you been taught to think that way?
  • Deep Work, Cal Newport: In our current time, with so many opportunities for distraction, shallow thinking and shallow work can prevail, but we can go against the stream and, with work, reclaim our focus.
  • Tribe, Sebastian Junger: According to Junger (and the research he cites), in times of war and hardship the rates of suicide and depression in a given country dropped, but in ‘peacetime’ rose again. Why is that? Junger also explores (to use one example) how early settlers in America, who were captured by Native American tribes and were ‘rescued’, ran away to rejoin their supposed ‘captors’. What did these tribes have that were so alluring compared to ‘civilised’ society?
  • Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It, Oliver Burkeman: The gist? The average human lifespan is four thousand weeks and there is always more to do than what can be done, especially in a capitalist society, so embrace your limits (even though society doesn’t want you to). In the long run you’ll feel better.

Comparing Oneself as a Writer

In his book 12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson introduces his fourth rule (‘Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today’):

It was easier for people to be good at something when more of us lived in small, rural communities. Someone could be homecoming queen. Someone else could be spelling-bee champion, Math whiz or basketball star. There were only one or two mechanics and a couple of teachers. In each of their domains, these local heroes had the opportunity to enjoy the serotonin-fuelled confidence of the victor […] If you’re one in a million now, but originated in modern New York, there’s twenty of you – and most of us now live in cities. What’s more, we have become digitally connected to the entire seven billion. Our hierarchies of accomplishment are now dizzyingly vertical.

No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.

I think, generally speaking, a writer’s confidence is easily shaken. A dry day where the writing drips out of me even after hours of work can sow doubt in my mind that I may never again write fluently but I don’t often doubt myself as a writer when I see other writers getting published. I feel there’s plenty of room for everyone (or at least plenty of opportunity) and besides, despite how well they’re marketed, some books on the market are awful.

I think it’s easy to despair over one’s art when we live in a predominantly Capitalist society that seems to only value art in the context of the market. If I don’t have a book selling on the shelves is my writing worth less than someone else’s? My head says “maybe” but my heart says “no”.

Credibility

The late poet Mary Oliver once said “The idea must drive the words. When the words drive the idea, it’s all floss and gloss, elaboration, air bubbles, dross, pomp, frump, strumpeting.”

When I think of words driving absent ideas, when I think of dishonesty and pretence, politicians come to mind. Not all politicians are dishonest but there are times when those in power conceal information from the media and, by extension, us. Everything a politician says is scrutinised by the media because it’s the media’s job in a free country to hold those who govern us accountable (although no newspaper is without political bias) so politicians take care not to say anything that might jeopardise their careers. Instead we get the party lines we can all see through and any credibility they had goes out the window.

We like people to mean what they say and say what they mean.