Blog posts I have not written

Given my burnout means I'm unable finish any writing I thought it might be useful to record the starts, if only to get them out of my head.

An old painting of a man with his head in his hand, trying to write something.
The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak. If it's good enough for Wikipedia to illustrate their Writer's Block entry, it's good enough for me.

As I very slowly (so very slowly) make my way through recovery from this exhaustion of the last year, I find myself with moments of lucidity where I think of something I want to write about. Often this happens in the shower or on a walk where I will draft an entire blog post in my head. I can see the paragraphs and how they flow into each other as I figure out the thing I'm trying to figure out into a coherent, punchy conclusion. You know, like I did throughout the 2000s and 2010s.

But because I'm so very tired all the time I don't actually do the writing, because to properly think for a decent amount of time takes a physical toll. A decent cogitation, which I used to find enlivening, leaves me feeling like I've run up a hill and can leave me grumpy and incapable for the next day.

So in the knowledge that I cannot finish any writing I thought it might be useful to record the starts, if only to get them out of my head. And as I did that I realised they might be worth sharing. So this is the first of possibly a few collections of unwritten essays, incomplete blog posts, initialised newsletters. Please be gentle as they are, by definition, not thought through. But they are a reflection of some of what's been on my mind.

How to be an elder. I claim no expertise on how to be an elder, but I've been a younger who has benefitted from elders and I am increasingly finding myself in the elder role.

Loneliness of the YouTube homesteader. I watch a lot of stuff on YouTube about men (always men) building stuff from scratch, and they always seem to be on their own. Occasionally there’s a wife or girlfriend off-camera but when they’re doing the thing they’re alone, even when it means struggling with massive beams of wood to build a barn. This concerns me.

How am I supposed to think about Gaza? Beyond the position of “if your actions result in dead children you have lost the moral high ground” I find myself with zero certainty on what to think about Gaza, and yet I think about it more often than any other news story. I hear arguments from people I respect but I struggle to reach the point of being convinced of any of them. In the next 10,000 words I will attempt to make sense of the situation.

If I was at Primary School now, I would just walk out. Reflecting on my great-nephew's experience at school and my distant memories of the nonsense I endured at his age (8) and how as an adult I would not put up with that shit.

Immigrant assimilation. I have observed, by which I mean I have done zero actual research, that the grandchildren of people who immigrated from the Caribbean and South Asia to post-war Birmingham have the same verbal language, body language and facial expressions as people whose ancestors came to this country in the middle ages. If you wanted to (and I don’t) you could crudely say they are “culturally white”. I will now write a few hundred words about how race is a construct, ethnicity is a side effect of humanity spreading across the globe and adapting to environments in isolation, and that we’re all humans so none of this matters. I might conclude with a thought about this flattening of cultural differences through globalisation which could led us a Star Trek utopia but in doing so could lose us something important. “Culture” is, in many ways, formed in opposition, to define us against others. If there are no others, can there be meaningful culture? I might then delete the whole post as a misguided effort that will probably offend someone.

The tension between making art for myself and making art for other people. Autism stuff, basically. As soon as I have to consider what other people might like, I lose the ability to make the sort of work that other people like. More generally, are we missing out on the creations of the swathe of the population who cannot hustle? My experience putting on a public show of my work in 2017 with either be the subtext or actual-text, depending how well I feel I can articulate it at this point.

DIY self hosting vs corporate tech. Musing on the tension between my wanting control over my online tools and my learned frustration with maintaining my online tools. My wanting to pay someone else to just look after them and my inability to do so, either through financial cost or because the services insist on being surveillance / ad supported. Or that even if they do charge, their terms and conditions are dubious at best. The problem is a lack of regulation of the corporates and a lack of user empathy in the DIY space. I can see how it could be fixed but I have no idea how I can meaningfully contribute to that. I increasingly want to fix a very old computer and just go back to whatever was possible on that machine.

Everything useful will collapse into a sludge of mediocrity and that’s OK. This is ostensibly about Mastodon and the implications of corporate services with toxic goals federating with it through ActivityPub (don’t worry if you have no idea what I’m talking about), and the vain attempts of those who find Mastodon a sanctuary from the last decade of extremist enshitification of our digital social sphere to protect it from this encroachment via an open standard. But it’s really about the fortification of safe spaces whether that can work, whether it’s even desirable to shut yourself off the from a world that wishes you harm, and what the actual solution to all this might be. I suspect it’ll be regulation of corporations, but it might also be acceptance. I would be interested in figuring this out over 3,000 words.

Radical empathy in theory and practice. Over the last few years I’ve been attempting to practice what I call “radical empathy”. I seem to have an instinct, whenever someone labels an other problematic or evil, to actively consider their point of view and the circumstances that might have caused them to behave in such a way. This is incredibly annoying to my wife in particular who just wants to vent, and it’s interesting that I have trouble keeping this to myself somethings. I think I do this for a few reasons. I don’t want to be judged in this way - if I have been a dick (and I”m sure I have) there’s hopefully an explanation for that. I don’t think it’s useful to judge people in this way - it doesn’t allow for any progress or resolution. I know that my views and opinions are incomplete and fungible and I want to develop them and mature them - if I set them up in dogmatic opposition then this is not possible. I am sick of being angry and being angry can make me sick - always better to be kind. But, and this is the important thing, practising radical empathy does not let people off. Understanding (or considering ways to understand) how they became objectionable to me does not make them less objectionable. I can see how you came to an opinion and still fight against that opinion becoming normalised. And yes, it can be twisted into a weapon of superiority - rather than attack you from the front I am going for the foundations of your confidence. But ultimately it comes from a place of seeing us as confused creatures struggling to make sense of a chaotic world where we’re forced to behave in ways we can’t fully know are 100% right and then defend them as if they were. Because I know that’s what I’m doing, and the last bit is not helpful. If we don’t allow people to fuck up, and to accept they’ve fucked up, then we’re never going to learn.

I have started a new document titled "Blog posts I have not written 2". If and when it gets to a thousand words I'll post it here. Exciting!