why a conversation?

‘The only way to survive such shitty times, if you ask me, is to write and read big, fat books, you know?’ – Slavoj Žižek
Philosopher Slavoj Žižek settles the “Is it OK to punch a Nazi?” question once and for all

Maybe this article should have come first.

I am unsure as to whether my reluctance to put my thought into published words is due to cripplingly low self-esteem or just an over-development of British reserve – self-deprecating to excess. Nonetheless it has been historically hard for me to put pen to paper or believe that one should have any right (write?) to claim that their opinion has value. It smacks of liberal, and inherently Western entitlement, the arrogance in our own beliefs. In doing so now I am fully aware of my own hypocrisy. Silence also has a power.

Unfortunately we are now living in a post-truth world, where alternative facts are proffered and experts are disparaged. Where do we go when there is no truth left? Perhaps it is at this point that journalism becomes so important. We must persuade on the strength of our arguments and wit, and we win when people like our ideas.

Still that does not answer the principle question and the problem is that it has multiple answers, alternative truths. When we express our opinion, or our facts for that matter, we seem to have forgotten that the very means by which we express ourselves carries weight. On the basic level, should I write and publish this blog post then some general assumptions can be made about the one reading it: they are literate, they can understand English and they have access to the internet. My article, without even touching on the content, has already made a statement.

Now think of the statement one makes with the backing of a well-branded newspaper or a published book. The means is important because it speaks also, and gives weight to the contents. Thus the publication of a piece of journalism enters the world and makes claims, claims that are to be believed because we trust the means. Thus we have an internet full of judgment, a Guardian whose Opinion section is overrun with contrasting commentary and the only place to respond is in the section underneath the main article, amongst the insults and anger.

We are hitting opinion saturation and everyone feels they are entitled to one. I’m not saying that some people aren’t (if we are post-truth now at least can we also be post-binary?) but rather who gives people the right to think their opinion counts or matters and is so important that they can be given a platform to speak these things be it a weekly column or otherwise. Meanwhile the rest of us have to get on with working and life, doing all the things that need to be done while you opine about stuff. Sometimes you just want to say STFU!

Then there is also the value that lies in expressing oneself, the feeling pleasurable I’m sure but why should we listen because you choose to write? Especially on the political and the social because this is so much of what we hold dear. Things are not value free so it is not enough to state: it’s just my opinion! If you are incorrect or cause damage by espousing advice then we must be evermore careful with our opinions so as to not cause harm. We lock ourselves in debate and meanwhile everything we cherished is quietly stolen from us, we turn around and it’s gone.

Add in my own feelings of inferiority and general laziness and we have the answer to why I have not written anything for months and why I struggle to write at all. While I can spend the evening down the pub gladly expressing my views, I find them tricky to translate to text. My prose is not particularly pretty and I’m sure I will come to loath it with time. Yet I so regularly read an article that I wish to respond to but lack the platform that the author has. In these times maybe we have to create our own platforms.

The act of writing is a divisive act and we should treat it with caution. It is a conversation because now more than ever it is important that we listen to one another. So I invite us to share opinions but in open expression. It is an attempt to counter the problem of closed communication and maybe it is self-serving. Nevertheless maybe you can convince me otherwise?