There has been a considerable drought in my writing, searching for what is wrong with it all, the reason for which has been a combination of busy schedules, shifting priorities and, above all, contentment. After being stuck on transmit and in fifth gear for much of the last two months, I wanted to experience being a recluse for a moment. The therapeutic effect of undisturbed breaks is often grossly neglected by those obsessed with and at mercy of their respective rat race, but luckily not by me. If anything, I am famously susceptible to the comfort of a lull in my soundtrack, maybe at times praising the effect of rest more than the practice of actual work. The rest has been useful in assessing what I wanted to achieve this year, consisting of a number of projects that I have wanted to take on for a while but have resisted in executing through a series of trivial excuses. Surges of motivation, whilst helpful at times, are less fruitful to the cultivation of dreams than trying to reach a heightened state of consistent determination.
I have fallen back in love with reading and have begun to see the words on the pages align unmistakably with reality. Frank Dikötter’s astute analysis of history’s notable strongmen in, ‘Dictators: The Cult of Personality’ highlights the fragility of what we often believe to be a society instilled with insurmountable democratic values. The insurrection of the Capitol invoked comparisons of Dikötter’s description of the Reichstag fire in 1933, the pretext that enabled the Nazi Party to claim a majority in the German government and provide a platform for Hitler to enact his terror. I’m not comparing the practices or politics of both administrations, but are we repeating history again? I found it insightful seeing crowds of disillusioned agitators ready to terrorise an organ of their government in defence of grandiose ideas of liberty and freedom, yet failing to identify the textbook strategies employed by the Trump administration to present @realDonaldTrump as a ‘real man of the people’, despite him being a smokescreen for the oligarchy that run the country and consistently suppress the economic freedom of ordinary Americans. Reading through the calculated patterns of 20th Century dictators provides me with at least a surface level understanding of how the intolerant rise to power, but it seems that such knowledge is not enough to prevent these actors rising once again in the 21st Century.
But it was Albert Camus’, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ that really made me sit up, particularly his description of absurdism shaped through his experience living through the Second World War in France. The recognition of the fundamental disharmony between an individual’s search for meaning and the glaring meaninglessness of the universe is no doubt on show for everyone to see as a result of this pandemic. The curtain is truly lifted and it is all too easy to see the precarity with which we have all been living. Our daily routines and largely fixed realities have untangled and dissipated into nothingness, and much of the anxiety that has been broadly expressed revolves around how we go about filling his newfound time.
But why should we fill our days to the brim? Why is there such a rush to ensure that we do not spend too much time alone with ourselves? Maybe it is because we will be forced to pause and contemplate the choices we have made. The house you live in, the people which you have designated to play integral roles in your life, the career trajectory you have anchored yourself onto are all choices that require large amounts of time to be carefully considered. Maybe you rushed these important decisions and instead delegated them to convenience and now, with the entire world grinding to a halt, you begin to ponder how things have become the way that they are.
We have largely become accustomed to a messed-up outside world, but a relatively comfortable personal life with respect to out basic social needs of family, friendship and community. The constant flux of life, particularly our ability to access normality, has been draining to say the least. It appears that the promise of a new dawn that the New Year tends to bring has failed to deliver.
What if you’re right, and they’re wrong?