Monday, July 24, 2006

There is Always Another One Walking Beside You

When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
- But who is that on the other side of you?

I often compose blogposts in my head when I walk home, or when I'm supposed to be working - very few of them make it onto the site. They're forgotten, or don't seem as important as they did when I come to type them out. Very often they're sparked by something I've read on another blog which angers or upsets me - something which gnaws away, demanding an answer or refutation or denouncement. I am particularly aware, when I compose these fleeting (non) replies that I have to lace them with caveats and qualifications. On those issues and questions that I feel most emotional about - most angry, most anxious, most guilty - I find I cannot provide a straight forward statement of what I think. I must always expend a great deal of mental effort in explaining that while I say this, I don't mean to say that, or that while x may be the case it doesn't necessarily follow that I believe or think y. Quite frequently I can't get to the substance of what I want to say, because to do so I must first set out pages and pages of preliminary explanation, self-justification, declarations of innocence and good intentions and so on. It's incredibly frustrating - one gets into an endless spiral of second guessing one's imagined audience, introspection into one's own motives, the provision of preliminary qualifications and then the return to the practice of second guessing one's imagined audience on those caveats and so on.

I'm sure this is a very common experience. But I also suspect that I do it more than many others do and more, perhaps, than is healthy. It does seem to be a personal trait. It emerges out of and feeds back into a certain indecisiveness on my part - something which originated god knows when (some formative experience, some genetic dispostion?) - but which is now, firmly rooted and established, a self-driving, self reinforcing kind of thought process. It goes hand in hand, I might add, with a certain degree of self-absorption, self-obsession and the tendency to use the word 'I' too much in my writing. Why else would I blog? (who am I asking?)

Frustration, indecision and occasional paralysis are the price to be paid here. On the other hand (and I have no greater ability than the ability to see the other side of the story on everything - every bloody thing) it does have its benefits. I like to think that it makes me a 'reasonable' person (whatever one takes that to mean) and also acts like a kind of character inoculation against gullibilty, fanaticism and dogmatism. I find people who are really convinced (about whatever it is they believe) rather unsettling. Sometimes I find them a little ridiculous, a little unimaginative - clinging blindly to political certainty in the same way an Evangelical clings to his or her Bible - but always, in some way, unsettling. In some ways of course this makes me a fucking bad socialist.

Perhaps one way of breaking out, at least to some extent (there it is again), of this mental loop is to identify those ghostly figures, those mental policemen, those imaginary tut tutters, for whose benefit these qualifications are presented. Who is that I attempt to placate? From whom am I attempting to defend myself?

I know Freud is a little unfashionable today, but his idea of the super-ego is I think a useful one (is it a useful metaphor - what do I mean??). It is the realm of the conscience - it is constituted and structured by the various (sometimes contradictory) norms, ethics and taboos which we have internalised. It is in constant flux (one's ethical position can change of course) but there is usually some kind of settled continuity to it. So who are the figures that stalk here?

I can identify some of them. I'm not going to name them here though - what would they think of me?

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?