Non Participation

One of the biggest criticisms I’d field against my generation, one that certainly applies to myself, is that we have a tendency to refuse participation in imperfection. We notice the problems in political parties, in trades unions, in management, in organised religion even in voluntary organisations and civic societies and as a result we just don’t participate. We have political opinions, labour market interests, managerial philosophies, religious ideals and moral and social goals that cannot be achieved on individual scales, but we are terrified to be part of something bigger than ourselves (though we crave it more than anything) because we can see all to clearly, especially with the viewfinder of the internet, the myriad imperfections we’d be throwing our lot in with.

We are unable to commit to affiliation because it means picking in many cases a “lesser evil” and we cannot stain our philosophical purity with the messy substance of reality. Thus our existence is diminished. Without his co-operative nature man is little better off than an orangutang in the face of a palm oil plantation. Opting out of everything because it’s corrupted leaves everything as ripe pickings for the corrupt.

We try and overcome our lack of real connections by creating artificial connections, mediated connections, by linking up in networks which demand (seemingly, initially) little of us, that require no commitment and come with little to no risk, but these networks cannot substitute for formal organised groups. The modes of social control within them are sorely lacking, they are easily gamed and usually necessarily monetised. More importantly mediated networks ultimately belong to the mediator, whether the technologist (in the case of distributed “p2p” systems) or the owner of the machine. It demands little of us because  we’re just end consumers, not stakeholders, even when we create for the machine we are consuming the “opportunity” to be creative, to be seen, that little dopamine rush when someone clicks the “like” button. The machine expects nothing of us and we owe it nothing – no real bonds are forged.

It is a lack of humility, we see the motes in everyone’s eyes very clearly, and the log in ours? Well we had a tough time of it! Our home life was difficult and the teachers at school bullied us! Who wouldn’t have a log in a situation like that? It’s a distraction though because if we don’t work together there will be no-one to help us remove the motes in either of our eyes.

Loving the Whooshing Sound

Today I did something scary. I added a deadline to my main “projects”. No longer do I have a whole bunch of amorphous projects that I may or may not ever complete that I am vaguely committed to occasionally working on. Nope, now I have 3 projects which I will either have completed by specific dates or I will have to accept I am not committed enough to ever complete.

Surprisingly my first feeling was one of relief. One of my projects for several years now has been learning Russian. I am interested in starting learning a few other languages but I have not allowed myself to because my Russian is not yet “good enough”. As of now I have a clear date where my Russian will be as good as I am going to actively make it. Of course I will try and maintain the level I reach but I am not going to keep on going forever never accepting any result as good enough. I know the date when I can guilt free indulge in curiosity about other languages and eventually even to commit to learning one.

Although I do feel a bit anxious about my deadlines, “what if I can’t make enough progress in that time!” I also feel quite excited. Now it’s a sort of race, how much can I achieve in the allotted time. Will I complete these projects or will I replace them. Again I am also excited about the chance to pick new projects when I reach the deadline. That excitement feels like a wave I can ride in order to give me the energy to work on these old projects that have become in some ways mentally stale, tedious and tiresome. Not that I hate doing them, but they just feel like a block to doing something else. Now I can tell myself “on date X there will be something else”. I might succeed or I might fail, but I will be done by then either way. I don’t like the idea of having permission to fail, but I think it gives me more impetus to actually put in the work to succeed, knowing I only have the one block of time in which to do so.