I had a few rough emotional days earlier this week - rougher in part due to it being frustratingly unclear what the trigger was - which then necessitated a certain amount of writing-energy-expenditure that’s left me a bit unmotivated for writing an actual Satanism-related entry this month. I’m therefore going to deviate from this blog’s established format of “issues I’m grappling with, framed in connection with Satanism,” and say a few things on a purely personal note.
It seems apt to do this on the basis of some mental-illness-awareness-raising stuff I’ve seen going around the last couple days, the idea being that what I say here might stand as a contribution to that sort of effort. What follows is thus a more detailed meditation upon my descent into mental illness in the mid twenty-tens, prior to this descent being thankfully curtailed by that infamous Uada incident that regular readers of this blog will already know about.
The nature of this situation is such that it’s impossible for me to share my story without getting into personal details whose revelation is liable to cause social friction. To be clear, everything I say here about that pertains to my perception of the situation, with awareness that I myself was not in a good state of mental health at the time. Nothing here thus pretends to be an “objective” or “fair” portrayal of any other persons involved.
The story, as a whole, is not about someone “being a bad friend,” but rather, about how, as the far-left itself so likes to repeat, “intent isn’t magic” - i.e. you can have the best of intentions to be a supportive friend, and the best of intentions to be a good person as far as making the world a better place, and unfortunately have the latter manifest in a way that undermines all semblance of the former. I don’t tell this story to put guilt-trip on that person or anyone else. The point, rather, is education, with the message being, this shit happens, and if we’re going to go around talking as if we care about peoples’ mental health, maybe we need to think about the dynamics that cases like this reveal.
I also feel this story is important to tell because truth be told, I’ve been through years of isolating cynicism now re: mental-health-awareness-raising-exercises, i.e. seeing them and feeling, because of the particularities of my situation, that it’s a case of, “they say they want to hear everyone’s story, and to save everyone from sinking into depression to the point of drowning, but that doesn’t really mean you. If you spoke, they’d surely reply with things like ‘that’s just privileged bullshit, not a real mental health issue,’ and ‘stop taking up space meant for discussing actual problems,’ and ‘you’re actually the kind of person that we hope will just drown...’”
Do you find it disturbing that amid an ever-growing societal aspiration to take mental health seriously, this is how someone has nonetheless wound up feeling - regardless of the exact way it came about? Personally, I think anyone at all humane should be disturbed by it.
I also think that I should be able to say this and have it understood in the context of a sincere desire to do something positive about mental health, rather than it being taken purely negatively in terms of “she is just taking attention from X, Y and Z other-good-and-important-causes.” The sheer fact that I instead fret about perceptions on this front - i.e. here I am, a biracial bisexual woman, who lectures on feminism-related topics and has a drag persona, afraid of being dismissed as some right-wing loser trying to weaponize self-pity if I actually speak my mind bluntly about my own life experiences - strikes me as illustrative of the extent to which toxicity surrounding certain political matters is, indeed, highly detrimental to mental health in general.
I do not foresee silence about this issue standing any chance of improving the matter. Hence, the account that follows (i.e. all links in this sentence go to entry sub-sections), of how in my own case, years of immersion in a Twitter echo chamber, together with a difficult relationship with a friend, together produced the kind of despair that came to the verge of destroying me back in 2018.
I emphasize that I have since gotten much better, i.e. I do not want anyone becoming alarmed as to my current mental state on account of frank discussion of these things. Nonetheless, they do still trouble my mind from time to time, sometimes in an intrusive way - as per bad sleep a few days earlier this week - and I’d thus like to see if talking about them point-blank helps at all, both re: less ruminating on my part, and re: encouraging others to think about the matters discussed herein.
Hopefully I do not thereby wind up learning anything discouraging with regard to re: how (in)sincere certain people truly are about “let’s talk about mental health.” But I guess we’ll see…
* * *
I hate talking about this due to how excessively-easy it is for people-who-think-they-are-so-smart to get all “Twitter, well duh, that’s your problem right there - how come you’re so snotty about never being on Facebook but dumb enough to willingly get on there, huh?”
The answer to this question is that there was a time when the short, ephemeral snippets-of-interaction format seemed appealing (I had finished my PhD, was tired of writing, didn’t want a blog anymore, but still wanted some kind of online presence), and I enjoyed it a lot for the first while; additionally, I was for a time convinced I “needed” it for the future publicization of certain creative projects, which unfortunately greatly prolonged the period of putting-up-with-what-I-shouldn’t.
The mental health problem with Twitter only emerged very gradually. You see, I started out really liking two things about it: there were cool people, who struck me as intelligent and funny and creative, who “got” feminism and some of the other concepts that grad school had convinced me were important, and who I thus felt more at home among than I did with the general population; then, there were accounts tweeting original content that was enjoyable in some way, e.g. funny, or atmospherically weird, or otherwise using the medium in some sort of creative way. I felt very much at home at first, and I can even say looking back now that I had some very positive experiences with discovering artists, music, etc. that I still treasure even now, despite how much things later went wrong.
But then, starting from about 2013-2014-ish, I increasingly observed some of the cool people of Twitter taking far-left political ideas - which I myself agreed with at the time, I must emphasize - further than I was comfortable with. The best/earliest example I can think of is a double-standard re: “mobbing is bullying if it’s directed at people we like, but a valid political tool if directed at people we don’t like,” whilst I’m like “um, how about nobody likes hordes of people threatening and swearing at them, so like, maybe nobody do that to anyone, then?” However, since practically everyone I interacted with online seemed to agree with the direction things were taking (whether via voiced assent or silently condoned), it was hard not to conclude that if I hesitated, this must mean I was the one “not getting it.” A certain amount of internalization followed, wherein I attempted to adjust myself to what I perceived as “the ascendant norms of intelligent and creative people.”
Over the next few years, I gradually bought into a variety of ideological notions that I felt I was “supposed” to embrace as part of having matured both morally and politically through the grad school experience. This became a problem inasmuch as:
- Deep down, I in fact felt like much of this was wrong, eventually necessitating an exhausting degree of both inward-self-deceit and outward-online-deceit to keep up appearances;
- My values are such that ethical consistency matters to me, yet fully-consistent adherence to the proposed ideology appeared to demand an impossible degree of purity that most proponents of the ideology themselves didn’t live up to; and
- Having committed to daily tweeting toward the end of drumming up an audience for my future novel, I was being constantly exposed to ideological content at the same time as I’d come to feel like I “had to” put up with what was before me if I ever wanted to actually publish and have readers.
To detail these areas further:
Re: 1), below is a list of some principles that it seemed to me were widely enacted by “good” people on Twitter, yet struck me as weak at best and evil at worst. Some readers will think this is a disingenuous way of concealing what the “real” issues were so as to “force” people to take my side, but the point I am making by putting things this way is that if you strip away the do-gooding pretenses and pseudo-intellectual apologetics surrounding far-left-Twitter, and assess some of its dynamics from an outsider rather than insider standpoint, it will seem to that outsider that far-left-Twitter acts as if…
- People should be judged according to their immutable characteristics such as race, sex, etc.
- It is not only fine, but encouraged, to be maximally dismissive and mean-spirited toward people judged unfavorably in connection with the preceding point.
- It is heretical to suggest that any people judged favorably according to point 1 may themselves be liars or bullies, even in instances where they self-evidently are.
- If you whine about “emotional labor,” you are exempt from having to use critical thinking to distinguish actual trolls from people who just disagree with you.
- Guilt-by-association is a valid concept, therefore people who have anything whatsoever to do with any problematic person thereby inherit the same sin.
- The mob is always right, so long as it’s left.
Re: 2), the issue revolves around my impression that there are two kinds of “good Twitizens.”
One kind acquaints themselves thoroughly with every possible way that anything can be problematic, and then exerts energy toward making a big noise about how they are dissociating themselves from such problematic things and calling upon others to do likewise.
The other kind goes around talking about how it’s okay to like problematic things, yet always has some excuse as to why the seemingly-problematic thing they like is not really problematic, while at the same time sounding pretty judgmental about how fans of the problematic-thing-they-don’t-like are bad people for liking that thing.
Kind of a problem if neither puritanism or hypocrisy strike you as attractive ways of living one’s life.
Finally, re: 3), aggravating factors included the impressions I got of “anyone who doesn’t talk about politics all the time is thereby furthering the status quo,” of “everyone is obligated to follow American news even if they aren’t American,” and of “people who delete their accounts after being mobbed deserve mockery for not owning up their transgressions.”
The first two issues became far worse from 2016 onward (i.e. in the vicinity of the US election), at which point it seemed like every account that once was tweeting comedy or cat pictures or whatever was now moved by the urgency of the moment to tweet political public service announcements at regular intervals.
Understand, when I point this out, that I am not asserting that an artist who starts out apolitical is obligated to always stay that way, and I recognize how this kind of unsolicited-political-interruption is a good way of reaching those who might otherwise not pay attention. The problem from my perspective, however, was that this turned Twitter into all-politics-all-the-time, at the same time as one was made to feel as if disengaging from it constituted some kind of personal failure (as per the “mocking people for deleting their accounts” thing).
You see, then, that the problem was not solvable via “just unfollow/block/mute the annoying accounts.” The milieu was such that you get to the point where you are self-conscious about having the urge to unfollow/block/mute practically everyone, while at the same time being made to feel like a “better” person should be thrilled to spend all their waking hours consuming propaganda from a single narrow segment of the political spectrum.
Keep in mind too that Twitter’s very format produces this sense of it being a “game,” in which there are things you are supposed to react to (trending topics), you are supposed to react to those things as instantly as possible, and your reaction is “good” inasmuch as it wins cheers from other people.
This combination is then how you get people tweeting about the importance of mental health self-care once or twice, amid their daily stack of “here are twenty petitions that you are a bad person for not signing right at this very second!” and “here are forty retweets that people who really care about social justice ought to retweet in turn!”, never considering how their own actions plus the design of Twitter itself aggressively promote the opposite of the disengagement that self-care here would actually require.
Said dynamic is also more or less what I had in mind in this previous entry when I was talking about people who act as if “somehow all these suffer-vibes will magically take points away from Team Evil’s score and thus advance the day when Team Good wins” - i.e. anything less than beating yourself into total mental exhaustion in support of Team Good reveals you as a supporter of Team Evil.
To then sum up regarding Twitter’s contribution to the problem: I gravitated toward it early on because I initially thought I’d found “my people”; I stayed because I kept hoping to recapture the initially-fun aspects of it; I felt like I couldn’t leave because I needed it for long-term creative-endeavor-related reasons. Meanwhile, I built up a monumental amount of cognitive dissonance via “people I respect, who are clever and witty and talented, are signaling via their behavior that the only correct way to be human is what looks, to me, like being a needlessly mean-spirited and judgmental hypocrite 24/7.”
I know now that 95% of the population likely stands with me in being against this sort of thing. The problem though is that the 5% who buys into it is disproportionately concentrated in a space that, once you are in, sings in a monotone choir at top volume and then makes you feel like if you are tired of the music and want to leave, you are some kind of failure at life. This is what a good person looks like now, and if you dissent at all or want out, you obviously are a bad person who deserves no future success among good people.
All that said, this alone is not what I would point the finger at re: my depressive complex’s center-of-attraction, so to speak. Twitter was, rather, more of an enabler and supporter of the more personal matter that formed the true center. I’ll thus address that in the next section.
* * *
This is something I am even less thrilled about talking about publicly than I am about Twitter, not least because I can envision it leading to a confrontation with the person in question re: “why are you blogging behind my back instead of talking to me about it?”
As what I’ll explain below should make clear, though, feeling like I cannot talk to her is itself a large part of the issue. It is because honest communication is so much a normal and integral part of my make-up that I am disturbed by this issue to the extent that I am. The keen sense that the issue is unsolvable via my normal methods is why it’s become this ridiculously-festering emotional wound that casts a shadow totally disproportionate to how much contact I actually (don’t) have with the person in question.
I have carried this burden mostly alone for literally years, because of how strongly I feel like it “shouldn’t” bother me this much and therefore “shouldn’t” be anyone’s problem but mine. Moreover, even though I’ve overcome the depression itself, I still find my thoughts intruded-upon by the matter now and then (this being the crux of the recent sleep disruption). I thus say something about it here in the hopes of coming to some sort of peace thereby, and to give folks something to think about re: how you treat your friends vs. your political commitments.
Quick background: this person is the oldest friend from childhood I’m still in touch with. Really, we did not know each other all that long before her family moved away, but in the initial time period of our friendship, our parents called us “soul-mates.” We kept in touch over the years, with our lives occasionally intersecting in various ways (e.g. my first job that required moving away from home happened to be situated in the city her family had moved to), but contact was never all that regular. The striking thing nonetheless was that whenever there was contact, it tended to feel like no time had passed since last time, and though our lifestyles and values definitely diverged, a solid core of “cool person whose interests mine overlap with” consistently remained.
The problem was that from a certain point onward - the definitive milestone was, again, the 2016 US election, though I think a certain amount of tension preceded that - I began more and more to feel like this person and I were drifting into a situation wherein politics had become more important than friendship. The key issue is that inasmuch as being a friend means things like showing genuine interest in one’s friends’ perspectives, listening charitably about what they have to say, being genuinely concerned about their struggles, etc., I reached a point where my conversations with this person just did not make me feel like we were friends, regardless of how vehemently she insisted that we still were and always would be.
Now, before getting into details, it’s worth acknowledging, for the sake of fairness, that this situation has a confounding factor: by the time some of what I’m going to describe was occurring, I was quite sick physically without knowing it, and in retrospect I am pretty sure the perpetual brain fog that went with my uncontrolled celiac interfered with my ability to express myself clearly, creating a certain amount of frustration on my part that was not her fault. I thus strongly emphasize that what I describe here is how things came across to me, i.e. I may well have misunderstood, I may mis-remeber some details, etc. Nonetheless, here are a few trends that I increasingly began to notice over time:
- She came across to me as upholding all the questionable Twitter principles I listed in the previous section, and as overinvested in defending them from concerns that might be raised against them, sometimes to a point that I saw as suggestive of a disturbing degree of self-abnegation. The general conversation pattern seemed to drift toward no instance of cancelling someone ever being invalid, a complete blank-cheque right for “marginalized” people to be rude or abusive to “privileged” ones (e.g. seeming to take it as a point of pride that she herself deferred to such people instead of standing up for herself), and a sense that any questioning of these things was indicative of insufficient wokeness.
- I found in particular that my worries about possible unjust consequences were often papered-over with sentiments like “oh, but you would never get in a situation where that would happen” or “oh, but I’ve never seen anyone actually apply it that way” and similar “everyone who believes these things is too good a person for that” -type sentiments. The breezy tone of much of this caused me to feel like the concerns I was raising were, to her, “silly” and not worthy of actual intellectual engagement.
- Another path that things would sometimes go down, when I raised the possibility of certain far-left ideas being taken too far or abused by bad actors, seemed to revolve around a sense that it only seemed that way to me because I have a too intellectual/rational way of looking at things, whilst neglecting the more emotional, heartfelt component of what justice requires. I do not feel it was her intention, on this specific matter, to gaslight me, but in combination with other things described here, it did make me feel like I was “supposed” to distrust my own judgment, and thus contributed to the “the problem isn’t Twitter, it’s me” perception mentioned above. Intentionally or not then, this did contribute to an erosion of my self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Occasionally I would bring up what I thought were blindspots in far-left thinking re: amid caring about this one marginalized group, we are actually neglecting this other one. Upon anything like this coming up though, it seemed like her top priority was to discredit and dismiss it ASAP rather than actually engaging with whether what I was saying might have merit.
- Specifics regarding the preceding point included: i) hemming and hawing about whether I’d gotten this line of argument off a right-wing website; ii) acting as if I was invalidly shifting attention from a less-privileged group to a more-privileged one; iii) guilt trip about “but how can you question such-and-such when Nazis are marching through the streets”; iv) replying with a hint of irritation, as if clearly I was only raising the point to troll; etc. All of these reactions seemed to presume that my disagreement could only be indicative of ignorance, ill-will, or both. It thus made me feel like just because I disagree, I get dismissed like some Internet rando, instead of her displaying the slightest appreciation for me as a thinking individual, with values not dissimilar to hers, who just happened to reason to different conclusions.
Ultimately then, there came a conversation that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” I am fairly sure that all three of the following things happened in it, but if nothing else, am positive the third one did, vs. the other two may have happened in an earlier conversation:
There was an incident wherein I attempted to make my point more forcefully via an extended story about someone I know in real life being put in a no-win situation by an institution’s poorly-conceived-and-realized policies of political correctness, this being something that had in fact happened recently and which I was therefore still a bit shaken by. I specifically mentioned that this person was at one point practically crying in my physical presence.
This account then received the most tepid, reluctant, begrudging “well, that sounds like bullshit” response I have ever heard. Like as in, you could charitably take those words as granting only the most tiny and obligatory amount of sympathy that what I was describing seemed to call for, or you could take them as dismissing the whole story as made up and wearily wanting me to just stop talking, but in neither case did it come across well to me.
The issue is that her words and tone together here gave me the impression that she resented being “forced” to concede something, whilst the human dimensions of what I was describing made no real impact empathy-wise. I found that a strange way to react to something that happened in your friend’s life that they were troubled by, vs. her top priority seemed to be shutting down a politically-inconvenient story, coupled with a pretty intentional-seeming refusal of compassion.
At one point, I was expressing being troubled by the human side of authors getting berated and/or cancelled for problematic elements in their stories, and she says in a patronizing tone, “well, if you can’t take criticism, I don’t think you’re really cut out to be a writer. It is part of the job, you know. You’re never going to get where everybody likes your work.”
Now, three big issues with this: i) she construed my issue dishonestly, because I made clear in that conversation and/or elsewhere that my position is along the lines of “write intelligent articles about sexism, racism, etc. so people can think about those things, but don’t harass the author or try to censor them” - i.e. there was no justification for construing me as “one of those fragile people who thinks any criticism whatsoever is harassment”; ii) I find it bizarre and inhumane to refuse to draw a distinction between authors’ enduring hostile reviews in past ages and the kind of full-cancel shit that goes on now; iii) she knows damn well that I’ve been super invested in creative writing since our childhood, just like her.
Translation: it is so urgent to absolutely defend social justice ideology that it is okay to say manipulative, disingenuous shit that pisses on your childhood friend’s dreams, just so long as it bullies that person into shutting up.
Wow. OK then.
Because, by this last conversation, my mental health was in significant decline, I had sought out unconventional resources, and found some that benefited me in a certain book whose author is controversial on the far-left.
Now, I feel the need to point out here that I have talked to all my various local far-left friends about this - yes, I do in fact have quite a number - and consistently gotten reactions along the lines of “I’m glad that worked for you,” “ah, interesting, I haven’t read it - maybe I should” or etc.
It is only this person who, instead of being able to muster up the slightest amount of “happy your friend is doing better,” proceeded to act as if the sheer act of reading the book will give you alt-right cooties and I am some kind of child-idiot who’s been seduced into a neo-Nazi cult.
I find that pretty rich when here, on one side, we have a biracial person with a PhD, who you’d thus think had a brain cell or two and knows just a little bit about Nazism being a bad thing - i.e. hello, it’s only opposed to my entire existence - and on the other side, we have a straight white woman who talks like she knows better than that highly-educated biracial person, despite not having read the fucking book.
Like… REALLY??? That’s a fail even by your own side’s standards, it seems to me.
Now, as to why this is getting belabored on the Internet, instead of discussed privately among mature adults, I submit the following considerations:
A) As already mentioned, some of these conversations were further tainted by my laboring under brain fog and feeling unable to explain myself fully. I have no doubt that this steered me into doing something that normal human beings in fact do all the time: give ground just because it was easier to do at the time, and/or not-seem-to-react because I was in shock that this was actually occurring (this applies to the last three incidents described in particular).
This is why the situation was not dealt with more assertively as it was happening.
B) My mental health was already bad due to Twitter, i.e. suffering under this sense that all these people (this friend included) have the “correct” perspective, vs. I am not as “good” at “how an educated and creative person should be nowadays” as I should be. Combine that with the preceding point, and I felt like couldn’t argue with anything more than I already had without just further driving down my social capital.
This is why the situation was not dealt with in the immediate aftermath.
C) Though the childhood connection makes this relationship loom large for me, I was not actually in the last few years in the habit of talking to this person more than a handful of times a year. I’ve thus long felt like these are my issues that I ought to “get over,” and the more time has passed, the more I have felt like a confrontation is just not appropriate.
This is why the situation still has not been dealt with - all the more so with the pandemic going on and everyone having more pressing problems.
D) The entire pattern of conversation on the matters I’ve described above suggests to me that there is no longer any possibility of constructive engagement anyway. Would you engage with someone who’d already come across as “I would rather call my childhood friend a loser and dismiss her every lived experience than ever admit my politics could be wrong about the slightest thing”? I, for one, am not that kind of masochist.
This is why the situation will never be dealt with. Sure, I could be wrong - maybe at some point she hits “peak social justice” like I have, and reconciliation then becomes possible. Understand, however, that from where I am currently standing and what I have thus far witnessed, nothing makes this seem likely to me.
E) Further to the previous point about futility, the whole way this situation has become constructed is such that I don’t think I am in a position to ask for any kind of alteration in the relationship that won’t be read as “oh, so you’re asking me to be less of a good person?” Put another way, it seems to me like she is doing exactly what the ideology says a good person should do.
If those are her chosen morals, who am I to say she should change them? Would I not be a better friend to her if I were to instead spare her the awkwardness of having to interact with me? In fact, had she not already hinted at this, inasmuch as she never initiates more than surface-level contact, vs. each of the last few times I initiated more in-depth contact, the conversations have been getting worse and worse?
While I see some merit in this line of thinking even now, it should be noted that I spent far too much time thinking of the situation in this last way whilst at the worst point of my suicidal depression… i.e. it eventually turned into “actually, I would be doing the whole world a favor by sparing it the awkwardness of interacting with me...” :(
To then sum up things to this point: it so happens that beneath that hard Satanic front that I wear, I am an intensely loyal, sensitive and caring person, who takes anything that feels like betrayal of friendship very hard. Having been closer to a friend in the past than in the present does not diminish this, and inability to gain closure on the matter via honest and constructive conversation aggravates it immensely.
Thus it was that when I finally went to therapy (which was the middle of the downward spiral, and only slowed it very mildly), I probably spent like 80% of the time talking about the situation with this one person, despite how rarely I even interact with her, on account of the matter being a constant source of intrusive thoughts. The accompanying mental narrative was along the lines of “you suck for not living up to her standards of what intelligent and creative people are supposed to be like nowadays… and you also suck because you violated your own norms of open communication by being too weak to have stood up for yourself more at the time… and you also suck because that conversation was years ago now and you’re still bothered by it…” on and on, unendingly.
Imagine enduring literally years of that, while at the same time feeling positive that, if you tried to talk to anyone about it, they were certain to take the friend’s side instead of yours, because social justice.
Can you see why that would make a person want to kill themselves?
Regardless, let me tell you about a few other things that I also beheld during my worst years…
* * *
This entry is already super long and depressing, but if I am going to go so far as to say everything I’ve already said, I must also include a few contemporaneous “intellectual misadventures” that really pushed me over the edge, i.e. although matters central to the complex were as-above, I don’t know that my mental state would have gotten quite as 110% bad as it got in the August-November 2018 time range had it not also been for the following additional aggravators.
Individually, they can each be laughed off re: “geez, it’s just a dumb thing someone wrote, that’s clearly nothing to kill yourself over,” but taken all together - and, it must be emphasized, in the context of the complex I was laboring under - it really felt like nails in the coffin at the time, and again, all the more so inasmuch as I felt like I could not share how I felt with anyone lest I myself get “cancelled” in whatever form that might take. (Oh, but “there’s no such thing as cancel culture,” proclaim the gaslighters… clearly, the problem is me…)
By “the complex”, I mean my conviction at the time that i) the whole social justice ideology, to its furthest extreme excesses, was the accepted gospel among today’s people of moral, artistic and intellectual excellence, which I thus “ought” to embrace if I dared to count myself as possessing those qualities, and ii) given my persistent tendency to have empathy for the “wrong” people, my refusal of the writer’s duty to produce progressive propaganda, and my bad taste in popular books, I might very well be more of a garbage person than an excellent one - such was the implication, in my mind, of my last interaction with that one friend.
Amid this mindset, these were, as Pink Floyd would put it, some of the major bricks in my wall:
I quit a long succession of websites - from Cracked, to Salon, to the Mary Sue, to the Atlantic, and on and on - on account of articles making social justice pronouncements that I simply could not get behind regarding things I was passionate about.
A few examples I can think of off the top of my head were things like “if you don’t like the rap band opening for the metal concert, the only possible explanation is that you’re racist,” “white people singing songs about their own cultural heritage is inherently problematic (re: folk metal),” “goth is just privileged white people pretending to be oppressed,” “any white artist should seriously consider just publishing/creating nothing for the next while to give space to marginalized folks,” etc.
Please note that I am not saying that all justice-related analysis of power dynamics are invalid. I felt, however, like there were a fair number of poorly-conceived-of and poorly-thought-out ones out there, at the same time as an obligation existed to talk oneself into believing that they all deserved amen’s, and if you didn’t think so, the problem could only be your lack of wokeness.
I thus found myself stranded in a pervasively anti-critical-thinking atmosphere even beyond Twitter, which aggravated my sense of isolation considerably.
Amid fretting that the friend was correct re: my having a propensity for being seduced by right-wing ideology, I read a scholarly book about Nazism in various subcultures to try to “educate myself.”
I then discovered that, due to a combination of being poorly written and polemically biased against allegedly “Satanic” things, this book slandered several goth-industrial bands via implying proximity to right-wing bullshit. The Marilyn Manson accusation especially pissed me off because it entailed long-debunked garbage re: “the Columbine killers’ politics = what Marilyn Manson really does stand for,” and also involved awkward transitions that would lead an uninformed reader to think Manson was Nazi black metal, which he self-evidently is not.
This book left me acutely worried re: “academia thinks things I’m passionate about are Nazi things, and if I were to dispute that in any way, it would surely lead to my being labeled a Nazi too for defending them.”
This previous blog post about bands I like all being arguably “controversial” reflects similar anxieties I harbored in connection with such matters.
There were several “close calls” involving people I had wanted to DJ at Chimera or bands I had been going to play, re: everyone on Facebook knows that guy has a #BelieveAllWomen issue pertaining to him, or said this problematic thing, or whatever, wherein I was made to feel like I only avoided potential reputation-disasters because either I read something on Twitter just-in-time, or someone tipped me off about what had been said on Facebook.
This was not helpful as far as the “cannot afford to get off social media even though it is destroying my sanity” issue.
I read a book about online shaming in which someone who’d been shamed felt compelled to hire some PR company who filled various social media sites with bland, generic profile content about her re: she likes the beach and cats, yay! in order to push her bad Google search results down off the first page, as otherwise she would never have another job for the rest of her life.
I thought this was the most utterly demoralizing thing I had ever heard re: not allowed to present oneself as the unique person one is, and this could happen to anyone now because of the ever-changing-and-evolving norms re: what the Internet finds “offensive.”
I then found myself super, super irritated that my one friend goes around always gushing about “flying the freak flag” while at the same time supporting an ideology that leaves a vast number of people-not-100%-in-accord-with-said-ideology terrified to be perceived as a freak. Or… was that just “wrong-think” on my part? Things being as they were, I feared the latter...
I discovered a handful of websites and books that struck me as offering great nuanced center-left-to-center-right coverage of various issues of the day, and began to notice that whereas these writers largely favored evidence-based argumentation (e.g. statistics, comparison of studies of different societies using large sample sizes, etc.), their detractors’ arguments against them seemed rather heavy on “person with no science knowledge says the science is bad just because it implies something inconvenient to them,” “author’s view has no merit because they are not of the right demographic to talk about this thing,” or various other kinds of ad hominen garbage… and all the prominent far-left Twitterati seemed to defer to the detractors.
This was good for introducing some skepticism into my mind re: how “smart” these supposed “smart” people actually were. It was damaging to my mental health though, inasmuch as it constituted yet more gaslighting and also made me feel as though I am, here yet again, not allowed to share anything that genuinely sparks my intellectual passions with other people lest I get judged as “right-wing.”
It was, similarly, good to see a number of left-leaning academics writing articles on these websites about their own concerns about the direction social justice discourse had gone in… but paranoia-aggravating to see all of them doing it under pseudonyms for fear of getting fired for speaking their mind in the only place that had allowed them to do it: an allegedly “right-wing” website.
I feel the need to also point out, in relation to this dynamic, that it was really not helpful to be frequently seeing various left-wing friends - and here, I could point the finger at rather a lot of you - always posting these clever-snarky memes all over social media in which you make it sound as if everyone even slightly less polarized than you can only be a total idiot. Look, I get what you’re trying to do re: these are important issues and you want to move people to action. But did you ever think about how it feels to be a centrist who’s spent months and years really, really reflecting deeply on one’s beliefs and values to the point of sinking oneself into constant anxiety, and then you go online and constantly witness people talking as if the only possible excuse for centrism is not thinking, and you do not feel free to defend yourself because it is certain to degenerate into a “you read the websites that bad people read vs. I read the websites that good people read” -type issue?
As per the opening, it’s not that I want to give people a guilt trip over their unintended impact upon me. My point in bringing this up, though, is it did have this impact, and I do find these dynamics frustrating re: why can we not advance political education by making intelligent arguments that prompt actual reflection and understanding, instead of just using memes to shame people into turning their brains off? It’s a minor irritant in the grand scheme of things, but nonetheless yet one more thing that made me feel like there’s nobody I can talk to about how I really feel.
I at one point crossed paths with an article in which this one Asian woman was discussing bad experiences she’d had dating White men. Of course, that is her right if that is her experience, and I don’t begrudge anyone the right to share their experiences. What troubled me, however, was that the overall gist of the article was that all White men attracted to Asian women can be safely presumed to be thus-attracted because they are “exoticizing the other”… and thus, you can basically tell just by seeing an interracial couple that the White dude is probably garbage.
I feel the need to object, strongly, to this sort of reasoning, inasmuch as it is basically giving all social justice warriors permission to take just one look at my family, and conclude on the basis of the skin color combination present that my father is a bad person.
Now, let’s repeat some of those words again: conclude on the basis of skin color… is a bad person. Like, didn’t we used to have a word for that? In fact, don’t the vast majority of normal people still use that word that way, whilst it’s only a small minority of activists who play self-deceit games about how sauce for the goose is somehow magically not sauce for the gander? Hmm…
It also seems worth mentioning that on account of the popularization of certain elements of far-left discourse, I have been made to feel uncomfortable about wearing traditional Chinese clothing lest I be judged on sight as “doesn’t look Chinese, therefore appropriating the culture.” Furthermore, I am acquainted with multiple other biracial people with similar concerns, some of whom have actually been confronted by White people at Asian cultural events and made to feel unwelcome there.
I am thus, at this point in my life, SUPER INCREDIBLY FUCKING PISSED about how the far-left is MOTHERFUCKING RACIST against biracial people.
Before I could get to the point of being able to voice this openly, though, I spent years bottling these feelings, reading Twitter people talk as if they had the right to sort biracial people into “looks marginalized, therefore cool” and “looks White, therefore automatically a privileged asshole,” always biting my tongue re: “did your grandparents get shooed out of department stores in the 1920-30’s as if they were dogs? No? Then maybe don’t lecture me as if I don’t know anything about racism!”
Meanwhile, that one friend treats me as if, because I have what she considers shitty views, that makes me White. I strongly get the impression that this is indeed how the far-left in general would judge the matter.
Thus have I watched people who shrill about “erasing the existence of the marginalized” reasoning in a way that appears to erase material realities of my existence.
Apparently then, neither the far-right or the far-left want biracial people to exist, and in both cases it’s because our existence fucks up somebody’s neat, tidy system built upon judging some races as better than others.
Oh, but only ignorant centrists dare to point out parallels between the far-right and far-left, and nothing I say matters anyway because I’m not a real marginalized person. Sorry, my bad. I guess I will get straight back to work on not existing in accord with your preferences, then…
Now, I assume the reader can see how all of this fits together. It is one unending vomit-firehose of “everything you do is wrong,” “things would be better if you just shut up and get out of the way,” “stop taking space away from people who have more right to exist than you do,” “people like you are on the wrong side of history,” and so forth. It leaves you feeling as if any time you use your brain and arrive at a different conclusion than the prevailing ideology, there’s something wrong with you; as if you are duty-bound as a creative person to apply your creativity only within the confines that the Herd dictates; it gaslights you into feeling as though you are a defective person if you persist in trying to empathize with all human beings rather than only the ones it designates as worthy of empathy.
I could not then perceive where I could turn for support, because the ideology had convinced me that either people would judge me, or I ought to judge them because they spoke or acted or etc. the wrong way, and I thus could not trust them. I almost missed my first therapy appointment due to the panic attack I had about what if the therapist too had nothing to say to me besides “well obviously the real problem is that you just refuse to check your privilege” - that’s the extent to which the constant, urgent, monumental and absolutist way that people talk about politics had left me feeling trapped.
I thus ultimately wound up feeling as though I would never be able to escape this garbage in any space that I actually wanted to be in, as if I could never live up to what was now-incumbent upon good, smart and creative people, and convinced that I was guilty of such serious sins that the world probably would be better-off without me in it. I took solace in black metal, because only in black metal do I find adequate artistic expression of the intensity that my dark feelings eventually reached: if this was “life” and this was “what it meant to be human,” then I hated both with every fiber of my being, because I felt like I was living in this colossal, inescapable sham wherein the only options were a false paradise of hypocrites on one hand, and on the other, oblivion. Opposed though I always was to actually attempting suicide, I wanted to die constantly, and have no doubt that unwise risk-taking would have led me to a fatal accident if things had gone as they were for much longer.
And so, my take on those lyrics in the blog title: were I to leave this world without standing up to that which has diminished me, the situation as a whole will only continue to get worse, and others will be devoured in the same fashion that I have been.
It has taken a long time to find the strength and confidence necessary to fully speak my mind about this matter, and to thereby answer the call I feel has been issued to me.
Nonetheless, at long last, I am here.
So, then… like, is this enough for humane, intelligent people to be able to say gee, maybe there is a problem or two with the whole social-justice-ideology-plus-social-media situation today?
Or are people seriously so lacking in vision and imagination as to insist that the struggle for justice can only be accomplished via the methods and principles that have driven me into despair, and that no more constructive, effective and empathetic approach to the worthy goals of social justice can possibly be devised?
I hope not to be disappointed…
* * *
Okay, so all that was dark enough that I feel the need to repeat my earlier assurances: these days, I’m doing fine, and the pandemic being what it is, there are literally billions of people out there in more urgent need of mental health support than I am. I’m not the one currently in need of help or pity. But if you’re concerned about the things I’ve talked about in this entry, here are a few suggestions I have related to those specific matters:
1) Can we please, please get rid of this talk in social justice circles about how certain people need to “take up less space”? I personally find this massively triggering when in a depressive state of mind re: “if I’m that worthless and in your way, how about I kill myself?”, and I cannot believe that I am the only one.
Surely there is some better way to attain the same goal as that kind of talk is meant to bring about - e.g. why not promote the positive side of previously-unheard voices saying interesting things, instead of dwelling upon what the “wrong” voices “shouldn’t” say?
I do get the impression that in the time since I left Twitter, things have already moved more in this direction (?), but it nonetheless bears saying.
2) Aspire to be kind, irregardless of ideological boundaries. It undermines the moral standing of the left when people rationalize that a behavior that most normal people consider rude, cruel or etc. is OK when one group does it but not OK when another group does it, e.g. bullying.
The Internet needs more application of the golden rule and less “oh, but my life is hard, so I am entitled to opt-out of having to treat people with consideration as compensation.”
How about no asshole licenses for anyone, and if someone uses this concept to silence “uppity women” or whatever, we call that out as we see it, instead of lazily presuming right out of the gate that all members of X demographic have a maximum right to be abrasive and demeaning, while all members of Y demographic are “supposed” to be the doormats of demographic X.
Related tip: if you consider treating people as individuals instead of groups in this way to be too much emotional labour, maybe try quitting fucking Twitter and you’ll thereby rediscover the energy needed to act like an actual decent human being instead of acting like an ideology robot.
3) Admit when people on your side are being needlessly shitty and inhumane toward others, and criticize them until they stop, instead of denying and excusing it because of the “urgency of the moment.”
Instead of gaslighting people about how the terrible thing that they can see happening right in front of their face isn’t happening, how about trying to empathize re: why are they distressed, how would you feel if it happened to you, etc.?
While you’re at it, how about a little more humility re: all human beings are capable at times of bad judgment, being manipulative, etc. and a little less breeziness when someone is attempting to bring forward genuine concerns what can happen when mobs get out of hand and such?
Maybe even consider the possibility that sometimes, the ideology that’s not yours also has valid points to make - as is being modeled right here by me, the Satanist, acknowledging that re: everything I am recommending, Christ totally had the right idea all along? ;)
I’ll close by just saying: there are reasons why friends confide in one another… and reasons why they stop doing so.
Please then think about everything I have said here carefully, if you really do “care” about your friends’ mental health.