Variables affecting writing reception

When I first began writing my autobiography — over ten years ago — I wrote it with what now seems to be a naive notion in mind. I had made the assumption that people would be able to read it and simply know the difference between right and wrong. I believed implicitly that by simply telling my narrative in a straight way — as a narrative as such, and without additional commentary — that people would read between the lines and conclude something like: “This is not how humans should be treating one another.”

There were a lot of variables I hadn’t factored in, in making my earlier naive assumption. Some of them are as follows:

1. I had made my estimation based upon the moral finessing of relationships that people bring to the table when they identify each other as part of the same community. This was an overestimation of the strength of my position in life, since by virtue of being an immigrant, I was by no means an insider, to whom moral consideration would automatically be extended. As ancient texts show, there is always the tendency for human societies to polarise their morality in terms of dividing the world into “the humans” [us] and “the others” [those to whom human courtesies do not have to be extended]. I had presumed that I was more in the camp of the humans than in that of “those others”, but that was just from a position of feeling myself to be most human and worthy of consideration. It wasn’t how others felt.

2. The polarisation of contemporary Western society into factions of left and right makes it difficult for anyone to be heard who has something unique to say. Always the first question that anyone with a rudiment of education tends to ask themselves is: “Is this person speaking to me from a position of the left or the right?” Once this has been decided, everything else that a person says or writes about it interpreted within one of these two frameworks.

But there is very little that can be said, actually, when speaking on behalf of the populist left or populist right. Both positions tend to become entrenched as rigamortified opposites in relation to each other. At the populist level there is rarely an attempt to see the big picture any more. So, for instance, we have those on the right saying things like, “Education today is too soft. Children need to be taught about the possibility of failure.” On the surface, this sounds quite reasonable, but in reality this is an attempt to enforce a sadistic approach to teaching in opposition to the liberal “softly, softly” approach. Models of education thus become susceptible to intellectual gridlock, because discourse about educational models remains stuck at the ideological level.

The lowering of the standards of contemporary discourse to the level of political rhetoric, in turn, makes people very lazy. They become unable to respond to something that is new and original, without first trying to turn it into something they can already identity with — some hackneyed construct of left versus right or vice versa.

3. The contemporary nature of culture is that it is postmodern. This means that we no longer feel a need bother too much with psychology, or with a theory of other minds, when it comes to analysing data. Without an idea at hand that your mind is roughly similar to my mind, what somebody says is generally unbounded by general psychological limitations. What they intend to mean could be anything at all, in terms of this unbounded view. But as philosophers throughout the ages have pointed out, that something could logically mean anything at all in fact means it means nothing. In order to be able to mean something, we need to have some outer restrictions on the boundaries of possible meaning. If meaning is not grounded by common psychology, such as by a humanistic assumption of what it means to share a similar biology and therefore outlook, then a shared meaning is barely possible. Perhaps also your understanding of “discourse” is not going to be the same as mine, unless we also happen to be products of the same environment to begin with — which we are not.

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10 thoughts on “Variables affecting writing reception

  1. “The polarisation of contemporary Western society into factions of left and right makes it difficult for anyone to be heard who has something unique to say.”
    Yeah, sometimes I’m mocked because I’m supposedly a “leftie”, other times I’m warned that I’m too “right wing”. At least I don’t have to dwell in the same box all the time.

    • People read and respond on the basis of what they identify as small insignia. But as I tried to explain to a troll on my YouTube site recently, just because I have sentimental attachments to the land of my origin does not make me a racist. When I said this, he flew into a rage. People get really upset if they can’t decode you the way they expect to.

      • This is how they deprive the word racism of its original meaning. Which is a problem for those who have to experience real rasicm, as after softening the meaning of the word nobody will take them seriously.

        • I think it confirms my view that the criticism of 19th Century colonialism directed personally at me is designed to shore up the power and sense of moral righteousness of the present day racists and neocolonialists.

        • Aussies benefited way more from the 19th century colonialism than white soldiers and their families living in Africa. Weak and coward people usually choose the most powerless group as scapegoats. Immigrants (esp. from poorer countries) can always be used as an easy target. The British are the same. Now they began to whine about their “cost of living crisis”, and blame it on the immigrants. Yeah, of course, cost of living crisis. An average parent spends more than £500 for the Christmas gifts of one (!) kid. Fucking big crisis :-D. I began to read your autobiography you shared here on your blog. The blame game Aussies played with you was disgusting, however not that surprising. I mean, it’s just the way human nature works :-(.

        • Thank you very much for your understanding. You have grasped it and described it very, very clearly. I have begun to see myself as someone who really does have a different range of reference than these affluent people who complain all the time about some minor hurts. My hurts were pretty damned significant! I’m just not in the same category of privilege and never have been. It really helps me to understand myself in that way, because I don’t get myself entangled in confusing discourses that in the end have never had much to do with me or my actual situation, but have to do with these wealthier Westerners and their own perspectives on the world.

          In my revised memoir I relate my fathers intergenerational war traumas. This is something aussies would not be able to fathom. I mean they have all sorts of buffers, even if they do meet with tragedy. They don’t need to pass trauma down from one generation to the next, as I experienced.

        • “I have begun to see myself as someone who really does have a different range of reference than these affluent people who complain all the time about some minor hurts.”

          You are definitely different from them. From a certain point of view it’s even harder for you than for us coming from the kind of bad background that is acknowledged by the general public. I can easily start to whine about having to grow up in a communist country, and most people will act somewhat supportively, however that’s not the case with you. You are “the one who colonized poor Africans” in the eyes of the world, and nobody would act supportively with someone from a background like that. However in reality you didn’t have an easier childhood or background than us, most likely even harder, as Eastern Europe wasn’t an open warzone after the WW2. Given your situation it seems to be absurd, but there’s even less buffers for you, and that clearly shows the deprivation of power you were subjected to. I mean those who possess the most power have the most possibilities for venting. Westerners hate us only because we supposedly “take away” their jobs, but they hate people like you because they project their very own worst selves on you (i.e. money-grabbing soulless colonizers).

        • You really have exceptional insight into this, and I mean this in a way that is quite awed and sincere. Yes, they have actually projected their worst selves into me, and the only way I can defend against that is by nurturing a completely neutral state, like the Buddhist’s calm pond. Any emotional sign I give is interpreted negatively. So no response and no reaction at all is the means by which I can exist. The levels of projection have been really extreme…..

        • Thanks. I believe that to be completely true in my case and I have perused some of the literature. In my case, I think I have my grandmother’s trauma, in that I am always waiting for notification that somebody had a catastrophic accident and died. Every time the phone rings… But her husband died in a Catalina in WW2 and she never accepted it, even when the military guys came over to return his belongings.

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