Writing as catharsis

A stream of consciousness piece on writing, politics, self-delusion and George Orwell’s essays

Posted in Uncategorized by Lachlan R. Dale on April 12, 2014

I can’t help but feel a little dulled. Of late I have been entertaining no philosophic contemplation – not that I can notice in any case. Perhaps my mind is dutifully working away at a sub-conscious level to lash together different aspects of my experience and learning; or perhaps I am simply not engaging in existential musing – what I consider to be the highest form of reflection possible.

So why the silence? Well, let’s start with the question: what ideas have I been filling myself with?

Twice this year I have read John Gray’s The Silence of Animals. It was a somewhat strange book, oozing negativity and cynicism. It’s basic premise is this: “remember, fool, that we are but animals.” Of course this seems like a completely natural and valid perspective to reinforce; mankind as a species tends to delude itself into thinking it something more than an animal; more than organic matter; more than a product of this universe. The only true reason we have to think otherwise is sheer egoism, a rejection and fear of being ‘merely’ another lifeform on earth.

For me this is clearly an absurd idea, and one that starts to stir within me a feeling of contempt. I see so much evil in egoism – in a failure to identify with other human beings, other animals, and other forms of life. We would all dearly love the believe we have been given divine stewardship over the earth – and that if we destroy it, scorch it’s face, or poison it, that a) we have permission to do so, for it is there for us to use, and b) somehow that isn’t the end of the game of life on earth. Such ignorance is pathetic.

You can sense a similar undertone in all human affairs – politics in particular. Politics is a messy affair; it’s never easy to reconcile idealism or morality with politics. Perhaps one problem is there are simply too many minds, ego and universes that have to sync up for appropriate political change. Still, it is worth noting that our current political system places little to no stress on the rights of animals, on environment concerns, on the exploitation of third world labour, on the finite resource of fossil fuels – and certainly no one is entertaining any sort of revolution that would see our economy less obsessed with economic growth, and more focused on providing meaning and fulfilment in life within a sustainable society.

The above leaves me no doubt; I have been thinking of politics lately. It’s a sickening business, and I have no heart for it. I’ve seen politicians engage in the most brazen abuses – and yet they pay nothing for it. It is true all over the world; most politicians dare not call judgement upon another country, lest their own dirty secrets be made known. If all politicians were to be held to account by all others (rather than exploited or manipulated for political purposes), well, where that leave our vested interests? 

If anything, I wish I could isolate myself further from politics. The issues are petty. The events uninspiring. Unfortunately I experience a tension with this thought; that of the duty of civic engagement; cynicism and withdrawal from politics is a luxury, and one that is entirely self serving. It is in this begrudging manner that I attempt to engage, as if it were a rock that I must roll up again forever.

I’ve also begun reading some George Orwell. I recently finished his Down and Out in Paris and London, which, while interesting in short bursts, ultimately gave me little to ponder. I have moved now to a collection of his essays, and already I have been floored by the progression in his writing style. These essays are supremely powerful and affecting; his portraits of small events like a hanging in Burma tend to reveal so much about the psychology of mankind, and of the injustice we wreak. At this early stage, I find his form inspiring; and I hope that it might encourage me to write more words of my own.

I have faced a long standing problem; that while I enjoy writing occasionally, that I do not have a more meaningful outlet for my words. Philosophic musings likely entertain only myself. My distaste for politics poisons any enthusiasm I would have commentating on recent events – the space itself is one of polarisation, pettiness and open hostility; hardly the sort of high-minded discussion that I seek.

I would love to write and publish more regular entries. Book reviews have engaged my mind, but I still have further work to do to develop my style and concept. Perhaps this collection of Orwell’s essays holds the key.