Night Boat to Cairo

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It is almost August. How did that happen?

I am now down to my outstanding Patreon list fitting on a Post It note. This means that I’ll be up to date August 1st, when the process has to start again: however, I have adapted a very great deal in the last four weeks. It is a learning process that has thrown up more than a few surprises, and an understanding that, with thought and effort, anything really is possible. That is the biggest takeout: these tasks are no less relevant or significant than  anything else done before. The fact people now give me money to ‘work’ is just the way it always is in the early days of establishing a business. The difference here is that I’m just coming to the whole experience later than maybe would be normal. That’s great however because it allows an awful lot more experience to accompany me to the table.

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However what is most satisfying right now is the understanding that what is written doesn’t matter as much as what that allows other people to get from the experience. This appears to be the case with the growing use of Twitter Polls in my feed as a writing tool: I make no bones about using the service primarily as a basis to spark unprompted conversation. When opinion is not the reason why something happens, just facts reduced to a simple choice, it allows people the ability to discuss and explain their own feelings and experience. Currently, the Internet is mostly opinions clashing, points of view in dissonance. Sharing a common ground yet allowing diversity to thrive within is, in my mind at least, a far better way of promoting discussion.

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There’s also been communication in a manner I’ve not seen since I began this journey. People are spontaneously (and unprompted) suggesting new topics, and thanking me for the discourse. Normally, when I start a conversation on the Internet like this, it has ended in tears. However, I realise that a lot of that historical trauma was as much about how I dealt with the responses than anything else. Also, my ‘don’t tweet to anyone for the first hour of the day or until you are fully awake’ rule really is beginning to make a tangible difference in how contention pans out. It is the understanding that yeah, I have my part to play in all this, but only to a point. That whole ‘two people to argue’ thing is absolutely true. If someone ignores you, there’s normally a lesson to be learnt.

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However, the Internet doesn’t change. The dicksplashes remain, because their own Community ‘bubble’ allows that toxicity to continue unchallenged. Very few people are either willing or bothered to vilify such behaviour, because in most cases these people are normally functioning members of society. In fact, as long as the current President of the United States can utilise Twitter as a policy tool to push forward intentionally divisive and damaging administrative choices, nothing will change. Legions of white men will be encouraged to be utter morons and treat everybody else who disagrees with them like dirt, women to assert only the impression of independence guided by often fundamentally floored visual prompts which further act as restriction. If you don’t fit those two gender groups or their traditional notions of sexuality? You’re on your own.

So, how do you ever make progress?

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However many times I tell my daughter I love her regardless of what she wears, the spots on her face or the thickness of her thighs, it’s never 100% certain she understands or believes me. That’s the benchmark, in my mind: you do it one person at a time. Start with yourself, and then try and make other people understand what you’re trying to say. Make sure that, when you do, it is accompanied by an openness and honesty that allows you to be clear and concise. Effectively, it means opening yourself to ridicule and scorn, and for those of us who are sensitive to personal attack, that can be a tough ask. However, to survive in the Real World, that’s what it takes. If you decide to put yourself out there, the consequences are just this. You want to make a difference? You will get hurt. Then you have to decide if that’s worth the effort or not.

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If there is one consistent takeaway from all of this, it is that you can forgive others if you wish. However, there are situations and relationships where it is absolutely, positively the best thing for both parties that you never see each other again. Blocks are what they are, court orders and everything else exist because one day, you will encounter the person for whom reason, common sense and decency simply do not exist. There are all the shades in between, but just because your mate’s now great friends with their ex does not mean you are the same. Life works for everyone in a different way, and the trick it seems to me is how you manage to accommodate everything, rather than excluding all the stuff you hate.

I doubt I’ll ever work it out, either.

Knives Out

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Before I took the youngest on the School Run this morning I sat down at my Twitter settings page and removed every mute I’ve placed since the start of the year. I then went to Tweetdeck and took off every filter. Having pronounced last night that my feed was becoming too unwieldy (yet again) to act as a writing tool this might seem the wrong way to go, but as I got ready at 6.30 am an important truth finally registered in my brain. People should always be allowed to speak, regardless of my individual capacity to hear them.

This year will see a number of ‘alternative future’ literary works get a viewing as cinema and TV, with especial relevance to the current state of the world we live in. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t hugely excited to see a TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale with Elizabeth Moss as the titular ‘heroine’ and this morning I saw this trailer for ‘The Circle’, based on what is a fairly generic novel by Dave Eggers, but which has parallels that call to mind both Brave New World and 1984. Both of these pieces, with strong women at their helms, consider what might happen if society diverges from its current path, showing vastly differing versions of the same concept: control.  One shows how the collapse of society brings about the subjugation of fertile women as reproductive slaves, the other considers the consequences of letting everybody know everything you are, all the time. They might seem poles apart in terms of subject matter but in truth, both are mirrors of each other.

It is not surprising, considering the turmoil of modern society, that humanity constantly questions what is right and wrong, and how we might stray from a path of common sense. Pretty much every holy scripture from the vast range of religions available as ‘salvation’ pushes the aspiration of living a ‘good’ life: treat others well, be thoughtful, show the means to be penitent. Except somewhere along the way, individualising every experience is somehow removing people from their own morality, is creating minds that cannot grasp the significance of being part of a whole that works effectively. Judging someone because you find them ‘annoying’ or ‘stupid’ is not far away from proclaiming them as wrong or dysfunctional. Judging full stop should never be a norm, and yet this is now standard for so many people in all manner of places. It doesn’t matter if you know everything or nothing about a person, what is more significant in the end is how you deal with that data on a personal level.

The irony of this Tweet turning up in my timeline as a result of all of this pontification is therefore almost prophetic. The most damning form of control, ultimately, is your own inability to think. Accepting your world for what it is remains the most difficult part of any existence. Trying to rationalise anybody else’s motivation, frankly, will put you on a hiding to nothing and blindly following those who somehow claim to have all the answers? Expect disaster and chaos the moment they lose their way and it all goes Pete Tong. In this age of Hashtag Evangelism (not my phrase but my mate @MethodDarrie’s) I understand now that the answer isn’t to shut out all the noise, but simply choose who to listen to. Pretending the stuff you don’t like doesn’t exist might make it feel like it goes away, but that’s never the case. You are not obliged to explain your reasoning either, it’s okay. This is also your scheduled reminder that there also doesn’t need to be a massive session of internet therapy every time someone walks away.

The reason all my mutes are off is simple. People can speak as they wish, and as long as they don’t cause conflict or harm in my timeline? That’s utterly fine. If I find myself looking at someone and deciding that they do not seem to have an interest in what I am doing, or that when they do communicate I can no longer identify with their point of view or what they are saying? I will just unfollow.

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This is my 500th post, and I think I’d like the next 500 to cover subjects that really matter, which challenge both you and I in both writing and reading. I really don’t care if people like me or not any more, this was never a popularity contest, because if it were I’d have driven off a bridge a long time ago. To exist in the Modern World is hard work, and often painful. Yes, it hurts to be alive as a reminder that you are. Kindness, I am beginning to realise, is not simply the process of being understanding. Often it means the exact opposite.

To live life well means not being afraid of being alone.

Burning Heart

Today has been, for a lot of my friends in the US, a pretty tough ask. I’m not really in a position yet to write how I feel, and most of my energy is being pointed at #NaNoWriMo right now as opposed to being anywhere else. I will write, about all of this, but not today.

Instead, I’ll just leave this here and see you in the morning.