|Duchamp, as captured by Man Ray|
It's there that I look, to the past for heroes, because I take it and have always taken it as self-evident that I have and will find no community. I have plenty of friends, but politically, I am an orphan.
I can't imagine what it would be like to not feel that everything is wrong. I can't imagine what it would be like to not feel alienated from the great mass of the human race. I can't imagine what it would be like to spend a day reading online and to not feel, again and again, that nearly everyone is mistaken about nearly everything. I'm not looking for sympathy, at all. I'm just saying that this is my condition, and it's a condition necessarily shared not by a large percentage of all people but still by a lot of people.
This is a world that is not of my making and one which reminds me, every day, of this fact. Of the innumerable myths that the Internet tells about itself, perhaps the biggest is that the Internet brings people together and in so doing cures loneliness. The Internet is a profoundly lonely place. Human beings cure loneliness; their ideas cause it. I find something almost tragic about how we interact online. I have met and connected with so many great people. Occasionally those connections deepen. Often they don't, but are perfect as they are. I have also often run aground on the inability of electronic media to convey the emotional reality that is necessary to understand others and to be understood. There doesn't appear to be much rhyme or reason to when you get one or the other. I often long for the corporeal reality of person to person conversation when I'm arguing online. I don't think that we'll agree to everything, if we meet in real life, but I sometimes think "if I could only speak to this person, at least we could understand each other." There is such potential in physicality and presence. Physical interaction is not necessary in human contact, often not even desirable, but the opportunity for it-- for sex, for a fistfight, for casually laying your hand on a shoulder as you pass by on the way to the bar-- the opportunity is everything. Perhaps you see what I mean.
Paradoxically, what I find more and more is that the Internet is a place for people to affirm and support each other. It's as if the understanding of the fundamental weakness of these electronic proxies to represent human connection causes people to push for it more and more. And this could be beautiful. But it can also be dangerous. Because of the depth of the loneliness, I blame no one for how they interact and connect with others online. I just worry. I worry about the urge towards conformity. I worry about Twitter. I worry that all of those retweets and all of those "right on"s contribute to a kind of coarse postmodernism, where what the truth becomes what is most agreed on. I worry that dissent is confused with a lack of etiquette. And I particularly worry about the echo chamber effect, and the way that small groups of people who are just like each other can come to think of themselves as representing the opinions of everyone. On the Internet, we all make the world in our own image.
Duchamp, of course, had genius. I have only Duchamp, and Dorothy Day, and Eugene Debs, and Rainer Maria Rilke, and Simone de Beauvoir, and D. Boon.
Pushing people away should never be an end, but sometimes it is a necessary means to the end of being independent. Friendship is great, and I would never argue against it. I'm not saying be alone to be alone. I'm saying be prepared to stand alone, and to recognize that standing against everyone can be a position of righteousness. Make friends whenever you can, but when you need to, stand alone. Friends will understand. They'll probably dig it. And even being wrong isn't the worst thing in the world.
You can't be scared of being alone; you've got to view consensus as the possibility of corruption and ridicule as evidence that you're on to something. You've got to match the weight of the agreement of affinity groups with the power of your belief in yourself. You must respond to the bullying of crowds with the studied rejection of needing a crowd. You've got to be singular, you've got to be irresolute, and when necessary, you've got to be defiant.
The pressure, online, will always be to tack towards the crowd, and people will look endlessly towards their peers-- not intending to undermine the individual voice, but getting there, often, anyway. Don't get judgmental about it, but keep saying your piece. In the tenor of the single voice, you can find strength, and if you keep saying what you think is true, in spite of it all, you will find what is incorruptible in yourself.