I am a man of many frustrations. Most can be tolerated. Some are persistent. A new one has taken to dominating my mind at all times, and it surprised the hell out of me: I can’t not say what I mean.
I’ve been in my new job for a while now. It’s a good job in a time where good jobs are thin on the ground in Europe. I like it. It’s exciting and challenging in all the right ways. It’s is occasionally boring and ordinary in all the boring and ordinary ways. It pays well. We get the things we want done done, mostly.
My job means I have little power but that I occasionally get to influence powerful people and institutions, and get to see powerful people up close. As the late chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) supposedly said: “I have seen three emperors in their nakedness. The sight was not an inspiring one.”
It’s nothing exciting, in case you’re thinking I’m a spy or a billionaire playboy or something. My point is that I think I’m doing something which contributes positively to society. I’m helping fulfill an important civic function. (I’ll be a little vague with what I do here. You can think of me as maybe being a boring civil servant or doing something in journalism or political consulting or something if that helps.)
There’s a catch, though: the condition for doing the job I have is that I pretty much can’t have an opinion in public. This is something I had become so accustomed to doing that I hadn’t realised how important it was to me. I’ve had (another) blog since forever, a Twitter feed. I’ve written op-eds, done radio debates, been on stage and up front, speaking my mind whenever I wanted to. All day, every day, about everything that sparked my interest. And then I went and got a job like all the other idiots.
So now whenever I see someone being wrong on the internet or some conservative troll on Twitter saying something stupid, or a politician twisting the truth or just flat out lying, I just have to bite my tongue, think: oh well, somebody else’s problem, and move on. This is a dangerous way to live. I’m a pressure cooker of opinions. I want to shame idiots. I want to let people know the wrongful depths of their wrongy wrongness.
Now obviously, there’s all sorts of troublesomey freedom-of-speechy issues about my having this problem at all. But what really winds my clock is this: it’s not like I suddenly ceased to have opinions on starting my new job. Now I just have them without you knowing about them while I’m working on that thing which is important to you. I think that trying to make institutions “neutral” by pretending the people who work in them don’t have opinions is unbearably stupid. You can’t keep me from having opinions. You can keep me from declaring the opinions, which I have, in public before we work together. Because that makes sense.
I blame society, myself. We (as in the species) need to learn how to disagree. We need to be able to handle sitting down with people with whom we disagree on the most fundamental issues of life, liberty, faith, politics, sexuality and tolerance and smile and make small-talk through gritted teeth while we work together on whatever we need to work together on. I don’t mean that in the bullshitty US House of Representatives reach-across-the-aisles-in-bipartisan-brotherhoody way, I mean in the sense that if you and I need to interact professionally I need to be able to trust your professionalism and you need to be able to trust mine. I need to be professional enough to give the same level of service to people I agree and people I disagree with. And you have to do the same.
But this blog, then, is the release valve for my opinionated, Freudian pressure cooker of shit I feel strongly about. Maybe I don’t even have to be that opinionated, just having the option for venting will help. Or I may just start giving out opinions just for the sheer hell of it. Watch for me suddenly shouting I’M A SOCIALIST! or I SUPPORT EDWARD SNOWDEN’S FIGHT AGAINST UNLAWFUL SURVEILLANCE or something similarly all-capped.
Actually, that did feel sort of good.
This is my first post and I will only spread this blog to a few people, so I presume that nobody will ever read this. But it’s nice to have put it down in writing. If you read this, leave a comment. I want to hear from you. I need to get my writing practice started again.