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My least favourite kind of conversation is talking to people whose goals are centred on conversations. Some examples:
- People who think good politics is centred on the right representations in discourse- use of the right shibboleths, avoidance of the wrong taboos. These people are roughly equinumerous on both sides of politics.
- People who think good politics is primarily civil politics, or the rare but real inverse- people who think one of the most important characteristics of good politics is that it be confrontational.
- Leaving politics, people who view your conversational input primarily as a contribution to their clout or comment count.
We’re not talking about people who think representations, civility, or clout have some value, we’re talking about people who are obsessively focused on these.
The problem is that when certain kinds of speech are themselves the goal, a cloying atmosphere is created. conversations become inward-looking. Everything becomes about signalling rather than saying.
There are many downstream effects, almost all bad. For example, conversations become emotionally disproportionate and unhinged, since very good or very bad things can potentially happen in the conversation itself- you’re on the frontline and you’ll soon be shellshocked. Aggression is encouraged since the conversation is a battlefield for a better world or personal success.
The conversation is necessarily highly restricted because if it moves in certain directions that might itself cause the greatest possible evils, or thwart the greatest possible goods. All the energies of thought are being expended on policing language, rather than trying to say something interesting.
The ironic result then is that by raising the stakes of the conversation, this attitude makes trivial conversations. Language is a beautiful and meaningful thing, but it loses its beauty if it doesn’t point beyond itself. The situation can become controlling, creepy and cultish.
Meanwhile, the real sufferings of the world continue unabated. I sometimes wonder whether people who focus on these things are even aware that thousands of people die or are ruined due to political choices every day.
It’s like an ethical version of object impermance. Everything that isn’t immediately present in spectacular surfaces and discourse is discounted in favour of gestures and tokens in a claustrophobic conversational game.
Fuck the discourse, the spectacle or whatever you want to call it. Live in the real world man.