The Jersey Barrier
Being an Updated Record of My Sundry Adjacencies, and a Slight Hesitation as to What to Do Next
One of the ways I’ve avoided cancelation so far is by consistently ensuring that no one can ever be 100% certain of what I am trying to say. Ambiguity, as I see it, is indeed a fault, when it is the product of a sincere effort to characterize a world that is itself crystal-clear. But how can it be anything other than a virtue, when it accurately reflects the ambiguity of reality itself? It’s like the old observation about all the blurry Bigfoot photos: those may be perfectly good and accurate images, if Bigfoot is himself blurry.
I feel most at home in the blurrier corners of the world, honing my descriptive powers on the objects I find there, rather than wasting my time in that far more pedestrian task of getting good at describing objects that come with their contours well marked. I’d rather be an impressionist painter trying to fathom the mystery of light cascading through the leaves of willow trees hanging out over the pond at dawn, even if I never end up doing justice to the light or the leaves, than to buy a book of mandalas to color by the number, or to use tracing paper to reproduce someone else’s stark edges.
But still, sometimes, I do find myself making committal statements, taking sides, having opinions. And sometimes these opinions seem to place me in a certain camp, in view of their statistical co-occurrence with a whole suite of other opinions one does not even have to bring up, explicitly, to be presumed to share. And when this happens, in my case, readers often want to know more. What sort of author are we dealing with here? Whose side is he on?
In fact what readers really want, most of the time, is just to size an author up in a rough-and-ready way that plots him on a grid in relation to other authors, in view of the substantive opinions with which they publicly identify. In the present era, we do not really assay other people’s thoughts with respect to their internal coherence, the background motivation for their bearer’s having committed to them, or even the force of the arguments adduced in their defense, but instead we only place them on an imagined Cartesian axis, something like that horrible “Approval Matrix” at the back of New York Magazine that has helped so many young and branché Americans to know what to think, or what to say they think, by providing a “quick visual”, laying out not so much ideas, but rather patterns of adjacency between the people who hold the ideas, or between the brands that represent the ideas.
I have on occasion thought it would be a good idea to issue a statement, as it were a sort of credo, that would let others know where I stand on the grid, at least to the extent that I know where I stand. (I may even have attempted this at one point; I no longer recall.) Perhaps someday soon such statements will become mandatory, just like filing taxes, or downloading the latest version of your browser — just another part of what it takes to keep you in good repute as a citizen of our emerging surveillance regime.
So let’s avoid getting into any further trouble, shall we, or any further experiences of awkward perceived like-mindedness that only evaporates upon closer inspection, by having it all out right here. The most important thing to know about my politics, the thing that makes everything else make sense, is that I am essentially a…
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