Q&A: What’s up with the Letter on Justice and Open Debate? And more.
Welcome back to Q&A! Now… What’s up with the letter on justice and open debate?
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Huh? What letter on justice and open debate?” then I want you to pop over to this letter from Harper’s Magazine, which aired online and is set to air on paper in the fall. That’s the letter I’m talking about. You should give it a read, then pop back over here. Or feel free not to read it and listen to my thoughts, then read it afterwards. Honestly, you should read it. It’s a well-written letter and, for me, it holds some important points about the times we live in.
Had it been published under any other circumstances, the letter on justice and open debate might have sparked an honest discussion… and an open debate… that might have led people to understand that we need to change the direction we’re headed in. Unfortunately, the identity of one of its 150 signers caused a significant number of liberals — at whom the letter is aimed — to close themselves off from the letter immediately. Which proves its point, but doesn’t aid it in achieving its objective.
Which as, as might seem obvious, to encourage justice and open debate. Specifically, the letter calls for an end to “cancel culture” — read more about my stance on cancel culture in this article — as well as to public shaming and reactionism, the type of reactionism that, say, got James Bennet fired from the New York Times (he resigned, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as simple as that). Moreover, the majority of people who signed the letter work were professors, who have been especially disturbed as of late by a few actions taken against academic freedom of discourse. For example, a professor has been investigated for quoting a work of literature in class. The general result, according to the letter, has been
to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal…
i.e., to increase the likelihood of “cancellation” by both the general public on social media and in a more damaging sense, by the powers that be. That is, we may have already arrived at the point that I’ve spoken about in other articles, the point at which people feel like they’re walking on eggshells.
I have to say, it’s my hope we can turn this societal trend — this descent into a “stifling atmosphere.” Obviously, an atmosphere conducive to the “free exchange of information and ideas” and the “possibility of good-faith disagreement” is essential to my vision here at Voyage of the Mind. I have views, and I often put them out there. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, which is why, in part, I make sure that I clearly articulate myself and present a well-reasoned argument. I have always understood that as long as I have my argument by my side, well-oiled, ready to go, and as long as I understand the other side’s facts, there’s little anyone can say to hurt me — except by becoming emotional and calling me names, which I have always understood will reduce their credibility as a reasoned debater.
Unfortunately, the political tide has turned against reasoned debate in the past few years, and oftentimes the person who can draw the most effective emotional appeal is now regarded as the winner of any given debate. But something’s wrong about that. Emotion boils down to screaming and crying at the end of the day, and in my mind a thousand emotions or anecdotal experiences could not stand against one plain and simple fact.
After seeing the backlash against this letter and the way some of its signers were lambasted online after it came out — Margaret Atwood among them, writer of The Handmaid’s Tale — I can envision the worst. Will this letter change anything? It remains to be seen. Will the 2020 presidential election change anything? That also remains to be seen. If nothing changes soon, these little actions will, in the face of history, look like little bulwarks that attempted to hold back the darkness that were toppled, and fell. Like Demosthenes and Cicero in the face of impending dictatorship.
Do I have a writing addiction?
And on to a completely different topic. I addressed the question of “Is writing an addiction?” which I probably should have framed as “Can writing be an addiction?”
But I never directly addressed the question, “Do I have a writing addiction?”
I think I went as far as to say that I have addictive tendencies when it comes to writing. After I posted that article, several people came to tell me that I should read The Midnight Disease, a novel about the neurology and psychology of writing. I’ve linked it via Amazon so that you can pick up a copy if you so desire — it’s an affiliate link, as are most of the Amazon links here on Voyage of the Mind. (You can read more about my affiliate policy in the footer.) It sounds like an interesting read, to be honest. Written by a neurologist who’s also a writer, it explores the reasons that writers write from the standpoint of the brain. A lot of the reviewers say it’s a bit pretentious for their taste, and that it disregards many of the most “hypergraphic” writers of the past century in favor of big names, but most seem to agree that it’s an interesting read.
I may pick up a copy. I’m not totally sure that I want to understand the mechanics of my writing addiction. Okay, I came out and said it. Honestly, if I look at the facts, yes, I have a writing addiction. I write probably ten times more than the average person. When I’m not writing, I have a tendency to get really fidgety and a little bit anxious. If I don’t have paper and pen, that feeling is magnified tenfold, and I start to worry about what will happen if an idea hits me and I can’t write it down. I write around 4,000 words a day, sometimes more. The “condition” has worsened over time, if I’m honest, as my skill level has improved: it has become more and more satisfactory to write something, since a lot of what I write is pretty decent. Putting words together in the perfect order, especially in poetry, is a huge rush.
So, maybe I have a writing addiction. But, as I said to someone in the comments of my post, there’s no hope for rehab here. Unless my writing habits become detrimental to my health, I don’t plan to reduce the amount of time I spend writing. In fact, it’s probably only going to increase from here. Well, to a certain divinely-ordained point, I suppose, since I’m only human. Only human after all!
So, I’ve only tackled two questions today (again). More next week! If you have a question you want answered, hop on over to my contact page, grab the info, and send it over.
If you particularly enjoyed this session on the letter on justice and open debate and my writing addiction, pass it on using the buttons below! And you can follow Voyage of the Mind using the buttons in the sidebar at the top of the page, or join the mailing list at the bottom.
Notice my new blogroll (at the very bottom of the page). If you’re a writer or blogger with a blog or website, feel free to toss it over to me for my consideration! I’m looking for great sites to add to my blogroll.
As always, thank you for reading!
A brief note on the New Year.
A reflection on things not going to plan on the occasion of an unexpected car breakdown. (What kind of car breakdown is expected, anyway?)
My second place haiku from the Experiments in Fiction Poetry Challenge #8, plus a couple more quick updates from me.
Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and receive special offers.