Throughout the year I have kept a diary in a an A5 black notebook of 200 pages or so. I have followed this practice for quite some years now, and when I write the first entry in the notebook will give it a title. This year’s notebooks I titled , “The view from Thucydides Tower” (January 2020 to November 2020) and “Live not by Lies” (from November 2020).
Over the last two days I have read through these cahiers, and noted down some of the abiding personal themes (abandonment, the search for affiliation, deep pessimism about the state of the world, frustration with the corrupted institutions of government) and the interpretations I made of the events of this year of isolation and home imprisonment in the Puritanical Commonwealth of Lockdown.
Here are some fragments from the diary that strike me today as worth sharing, also posted to the main year in review post.
12 January 2020 … “Suicide by democracy – elites become professionalised and mercenary to play the democratic game, and in doing so destroy the self-governing ethic and virtues of democracy”
24 January 2020 … “All becomes nothing. All falls into desuetude. We are bite sere leaves, falling through an ashen sky.”
28 January … “I am now an abandoned Cassandra. My way of life is forgotten among the powerful.”
4 February … [A quotation heard on a podcast] “What is important is not to report what you see, but to see what you see.”
13 February … “Plague and disasters are an insult to the control of the liberal imagination, the power of the liberal world view…. The collapse of the liberal centre is the collapse of a political cartel.”
3 March … “I have returned from Bali with a determination to live my life as I will, to reshape some habits and patterns, to do more of what I want and to build a healthier, more expressive, stronger, more responsible and impactful life.”
7 March … “my latest poetry series concept, the sleep machine… [is] a metaphor for the augmentation of the self by society/culture – how we are born frail, imperfect – not self-realisation, but self-compensation, submission or acceptance of the weakness of the human animal; but by submission, living in the augmentation of tradition, knowledge, culture, the infinite conversation, then dreams return, culture is fulfilled, consciousness is heightened, responsibility takes hold.”
22 March … “Hard to focus on anything other than coronavirus – in the midst of a great social crisis, a great crisis of authority. The regime of merchant elites and their craven clerk mercenaries is crumbling. I have been criticising it for years now, and have hoped that my words could break apart this decaying old ship – but that was always an illusion, and an over-rating of my individual power. Could it be that this crisis might create an opening for my voice, my ideas for another way of governing? Maybe, but there are bad scenarios too. Sunset is not always followed by sunrise in the dark rhythms of history.“
3 April … “Suicide by public health – the earnest group think of public health officials who put a whole society at risk to protect an inadequately robust, resilient health care system from being exposed.”
16 April … “Suicide by public health – the world has stumbled into a vast medical and social experiment that makes the Stanford Prison experiment look ethical”
7 July … “Troubled times. Troubled mind. I have neglected the tower. Come at last from my torpor where I spy on a dying forest. I have neglected this practice as I have passed through a moral crisis, and resuming it today of a first step towards a better way.”
21 July … “I want to write these jeremiads against the department and the government but the fire turns to ash in my mouth, extinguished by the futility and loneliness of speaking out. No-one will pay any attention. I will be treated like a bitter old crank – isolated, idiosyncratic, ideologically incorrect – a book that can enter the infinite conversation- that is my goal and my purpose in these next few years. It is a goal of wisdom, not wealth, nor power, nore fame. Lonely wisdom.”
25 July … “Abandon the progressive intelligentisia, and be the old dignified eagle soaring over the mountain alone.”
6 August … “I am cursed to be like Cassandra, cursed by my prophetic pessimism. My thought seizes a world in decay, but can it communicate anything better? Or is the hard message that we must put our hope in other things: love of family, culture, tradition and abandon the worldly State?
9 August … “Work from home has created the perfect conditions for a cabal takeover, and the complete defeat of institutions.”
16 November … “I can’t do it alone, and yet I have never found allies in my dissidence, never cultivated followers in my path, so solitary, so hardened. I fall into the black hole and am condemned to dwell there with only my jailer and the ghosts of my mind. I preach to the birds.”
29 November … “Borges: “literature is nought but guided dreaming, anyway”“
11 December … “I feel I am living through a fight between progressive totalitarianism and the real purposes of life – that I am like the dissidents of Eastern Europe in the 70s and 80s. ANd I am so appalled by the suppression of free speech, the denigration of characters, the ostracism perpetrated by Big Tech, Big Media and the mercenary elite. I think about Frank Knopfelmacher and his moral courage – how he was mocked and pilloried and slandered – and yet he stood for a moral truth against a self-deluding and morally corrupt elite”
“If you rely on other people’s approval, you become their prisoner”Lao Tsu
These diary fragments from a bitter year show my archive burnt into a handful of ash, but also the seeds to plant in that fertile ash.