Inventively crafted malicious posturing means little or nothing until there is some fallout. Otherwise it is pointless bravura. Adopting a public position for a private vengeance will amount to windbag bluster unless accompanied by an explosion of some sort. For good or for bad the hostility which stirs up such black-hearted thoughts seldom goes into action; the sentiments just simmer unnoticeably.
Lately the evaluation of my personal alliances has drawn me to act upon my illation. No longer shall I pardon the unsavoury behaviour of others nor shall I allow myself to be persuaded to indulgence by the feeble swill of kindness and generosity. Instead I have confronted the more likely status of manipulation and the blunt offence of it affords me the foundation upon which to reject the alignments that peeve me. As a purely tactical choice I steer clear of ad hominem argument. Yet I confess the substance of my disapproval is intimate. It is both a test and a capitulation to separate rage from the object of one’s vehemence and to reduce the violence of one’s objections to a tepid classroom discussion.
It pleases me however to pretend at least that I am devoted to a clinical probe of my discontent as though I have elevated the enquiry above a tawdry pout. Besides, balancing the weight of almost any choler is the predictable peril that we see in others what we see in ourselves, horrid confession though it is! Restraint at least permits me to survive the odds of becoming entirely autobiographical. It’s a calculated accommodation, one which doesn’t begin to satisfy my inner pressure but which eliminates the spectre of later regret, like avoiding an unwelcome hangover from too much beer.
So where lies the cynosure of the reproof? Is excision of the offending foible possible if only for analysis? A philosophic or psychologic study of nettlesome behaviour seriously dilutes the strength of the poison and risks reducing the enquiry to a vapid aside. The monstrous social calamities of arrogance, ignorance, disrespect, selfish pragmatism, haughtiness, thanklessness, pride and the like are effectively reduced to so much hogwash jeremiad once the personal element is removed from the invective. Nothing emasculates censure more quickly than tact. What remains therefore is the mental equivalent of a well-worn Harris Tweed jacket, a statement without much presence though nonetheless weeping an unquestionable though cottony substance.
Perhaps this destiny – as uninspiring as it may be – is the happier conclusion peculiar to those who would seek wisdom in place of obliteration. It is admittedly dangerously close to acknowledgement of old age though no less an indignity that Socrates’ confession to the effect that “The older I get, the less I know“. In an environment which equates passion with pretence and doubt with stupidity, it seems safer to remove oneself from the fray, not solely because it avoids complication but also because it sterilizes the chaos. Even so not many of us wish to withdraw to a cabin in the woods for two years as did Henry David Thoreau (1854) celebrated in his story “Walden”:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.“
Barring such deliberate removal from society
“WHEN I WROTE the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months.“
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
I intend to preserve my distance from infecting social contamination by denouncing the behaviour that irks me. Some may call this pusillanimous but for someone such as I who – to my possible discredit – has been animated for years to succeed, I see no value whatever in promoting myself upon the back of inferior conduct. It rather defeats the point to taint oneself accordingly. Nor will I flatter myself to imagine there is anything more brilliant in this frame of mind than a recognition of the indecipherability of the opponent. The quiet conviction of one’s personal propriety is nontoxic (though maybe wrong) but hardly fraught with the same degree of precipitation arising from overt aggression. Quite simply I can’t handle the fallout any more.