Last night my dreams were soaked in the cold sweat of despair–a function, I believe, of two small waking events from the day before. First, I endured a remote session with the shrink (yeah, I know, I’m privileged, I don’t have to show up for work, and, with my solid insurance, I can shop for mental health).
In psychotherapy, the rule is you talk about yourself, not everybody else, on the assumption that each of us is a unique individual in the grip of a highly specific set of intimate or familial circumstances. That rule is now moot, because nothing stands between the world and me. The shrink would keep asking how I felt, and I’d keep responding with rants on Trump’s murderous lies, by saying, “How do I feel, I feel the same way everybody else feels,” as if his words and deeds had immediately lacerating effects on my body, and, more to the point, as if I’ve become an interchangeable part in a rhetorical machine rather than a unique individual with opinions of my own (about myself to begin with).
I disappeared from the conversation because I had become, and clearly wanted to be, the anonymous mouthpiece of people I don’t even know. And vice versa.
Second, I had a low-key argument with my cellmate about resistance through writing. She worries that I stress myself out by too closely following the news, watching Trump too much, watching the Cuomo brothers too often, making dawn forays to Whole Foods too close together, and so on. She also worries that I’m deluding myself by thinking that if I write about these familiar events, I’ll make a difference. “What do you want to convince people of?” she asked, knowing that I don’t have any good answers.
But let’s see. That we, the people, must keep faith in ourselves, in each other, and in the institutions that have so far permitted an approximation of republican government and a vision of social democracy? Yeah, the Constitution is a problem, but it’s also a solution because it can be amended. That the end of capitalism is upon us, finally, but that the future is not necessarily more democratic because the socialized mode of production waiting on the other side of this pandemic catastrophe has no predictable political valence?
That Donald Trump’s lack of decency, empathy, character, or judgment is beside the point? That ideology drives him no less than it drives the ostensibly depraved evangelicals who would sacrifice human life to free markets–precious souls to Moloch himself–if that’s what it takes to preserve capitalism? He’s incompetent, to be sure, but this seeming ineptitude is a consequence of his devotion to just that, the preservation at all costs of the decadent system we call capitalism.
Still, her questions remain. The shrink urges me to keep writing as a form of auto-therapy. The cellmate is more realistic, I think, in asking the pragmatic questions–what difference does it make, and, if it doesn’t, aren’t you peddling pessimistic memes that spill over into metaphysical platitudes? Aren’t you setting yourself up for the worst kind of disillusion and disappointment?
I guess my only reply is to quote the apostle Paul, who, in his epistle to the Hebrews (11: 1-3) explained the mystery of faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”