October 29, 2021
From The Anarchist Library

I have long been gradually coming to the conclusion, first instinctively then consciously, that I would be better off, and those whom I might try to communicate with more satisfied, were I to completely sever relations with them. Since I happen to be a refractory individual, more prone to critically examine than to praise-that is to say, to be more disagreeable than agreeable-few people, if any, would exactly care to stomach me. I can furnish examples galore that this has been the case throughout my life. The role of a recalcitrant is indeed a lonely one; the only recognition or appreciation he is likely to receive comes years after his death, if at all.

If one be such as to be able to be used by others, even if such “usage” be mutual and reciprocal, it is relatively easy to “get along” in this world, to belong, and to be admired. But at any rate he must be useable, or he is expendable.

The force of these conclusions has gradually dawned upon me, through the years. Probably the occasion for my rejection is a reflection of my own rejection of society, of my own repressions, of my fears to expose even the love for others which I have felt, fearing for my own inadequacy or fear of being ridiculous, leaving me as a person who is hardly capable of feeling like a participant in this world, and only an observer, unresponsive to love, even if luckily I am not prone to hate—leaving only a residue in me of wanting to know and to understand.

Persons whom I have tried to help, perhaps not so much for their sake but for the empathic pleasure I got for whatever I did; persons who have not done anything for me, nor probably would if they could, have responded by trying to get more from me-leaving me with the bitter taste of realizing that I could have the last drop of blood drained from me, without the least grounds for expectation that the drainer would do other than be annoyed at the sight of my desiccated corpse.

The occasion for these remarks, as already suggested, is the response I have received from my gratuitous offer of criticism. One recipient of a couple of bits of writing of mine responded with the somewhat non-committal remark that the pieces were “brilliant but shocking”. Whether this meant that he was repelled, enlightened, or hoped for my speedy demise, I am not able to say. Whatever courtesy might be implied by enlightening me was not forthcoming. I felt that I had been unceremoniously dismissed as beneath even contempt.

Another late instance of a response to criticism that the world was a rotten place, was that the recipient wished he had the guts to commit suicide, and that he was indisposed to further conversation. My critical appraisal had suggested that the person wasn’t thinking effectively, was prone to read and repeat what he had read, apparently without giving the statements of the source of his ideas sufficient critical evaluation. I was deeply touched by his depression, for living as I have I am quite familiar with loneliness and dejection; but since my way of thinking does not coincide with those who entertain the idea of “guilt”, I could not “blame” myself for his state of mind, but rather tried to understand the phenomenon. It would appear that the desire for approbation, the urge to tell rather than listen and perhaps learn, and the corresponding revulsion to being told that one is mistaken is just about universal and is directly indicative that the will-to-live is immediate and instinctive, rather than contemplative and geared to a longer-range view.

But the point is that in submitting criticism such as this, all I am accomplishing is arousing the ire, or pressing into despondency, the recipient, and becoming myself a depressing and dastardly person. It is not worth the candle. Perhaps the last on my list will be scratched off, and I shall crawl into my shell, despising even more the other twolegged creatures around me, and having less, even nil, estimation of my own use on this planet.

One might become popular and deemed wise and discerning, by showering praise and appreciation, even though feigned. But fortunately or unfortunately I have not as yet found it necessary to dissimulate with my peers in order to wend my way in this world; and I find it extremely distasteful to consciously do so. I deplore and excruciatingly suffer from my own lack of “manners”—no, not merely manners but the lack of that sort of tact which is kindly and inoffensively helpful. I am not fond of myself at all. But it seems to me that anyone who professes to deal in ideas should be hardier than to be irked or depressed by the clothes they appear in, or the agreeableness of the ideas themselves, or should get into some other field of endeavour. The truth or falsity of ideas does not depend on the flowerly beauty of the language they are couched in, nor in the handsomeness or ugliness of the person who utters them.

March 13, 1965

Source: Theanarchistlibrary.org