About half the population of our planet cannot express their true thoughts and feelings, for fear of the consequences.
That’s the best estimate I could find. It’s probably higher than that. Self-censorship is rife.
They live under regimes that prohibit dissent, using violent means to punish transgressions.
They worry what their employers will do, in retaliation.
They don’t want to reveal any perceived weakness, for fear of their predatory competition.
They’re scared that family or friends will ostracise them (or worse).
If you find yourself in a position where you cannot express the inexpressible, even if you are able to find the right words, you can’t talk about the things you love, or which greatly trouble you. You may not critique the prevailing orthodoxy or propose alternatives. For the sake of order, you are required to remain silent and compliant. We obey.
Doubters and haters patrol everywhere. People have their block, unfollow and mute controls on a delicate hair trigger, willing to capriciously consign you to permanent oblivion for the most trivial of disagreements. People get perverse pleasure from trolling, or from adopting contrarian and deliberately obtuse counterpositions to things that matter to you deeply. They treat it as sport. Your competence and credibility are permanently on the rack.
Art can be a way to express the inexpressible with a modicum of plausible deniability. If it’s just a story, or a fiction, or a work of the imagination, you can make your point without personal attribution. Lots of artists use their art in this way. The problem is that there is an inevitable dilution of impact, as the ideas you hold most dearly are translated into something more anodyne, acceptable and palatable. What you think and feel is necessarily watered down, often to the point of becoming insipid.
Tragically, this fictionionalisation ploy only works if anybody pays attention to your art. For many artists, operating in a blizzard of information overload, where attention is scarce, summoning the courage to bare one’s soul, irrespective of the possible repercussions, can be a fruitless exercise, ultimately. Nobody notices. You express your inner most thoughts and feelings, but nobody cares at all. All the bleeding and gut wrenching was for nothing.
The up side of nobody noticing is that the peril is lessened. The down side is the terrible realisation that you’re alone and that thoughts you care deeply about are of no consequence to others at all. It’s a very isolating and lonely moment.
Another factor that makes it increasingly impossible to say what you’re really feeling is that the audience you address is invariably terminally bamboozled, in the main, because of cradle-to-grave gaslighting, propagandising and brainwashing. In their confusion, they’re just as likely to attack you savagely for your candour, rather than to listen and empathise. It can be like delivering your manifesto to a lunatic asylum. Clarity and quality of thought are generally low, so putting your deepest thoughts out into that intellectual swamp is unlikely to gain the reaction you hope for.
I think more and more of our deepest, darkest, but most sincere thoughts are largely unwelcome. There is no way to express them, without very negative reactions. You can no longer say your piece without misinterpretation and distortion. We don’t know how to talk to each other with openness, trust and unalloyed sincerity, any more. There is no soul to soul connection.
Your intellectual and emotional sovereignty is nowhere respected. People will shun and act censoriously toward you, rather than hearing you out. You’ll be typecast as gloomy and negative, causing people to run away in fear that your thinking will infect their carefully confected, rose-tinted point of view, like a virulent contagion. The art of reasoned debate, which requires the ability to temporarily hold two mutually contradictory thoughts in your head at the same time, is all but dead.
People no longer communicate in good faith. Liars will lie, knowing that you know they are lying, but being unashamed of their monstrous lies regardless. This has never been truer than it is in modern politics. Bare-faced lying has become a strange kind of arms race, with opponents seemingly seeking to tell the most outrageous lie, to better their opponents.
All of this leads to a weird kind of emotional constipation. When there is no psychological safety, you become hypervigilant, looking harried and hounded, when in truth absolutely nobody gives a damn about your ideas and perspectives. You can’t unblock the blockage and let it all out, because even if you do, you are confronted with the insignificance of your own inner life and identity. So, it all stays in your own head – unexpressed, but festering.
Can people live this way, over the long term? I don’t know. I wonder if it has ever been studied. It seems to me it shares much in common with solitary confinement, where there is nobody to hear your pain and anguish and no interaction with, or response to, your visceral howls. You’re in an invisible cage, with no way out and no relief.
So many people are living this way today. They keep up appearances at all costs, preening and curating their Instagram feeds, scared to death they’ll be found out to be human, imperfect, mortal, ordinary, anxious, lonely, misunderstood, worried and out of their depth. Realism is lost. Authenticity is fabricated. Everybody wants to look like they have it all together and like they know all the answers, but who honestly does? Anybody? They will only ever show you what they want you to see; very careful to never reveal anything else.
In so doing, they turn their backs on connection, mutual understanding, affection, solidarity, comfort, warmth, support and understanding. The show must go on. No wonder mental health is going down the pan. The worse everybody feels; the more they withdraw from each other. It’s a downward spiral.
You could, of course, say what you think anyway and be damned. It’s just terribly sad to learn that nobody is listening, even if you do.