I’m not normally one for posting random aphorisms of motivational/aspirational self-improvement (far too journalistically cynical), but this – from Francis Bacon’s Essays, written a good 400 years ago – strikes me as an ideal personal manifesto for someone in my line of business:
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider… Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”Francis Bacon, Essays
At this time of deep confusion, frustration and rising anger, more reading, consideration, deliberation and self-reflection can only be a good thing.
Guess how I’ll be spending the weekend?
In fact, after an additional period of consideration since I first posted this on LinkedIn, this quote may even have inspired me to start blogging more regularly again. Because I always used to use my old blog – the once-popular, occasionally influential EUtopia – as a way to shape my ideas, and it was often therapeutic, and helpful.
By semi-regularly writing about things that caught my eye in the world of politics, I honed my thinking, identified interesting trends, and – for a period – became what would now be deemed an influencer in the relatively niche space of the Brussels Bubble.
Now, the world of politics is too depressing to tackle direct. But instead I’m increasingly interested in how ideas – and ideologies – are shaped. How different people see the world. How opinions are formed. How a sense of identity is shaped by both internal and external forces.
This is, of course, an extension of my old political blog’s founding aim – and even of its strapline (“In search of a European identity”).
But the new approach – if I stick with this – will be broader. More philosophical, sociological, anthropological, psychological, semiological, theoretical and – with luck – also practical. At least when it comes to my marketing day job.
How are opinions and ideas shaped? How are minds influenced? Why do people believe what they believe?
At this time of widespread and outright denial of seemingly undeniable evidence and facts – the politicisation of actuality, if you will – much what we have assumed about the post-Enlightenment rise of rationality and evidence-led decision-making has been shown to have been mistaken.
Postmodernist concepts of meaning and reality have become the norm – ironically adopted and most successfully pushed by the right-wingers who have long argued against most postmodern conceptions of the world. Barthes’ idea of the death of the author has spread to the point that the *intention* behind any given statement is no longer seen as quite as important as the *interpretation* of that statement by any number of diverse audiences, creating outrage and confusion across the political spectrum.
Structuralism is similarly on the rise as a way of interpreting the world around us – most notably in a growing awareness of deep structural inequalities for women and minorities – leading to a renewed surge of Deconstructionism as these systems are analysed and explained in an effort to reshape society.
All this is reshaping the norms of how we see the world. Which means a return to the old texts of my university days seems overdue – and this time with more attention than I spent in the rapid skimming for essays on Barthes, Derrida, Saussure, Lacan and more during the theory part of my MA, now half-forgotten from some 20 years ago.
These ideas are complex – to unpack them requires heavy reliance on some of the most difficult theorists of the 20th century – so require a lot of the reading, weighing and considering that Bacon advocates.
And as I know from my past forays into blogging, to shape my currently half-formed ideas will also require more writing, *for myself* than I’ve done in a decade.
This is a start.
I’ll get much wrong along the way. Some of my ideas will seem naive to those who know more, wrong to those with different opinions, and pretentious to many (inevitable as soon as you start on theory).
But, for now, I’m not entirely sure what my opinions really are – except that I believe I need to read and write more to fully form them. And as this blog section of my old dust-covered personal site still exists – a legacy of my freelancing days that desperately needs a back- and front-end refresh – I may as well use it.
Should you find these musings, you’re welcome to read and comment as you see fit, but – just like in the early days of blogging – I’ll be writing here primarily for myself.