Winner of the 2020 Student Blog Writing Competition
The rules to write this piece are easy at first glance, write something in a sociological theme and tone, clarity of argument and theme, grammatically correct. I can do this in my sleep, grammatically correct perhaps a stretch, nearly five years studying sociology, isn’t this what we do. Write something…
I have drawn a blank. What can I say that will mean anything, add anything, do anything. So write what you know, (already a loaded subject, what do I know.) Maybe write what I understand, scrub that, just write.
I think I am taking myself too seriously.
I have been writing; sadly no sociological theme, clarity – it’s another foggy day. Tone, well I have been laughing at myself, this is difficult. I like being told what to write about.
I have been writing, taking prisoners.
1,194 words incarcerated to arrive at this sentence. They are not neglected, I often reread them to check if now in this moment it feels right to trouble them some more. (The ill-advised luxury of the unemployed.) I love writing, it struggles to love me back. Why is grammar not the sixth sense? I often read and reread a paragraph, it fuels my incessant severing and reassembling of text, often to end where I began. I agonise over a comma placement. Hence these contracted sentences. My method to “correct” what I have written is sadly a singular qualitative approach based on self-imposed flagellation, I need not let my Catholic baptism go to waste. For those taking notes, begin by reading the sentence out loud and then in your head, move incessantly between the two, ideally over the next 10-15 minutes the sound of the words will become estranged and unreadable. So far so good. At this point I channel my dog, a quizzical tilt of the head, eyes that both somehow understand but don’t understand. No dog? I find most animals empathetic to a confused state, a Pullman daemon will do. My final move is distraction, mostly I go and water my house plants. Cycle and repeat. At this stage I wonder how I got to my second to last semester, it will at some point be a Netflix documentary, a low point in content desperation.
I have all but given up writing this.
I have watered the plants, so nothing else remains but to just begin – again. Disclaimer first; nothing I say will be right, nor will any of it be wrong, the blessing/curse of reflexivity and relativism is where I will be, including naivety but not the realist kind. What do I know?, feminism, positivism, dialectics, new materialism, actor network theory, de-anti-post-colonialism, gender – I know of it, do I know it? I can hint at it, nod knowingly in a lecture, drop in a bit of Butler, Marx and Latour, don’t push me or you will find my shallow limits. I feel it more than I know it.
When I started my degree I was looking for abstract saviours / The Orb, Little Fluffy Clouds (Ambient Mix 1*)
Five years later I now feel exhumed of hope, sociology makes me feel that in/to the bone, / Crystal Castles – I Am Made of Chalk.
It has, is, continues to be an immersive exposition of our collapsing futurity. There, that’s out the way. Ask me tomorrow and I will have regained my fighting spirit, I know I will, where else can I be / Weta – Calling On.
There are people I love and people yet to be loved, they, I, we – need solidarity – physically, materially, spiritually. I feel that acutely and it is a good thing / Emma Paki – System Virtue.
Is it odd that sociology only appears to get to grips with spirituality now? (Does it?) I don’t want to read what sociology has to say on love – just in case – for the moment anyway. Should I write about whether I feel sociology can do anything? The fraught setting of academia, fighting battles within, the burgeoning without.
Well that’s all a bit depressing eh! Let me lighten the mood. Sociology does more than embrace private troubles as the particulate of public issues, inversely it also seeks wonder within. There is a slow dive through sociology that propels the self and at some point, not always, opportunity allows that be rendered outwardly. Not going to go all psychoanalytical on you but if I remain unchanged then that’s a lot of academic ash to put in an urn. Instead I have been able to have conversations on the outside that I could not finish on the inside, admittedly not always successfully. I did (do?) a gender paper without once talking about my own gender, navigated by engaging vicariously through the reflection of others. Hmmm.
It has been five years since I started study and I have not transformed a micron of society, not that I could. Perhaps naively, I thought in some way I might understand the lineage of inequality, the cadence of its passage, that it was some crude Rube Goldberg machine and by isolating its parts it might simply be undone. It is more complex and enigmatic than I can conceive. Instead, I have an admission of guilt, a sociological inversion, I have been transformed, I am a stranger to myself, sociology has recontoured me, not I it. This is an uncomfortable confession from someone who wanted to be a psychologist, warily disturbed by the idea of a diagnostic manual of private troubles, who leapt to embrace a sociology encumbered within the world, who saw the public and private as both. I still believe this, but I grasp the world less and myself more. How to continue is the question, the world still scares the shit out of me, the trauma of people’s suffering sociology draws close to the skin, somehow that must be held within without burning you out, never to lose sense/tivity of the suffering of others.
I am not sure.
I feel it must be in the doing, more motion less rest, to hold the inward from disintegration, no aspirations to be anyone’s saviour or to become interred in the reflexive, time to put the skin on the line. (Stream of consciousness much.)
I will cleave to Aotearoa, there is enough distress and hope here. I am going to keep working on this Pākehā, this hot queer mess, but not as much. I am going to seek out my troubled community (troubled within and without), energise my withered sociability and do something.
Find the difference, beyond theory, beyond me.
* I did start to write on music and sociology, a miserable effort. so forgive the partially embedded playlist, I could not let go.
Vincent Perry is a student at Massey University