the glass wall is holding strong, the fog is unrelenting

irrelevant screeds from someone trapped in his own head

Summer nights are all the same. Their insomniac navy blue, The cold sidewalks, humid air Bring right back all of my shame For a wrong that wasn't there.

All of this fake body's cells Have twice over been replaced, Yet this back still has to bear Past ambition, past disgrace, The crushing weight of my past selves.

I went back there once again, Knocked at the cathedral's door To revive a past long gone Like I hadn't tried before, Like I wouldn't just feel pain.

Saw a face reflected in Its cold uncaring colored glass And with tingling in my skull Ran as any coward runs When he knows he will not win.

For it always starts like this. There's nostalgia so perverse In re-playing torn old tape. It is tempting to immerse Yourself in that which is not missed.

Sun and moon keep storming by And the message never sends. If it weren't for my lies, In another better life, He and I could have been friends.

Summer nights keep haunting me. A confusion unresolved. A cold glass of orange juice, Music, lights, a crowded hall, An old name, a eulogy.

You've left for university.

It’s not like you wanted your life to change forever. Living under somebody else’s roof is not the worst as far as you’re concerned, that’s all you’ve known up until this point. You have to take responsibility for a lot of things now that you’re basically-independent – you have to grocery shop, meal prep, do laundry, keep track of time and belongings, you have to budget – it’s a lot. Sometimes it makes you wish you were back home permanently, not having to worry about anything but school and occasionally helping your parents with cleaning.

But then you actually go back home for a while and… it doesn’t feel the same. You start noticing your parents’ most irritating quirks and habits, you suddenly have less room to think and breathe. You’ve tasted life outside these walls and have come back


Cursed with knowing.

You find yourself returning to your current life, messy and difficult as it is, with relief. And it’s through that juxtaposition of past and present that you can know, really know, that your old shell doesn’t fit anymore. There is no going back, the world is out there and you will have to face it.

You’ve been out for a while now.

Maybe the slog of daily life has finally gotten to you. Maybe someone you know is making you doubt your identity with their endless nagging and mind games, maybe you’re scared of all the bad things that could happen.

But then, as it happens, in a moment of weakness and sentimentality, you reach for an old notebook, one of those secret ones that everybody used to think was meant for school notes, dates of upcoming events, due payments, et cetera, when in reality that’s where you would pour your heart out when there was no one there to listen.

A couple of folded pages ripped from other notebooks fall out, so you collect them, sit down under the warm light of your desk lamp, and proceed to open the thing on a random page. On it, you find a younger, angrier version of yourself lamenting an interpersonal conflict you know wasn’t real to begin with, and with every word read you can feel and individually name each of this kid’s fears and insecurities.

But what breaks you is your old name and grammatical forms. They sting. No matter how separate you may feel from your many past stages of development, you still can’t just forget that it’s you talking back there, can’t just enjoy the throwback in a vacuum.

That’s how you really know that your old shell doesn’t fit anymore. People will gladly hold it against you that unlike many others, you weren’t blessed with the full knowledge of who you were from the start, and you’re full aware that you will likely never be sure of exactly who you are or even what you’re feeling at a given moment, but going back? It causes you pain.

Your intuition has lead you all the way here, away from that pain and towards contentment. Tranquility. And if you can’t trust that, then you truly can’t trust anything. Your current life may be messy and difficult and full of new responsibilities, but there is no going back. The world is out there and you will have to face it.

Original draft 30/10/2022 Finished 22/08/23

There’s this classmate you have. You’ve been cautiously observing him from afar since the beginning of the school year but never quite thought to meaningfully interact. He doesn’t have friends, not stable ones anyway. He mostly hangs around the corridor at recess, phone or book in hand, cut off from everything around him.

The entire class, even your own friend group, laugh at him behind his back. He speaks in this slow, monotonous fashion, sometimes locking up in a stutter or two. He moves all clunky, as if constantly weighing every flinch of his muscles. He gets easily upset when confronted about much of anything, or worse yet, joked about. Kids being kids, this gets exploited time and time again.

His political views are extreme, painted with a broad brush and very emotionally loaded. They often get mixed in with humorous hyperbole, so you never know if he’s being serious. Every other day he says something so inappropriate to the situation you want to bury yourself underground.

And yet, you are drawn to him. There is an invisible force pushing you to get to know him, an unexplained curiosity, a sense of familiarity even. You phase into his life slowly and without promises. He’s surprisingly easy to talk to.

While in your presence, he changes from being reserved and quietly terrified to going on long detailed rambles and absolutely glowing while doing so. He laughs at your jokes, even the ones your friends scoff at. The debates you have are so silly and off the charts, but boy are they entertaining.

After a bit of this, you come to a realization. The two of you are the same. Well, maybe that's overstating it. You share a lot. Next time you go out of focus during a conversation, you hear yourself speak, your shockingly odd and rhythmic cadence. You compare the facial expressions you imagine yourself making with the real thing, and realize that your mental image of how you act is based on people you’ve seen in movies. You start noticing every time you drop something or ram head-first into a door frame, how often people joke about your weird ways of doing everyday things. And for the record, your opinions aren’t any different, just as passionate and absolutist as any kid’s, with an added taste of rage against reality.

All this time, in your struggle for survival in a demanding and hostile school environment, in laughing at that guy who sits alone, you were the same breed of kid, just very wrapped up in trying to tear yourself away from all that he represents.

Questions flood your mind. Does it show? Is the whole class laughing at you too? Is your life a lie, your way of being a persona? There is no way to know. The guy doesn’t ever mention it. He seems ashamed to think of it himself, let alone to speculate about you. Your parents assure you that you’re normal, “nothing like those unfortunate disabled kids” – you sense the disdain for the Other in their tone. Your friends make light of it, implying that even the thought of such a thing is ridiculous. You feel alone. Misunderstood. Torn.

Your normalcy is frail, you realize, it’s hanging on by a thread. It’s about as strong as your ability to say the right thing at the right time. It seems like you are constantly a word away from social suicide, and the fact that your friend group still hasn’t alienated you borders on a miracle. How safe is it to continue forward?

You have no words to describe the way in which you are different, for no one has dared to give you any. As if the lack of a word would prevent you from noticing that you stick out in the first place. But you know. You can’t un-know. Not after you’ve seen him.

17/10/22, edits made in 24/05/23 and final edits made 25/06/23.

In my opinion, believing in the existence of “political correctness” or “PC culture” is a position incompatible with being progressive and can be used as a tool to shut down conversations about social norms changing to accommodate more people.

To my understanding, “political correctness” implies the existence of a silent majority within society who use progressive terms, categories and rules of public behavior in a purely performative manner, and secretly hate doing it. If someone is being too kind to marginalized groups, they are probably self-censoring to appease some network of social pressure and by extension a vicious system that has created said network. As to who is responsible for its creation, the specifics very. That almost conspiratorial flavor can even be found in its name. Someone is telling us what’s correct when there’s no one way to be correct about politics. It has this top-down, manufactured consent feel to it. “No one actually wants this, but people just want to live their lives, so they comply.”

What the term does, is it makes the target audience – mostly moderates, centrists and those who self-declare as not caring about politics feel like something is being taken away from them and leveraging their defensive reaction against movements for social change. It makes them believe that they are being inconvenienced by, say, having to avoid outdated terms, slurs or deadnaming trans people, and that this inconvenience is equal to or similarly important as the oppression marginalized groups face.

As I have come to know from debates, as well as some people’s response to COVID restrictions, nothing is stronger in acting on one’s emotions than an appeal to personal liberty. And if someone has not seen, experienced or often even heard how oppression really works, it is very easy to equate living with some maybe non-obvious restrictions for the good of others with being censored. This specific defensive reaction gets drilled into people’s heads especially after they engage with the flood of articles and TV programming all eagerly reporting each piece of non-news about some asshole losing a job over breaking the anti-harrassment policies of their workplace. Each feeds the knee-jerk reaction of “defend status quo” and backs it up with more points.

You can think of the free speech retort as a tool, which becomes cognitively available whenever there is even a slight chance of a person being challenged on how they think about and treat others. A way to shut down a conversation. If someone is skilled at steering debates their way, they will make every effort to shift the discussion of: “is it okay to treat someone like this?”, “is it okay to say something to/about this person/group, and why?”, “at what point does personal offense become politically significant?” into a discussion of “do I have the right to say what I want?”

To which the answer is technically yes. A long exchange about free speech follows, sometimes including excerpts from legal documents to make it smarter. Despite the fact that free speech has exactly nothing to do with relationships between individuals or organizations, how they choose to befriend each other, associate, endorse, et cetera, only what the government can enforce on people, it becomes generalized to a point where (I’m exaggerating here) a person slamming a door on another person during a fight can be discussed in terms of governments and courts. It’s laughable really, but the objective has been reached. The relevant issues go undiscussed and the interlocutor is tired out. Their time is wasted.

The appeal of this tool is universal. It can be used no matter what one believes in practice. Maybe someone is mostly friendly to a group but likes the idea of colorblindness as opposed to outspoken diversity “everyone is unique; why call yourself gay and go to pride if sexual orientation isn’t a big deal?” or perhaps they’re hiding some more negative opinions and simply sanitizing their arguments “I just don’t think someone can fully change their birth sex”.

Regardless of their other politics, someone who believes in the existence of political correctness has acquired this entitled attitude, prioritizing convenience of the “normal” people over anyone and anything else. Despite how the loudest people frame it, it is indeed entitled to try to get people with certain inherent characteristics to pretend to not have them or be okay with being treated badly. We have to respect people, we don’t have to respect opinions. Being inclusive is about protecting people, not views.

Sticking to what you’re used to appears more common sense than changing opinions in light of new information. Still, changing vocabulary isn’t in and of itself a feat. We do it all the time throughout our lives. Conservatives fearmongering about PC culture don’t change their language specifically because they actively hate these groups. But if we’re willing to change language, the more changes become available to us, the more we have to choose between them and set some kind of priorities. The question is then, if someone doesn’t prioritize changing language in regards to oppressed minority groups, but chooses to do so in other areas, what care do they have for those people, really? It’s very telling. It shows the kind of apathy and disinterest people have in anything that doesn’t touch on their daily life, anything they can’t immediately empathize with.

Confusion is a natural response to change, and can be overcome if someone is introduced to it reasonably. However, the moment the tempting explanation of it being political correctness gets a hold of someone, that task becomes much much harder, often near impossible. After all, how can you explain to someone who is feeling defensive that it’s nothing personal, nothing grand? That there is no great shadowy cabal pouring money into making people gender trans people correctly, or type Black instead of black? That it’s simply a matter of taking into consideration the wellbeing of more people? How can you look at someone so angry and willing to die on this hill, tell them “it’s not about you, your freedom is not in danger” and expect a quiet, resigned “I have never thought of it like that”?

Unfortunately I have no guide on how to deal with it, there is no happy ending to this story. I’m sure my take on this issue isn’t unique either. I just thought it would be worth it to share the negative impact of this rhetoric.

The feeling of being wronged is a powerful one, it can mobilize individuals and groups alike to achieve incredible feats. But it isn’t in itself virtuous. This very real feeling can be weaponized for fighting fictitious fights, and against progress for society, and has been used that way many times throughout history. It’s good to make a hard stop sometimes and reflect on an actual power balance in a conflict, both on the personal and political level.