One of the risks of social life is that we will in the course of an evening
or in the kitchen at a party end up trapped with a person of excessive conviction
or, to put it more colloquially, a bore.
Bores can be found harbouring any manner of obsessions:
they may be deeply concerned about grammar
and the ever increasing misuse of the subjunctive
or believe that modern architecture has alienated us from ourselves;
they may be horrified by the predatory nature of contemporary capitalism
or disgusted by the whingeing of the environmental movement;
they might hate feminism or see misogyny in every corner of life.
Bores aren’t necessarily wholly misguided,
they may be making some very good points along the way;
but our discomfort in their company arises from the intensity
and relentlessness of their manner.
我们十分渴望他们能沉默片刻 或更现实地— 让我们逃离那里
We long that they might fall silent or, more realistically, allow us to run away.
Part of the reason why bores bore is
that we sense they’re not being entirely honest with us.
毫无疑问 他们内心烦乱 却又不告知真实原因
They are certainly upset, but the real reasons why don’t seem on offer.
We feel –- in the midst of their explanations
that their intensity is drawing heat from a source beyond the argument as they define it.
They may well be emphasising a range of
studiously impersonal political, economic or social factors,
but we intuit that there must be a more personal story
from which we, and their conscious selves, have been carefully shielded.
It’s a general truth, in no way humiliating,
that our seemingly-objective adult concerns
often have their roots in incidents of personal vulnerability
但很久以前被吐露过 如若重新谈论 可能会很尴尬
but unfolded long ago and may be awkward to recover and discuss.
Perhaps, when we were young, our father lost his job to a corporation that
relocated their offices to south-east Asia:
the pay-off was relatively generous but the shame intense for the family.
Or perhaps we have been passed over for promotion many times
by a young and conspicuously fashionable management team
with an interest in contemporary design.
Or maybe there was once a woman we liked very much,
她当时是博士在读 研究Julia Kristeva作品中的性别观念
who was doing a PhD in gender studies on the work of Julia Kristeva
and who showed signs of interest but then went off with a rival.
It left us quite upset for a while.
We may not like to remember these incidents,
let alone tell new acquaintances about them at parties.
Yet they are still active within us
and seek some way, however disguised, of expressing themselves.
But all we know consciously is that
capitalism is the most abusive and unsustainable economic system ever devised,
that modern architecture has shamefully forgotten the nobility of the Classical tradition
as embodied by the works of Bramante and Schinkel
and that feminists are out to systematically destroy
the foundations of male earning power in advanced economies.
When we come across such ardent views, it isn’t that we want to hear less,
it’s rather that we would ideally want to hear more –
but in another direction, inwards,
rather than further into socio-cultural and economic abstractions.
And we want to do this not from prurience
but because social life is guided by a wish to encounter the reality of other people –
which is here being arcanely denied.
Our boredom is a base, an impatient resentment at being held at bay
from the genuine traumas of another’s life.
The bore is never just other people.
It is – in given areas – also always us.
When we take a psychological audit of our intellectual ideas,
we all stand to discover that some of our concerns owe their intensity
to personal experiences which are hard to define and frightening to own up to.
This alerts us to how we might in the future respond to the speeches of the over-zealous.
The task isn’t to engage head on with the matter apparently at stake,
it’s to gently try to shift the conversation away from its official target to its origins;
sympathetically asking when the issue first emerged
and what more personal associations might surround it.
Even if we never get there, the knowledge of the structure of the problem
should make us careful not to engage people of excessive conviction
in too many prolonged head-to-head arguments.
There is no point trying to list why capitalism is not the worst system ever devised,
为什么现代建筑有它的可取之处 以及为什么女权主义仍然是必要的 都是毫无意义的
why modern architecture has its high-points and why feminism remains necessary.
This would be to believe that the other’s rage was a kind of intellectual error
that could be magically resolved with the help of one or two deft ideas.
The kind conversationalist is more compassionately pessimistic.
They accept that the roots of certain of our convictions
lie deeply tangled in frightened, anxious parts of the psyche
unlikely to be accessible outside psychotherapy.
We’re so aware that it could sound patronising to treat people
as less self-aware than they believe themselves to be,
but we overlook that it may sometimes be also the height of generosity to keep in mind
the complicated role that denied personal wounds play in our ardent convictions.
And we should hope that others will repay us the favour
the next time we find ourselves delivering long and ever more intense speeches
about the decline in handshaking, the colonisation of Ecuador
or the corruption of the English language.
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