A typically thought-provoking piece by L. M. Sacasas which, ironically, I’ve got plenty of time to read, process, and react to after getting up ridiculously early this morning!
It’s interesting to read this from a UK context, after an enforced mourning period after the death of the Queen. This piece definitely speaks into that context, about the “range of legible emotions” being “constricted”. After all, you weren’t even allowed to hold up a blank sheet of paper in public.
The rhythms of digital media rush me on from crisis to crisis, from outrage to outrage. Moreover, in rapid succession the same feed brings to me the tragic and the comic as well as the trivial and the consequential. So, it’s not just that I do not have the time or space to think deeply. I also do not have the time or space to feel deeply. I skim the surface of each emotional experience, but rarely can I plumb its depths or sound out its meaning. Consequently, I lose something of the richness of the emotions and miss out on their appropriate consolations. I feel enough to be overwhelmed and depleted, but I cannot inhabit an emotional experience long enough to see it through to its natural fulfillment with whatever growth of character or richness of experience that might entail.
The policing of other’s emotional expressions is one sign that the discourse is colonizing our emotional life. Such policing tends to generate an artificiality of (usually negative or critical) emotional expression, and conditions us to avoid certain (usually positive or earnest) emotional expressions. Under these conditions, emotional life is stunted. The range of legible emotions is constricted. Complex or subtle emotional experiences are overwhelmed by the demand for intense and uncomplicated emotional expressions.
Image: DALL-E 2 (“policing emotions, in the style of Leonid Afremov”)