On the fear of creating waste

I’ve been dreading completing my first blog post. I was avoiding it at all costs, rationalizing its postponement for just a little bit longer each time I opened up this website. It’s taken me until now, but I finally understand why I was so uneasy.

The concepts and thematic assumptions of our class raise the stakes exponentially for me. During Monday’s class, as we began to break apart Roach’s statement that “violence is the performance of waste,” I panicked at the implications. If my blog post is not “valuable,” whether to myself or anyone else who read it, haven’t I done violence to them? I might waste my readers’ time or my own potential or the electricity it takes to keep my laptop running. The only way to make sure that I won’t perform waste or force an audience to observe waste is to not write anything at all.

This conclusion is not satisfying, nor is it beneficial. I fell into these cyclical thoughts about my place in this course and in this school until I was tasked with solving a problem of my own creation. This churn, to reference Erin’s post, was building pressure. The only way I could release this pressure was by writing something to destroy this logical trap I had caught myself in.

To do this, I returned to Roach’s words and those he cites directly. Under the Bataillian definition, waste is “unproductive expenditure,” (Roach 41). My post is certainly not that. Once it is completed, I will receive feedback that will help me improve my writing. Since my post is a performance, however, it runs the risk of being unproductive for my audience, whether they are voluntary or conscripted. I can’t project the worth of my text to each reader, but I can make an evidence-based inference. At the beginning of the course, Dr. McCoy asked us to report each other’s fears or concerns for the experience ahead. One consistent fear mentioned by numerous students was blog pacing. Obviously, I can relate. So in writing a blog post that shows my open struggle with creating a post in a timely and useful matter, I hope I can bring comfort (or at least a chance to commiserate) to others who may feel this same anxiety without voicing it.

I now turn to the Veblenian definition of waste as “conspicuous consumption,” (Roach 41). I could easily devolve into worry about what I deserve to consume in terms of information, resources, or attention from my peers. But the hurricane narratives we’ve seen, particularly in Trouble the Water, real, harmful performances of overconsumption hurt their audiences through senseless deprivation. My attempt at provoking conversation on this forum doesn’t deprive anyone of anything more serious than five minutes or so of disinterest. And even I, with my overwhelming need to be well-received, can tolerate that possibility.

In closing, I reflect and wonder if I have completed my goal. I attempted to dismantle the rationale behind assessing my own work as being worthy or wasteful and instead engage in the act of creating an original thought. This thought, for whatever it is “worth,” has already done me a great service. Unlike Rene Girard’s vision of sacrificial violence, I found a release to the personal pressure of engaging in creative and active learning about a difficult theme without destruction.

Although I speak without an in-depth knowledge of the context, I’m beginning to understand the value in considering that “care is the antidote to violence,” (quote by Saidiya Hartman). I paid careful attention to the anxiety that prevented me from completing my work. As a result, I was able to comprehend its causes and work to end its negative consequences on my emotional state and educational experience. I now feel ready to post in a course set against the backdrop of Roach’s assessment that violence is the performance of waste and for that, I am grateful.

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