Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Swallowing its tail

I don't know what this blog is about. Or what I'm about with it. It has been bothering me for months, and it seemed too self-consuming to write about it. So I've avoided the topic, remained conflicted and unsure, and written something, or just about anything, somewhat weakly and desperately, each month, usually on the last day of the month, as has happened for the last four months in a row. I'm not sure what the point of having this blog is, and I never have been entirely sure. It seemed worth exploring it, trying it as a form of self-expression, over eight years ago when I began it. I thought it would become clearer in the doing of it, as it went on. But generally I've avoided thinking through the conflicts I have about it, which has left me still unsure, all these years and 150+ posts later. Sometimes it has seemed obvious and clear: use this platform to communicate something that I think is worth communicating. Something that seems worthwhile telling other people. Even if no-one is listening, because they could be, they could see it, shortly after it is posted or many years into the future. As I reflect on it this evening, I remember what is obvious but often forgotten, and which it would do me good to remember – I'm lucky to have this platform, this opportunity, this ability, this freedom. I can write whatever I want here, of course I would be subject to the laws in my country governing free speech and libel and hate speech and whatever else applies, but the very existence of and the potential to be prosecuted under those laws indicates that I have freedom of expression. I can say it, and bear the consequences, but I will not be prevented from saying it. At worst, the blog post might be taken down, or the blog itself deleted by some powerful entity at some point in the future, but when I hit publish, my words will appear, even temporarily, and probably fairly permanently. And as I'm anyway unlikely to say anything that would fall foul of those laws, I can say what I want, because most, perhaps all, of what I want to say is not illegal in this country. I can criticise the government, or a political party, or a leader, I can examine or critique other countries, including those with much more restrictive laws on freedom of expression, I can discuss sexual practices or preferences, call for changes in laws or attitudes, attack or defend religions of all kinds and none. Many people worldwide lack those freedoms. They are attacked, sometimes physically, or imprisoned or even killed for such self-expression. Which makes it valuable, and precious, and something to be appreciated. But of course, most of the time I'm not thinking like that. Most of the time, like most people, I'm not thinking about communicating something 'worthwhile', or, even more block-inducing, 'important'. Most of the time I'm feeling under (completely self-generated) pressure to come up with something to write about, with a few hours left of the month, given my (again completely self-inflicted)(and sometimes not met) commitment to write monthly. Most of the time I'm simply trying to come up with something to write about, that I can actually complete, in the time allowed. Then I face a few additional problems, again all of my own creation. First, often I am not feeling very passionate about anything that if I were, would be a worthwhile thing to write about. Sometimes, and disturbingly, I lack the passion. Which is a broader problem, but not one well dealt within the parameters of a rapidly approaching blog post deadline. If I do feel fairly passionate about an issue, the second problem arises that it often feels very difficult to write about it. I may feel that I don't know much or enough about it, or can't research it adequately, or will make only wildly emotive comments that I'm not keen to commit to print. Then I face another problem, more particular to blogging, which is that at the moment I'm not willing to make a great deal of personal information public in this setting. I don't want to write much about my family, or friends, or in general about other people who are close to me. I don't usually feel that it's appropriate to share with strangers information which is private not just to me but to other people I care about. If it were only myself that would be one thing, and I have reservations about what I'm willing to publicise just about myself, but I have a large amount of discomfort with making private things public without other people's consent, and many important things involve other people. At the same time I often feel that writing about an issue without revealing my personal connections with it is somehow dishonest, and certainly deeply incomplete. This is an area that needs further consideration, but what usually happens is that I don't devote enough time to the conceptual issues around blogging to resolve these questions, so I end up leaving them unresolved, and fall back on a policy of generally avoiding writing things which express these conflicts. And instead, writing a blog post about my issues with writing blog posts.


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