Friday, May 09, 2008

Writing The Fence

Writing the Fence

Several years of blogging has left me asking questions about the nature of this relatively new cultural phenomena called blogging. A dictionary type description of blogging might state that blogging is the act of placing one's thoughts, one's daily diary, onto the world stage via the Internet, and that blogging is a means by which individuals speak out to other individuals and groups through semi permanent essays posted to the Internet. While those descriptions may describe what blogging is, I am left to wonder what blogging "really" is, and why we who blog do it.

I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only blogger to wonder why I write, and I'm fairly sure that I'm not the only blogger to wonder for whom I am writing? I've usually settled on the following answer - because I can - yet I find that answer lacking. I don't mow the grass because I can, or go to work because I can. I do those things because I have to do those things, but blogging isn't obligatory for most bloggers, and so I suspect blogging is more a form of recreation - that is RE-CREATION. And in any form of creative process there is a starting point, and ending point, and expectations of what one will achieve in the end. For me the expectation of self growth is paramount.

I view blogging as a means to self growth. I have used this public forum as a means of putting to word various ideas which I may have held onto for many years, and conversely I've used blogging to document ideas that were fresh to me. Learning to express my ideas through the written word is a growth process for me. Taking risk, and being vulnerable to the consequences of sharing who I am is also a growth experience for me.

I've written poems, songs, prayers, plays, short stories, critiques, prose, documentary essays, personal history, and I've included photographs which I have taken, or photos which others have taken, and even art work.

I've seen how in each post I have become just a little bit better at writing, and yet I feel as if I have only begun.

I've also shared my ideas on politics, religion, and a broad range of topics, and I'm no longer an anonymous silent observer. I can no longer deny what I believe, for I have stated it to the world - and I've just begun.

My intention for this post is to explore the question of whether by choosing to post our diaries to a public forum that bloggers find themselves pressured to distort their thoughts into forms which they believe and even hope will be met with approval by their readers.

I believe the answer most certainly is in the affirmative.


Do I Write For You?


Who do bloggers write for? I can state boldly that I don't write for you dear readers, but the truth is that I do write for you. This statement is seemingly distraught with contradiction, and yet each element is quite honestly stated.

I write for myself, yet I believe, and even hope that others may be reading my words. I have, like other bloggers, found myself crafting thoughts in ways which I believed would be both understood, and accepted by at least some of my readers. I find this experience both liberating, and confining.

Despite my awareness that others may be reading what I write, and my desire to please any potential readers I ultimately believe that write for myself. Therefore the expression, "To thine own self be true", becomes paramount in my considerations for what I write about, and the way that I write.


Do I Remain True?

I believe that it is my obligation to try to be honest about what I believe in my postings, but not always. Yes, you read it right - not always. For I believe that anyone who believes they are being entirely honest is delusional. Honesty is a goal in writing, and it may not be always be the best goal at all times when all things are considered.

Honesty, or what we believe honesty is can be a trap of false expectations. Honesty can in fact stifle the creative process and prevent one from exploring aspects of existence, experience, and persona that one might feel too dangerous to reveal - and thus creating a facade or many false faces can be liberating in ways that so called honesty could never be.


An Honest Intent Is The Key

I've read some blogs in which each post is so carefully constructed that one could never tell what the blogger feels - and that I find to be a tragic waste of time. These bloggers feel that they must construct postings which allow them room to escape any accusation of taking a stand - and I find that pathetic.

We live once, and our lives are exceedingly short, and then we're gone forever - and yet people still feel that they can't express themselves even through their own online diaries.

Most of the world's population live in fear of being jailed for expressing their true beliefs. The simple act of expressing a thought is enough to land the majority of humanity in a cage.

Think!

From China to Saudi Arabia bloggers are being imprisoned for simply expressing thoughts, so it is especially disconcerting to read blogs sourced from democratic nations in which word play has replaced passion, and conviction.

People are afraid to reveal their true beliefs for fear of recrimination, or of being misunderstood.

I personally have lost a good friend of nearly forty years not based upon any action, but upon simple words upon a page - so the danger is real. People fear losing their jobs, being blackballed, being made a suspect in the eyes of their community, or the law for simply exploring and sharing thoughts.

We apes are far from learning how to live with one another - very far indeed.

Blogging entails risk - and therefore people are afraid to commit to others who they really are, and it is evident in how people chose what to write about, and how they convey themselves.

I appreciate the fears of being labeled a sexist, racist, ageist, ethno-centrist, homophobic, anti-Semite, anti-Islamic, anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, religious intolerant, fascist, communist, capitalist, socialist, atheist, agnostic, theist, pantheist, deist, Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, a class discriminator - kind of guy.

Those fears are always there, even when I don't recognize their existence, or their affect.


When I cross the line

I suspect that one of the more persistent concerns that any non-anonymous blogger must have is whether they have ventured past the boundaries of good taste, and political correctness. In nations like China where bloggers fear of being imprisoned for simply stating facts, and opinions the task is made simple - don't talk about certain subjects which the Chinese dictatorship would frown upon, however, in the democracies the task of establishing how far to venture into controversy is given to the masses - the masses of readers of every conviction and interest.

In the democracies advocacy toward politically correctness is the means of control used by every group or individual with a cause - and bloggers who allow comments are subjected to pressure to conform to this censorship by a million comments, or face being cast out.

This pressure to conform to potential online critics, haters as some refer to them, has me wondering if there is a point at which I as an individual writer have a right to choose what to believe, and what to express without fear, and without guilt, or doubt?

Could I ever be so brave, or naive, to believe that without the protection of anonymity, that many bloggers believe they have, that I could "get away" with expressing myself freely? For I am not an anonymous blogger, and there is no illusion of anonymity for me. What I write on this blog appears to create some ripples, very small perhaps, but real. And I find that both exhilarating, and frightening.



Why do I write?


In the end I must ask myself - if I were to die a moment after I submitted these words for online publication - would they reflect my honest feelings - at least at the moment I wrote them?

Yes, I have been honest and true to myself - or at least I believe those words are true.

However, this doesn't mean I haven't been dishonest, wrong, crude, evil, imperfect, ignorant, politically incorrect, hateful, self centered, immature, or any of the labels which you dear readers decide to apply to me.

It is true that I am all of those horrible things at various times, yet I hope that I have at the least avoided skimming along the top of the fence. I hope that I have displayed some level of integrity by sharing my beliefs as honestly as I can, and that I have used this blog to reveal my "true" self - flaws and all.

I don't ask for forgiveness for being myself, nor do I ask for a pass for the simple act of expressing that self on my own blog - my own diary. In the end no one is making you read these words - but something is driving me to write them - and it is to that something that I owe the higher obligation - despite the cost.

In the end let this blog be my vehicle of self examination, self growth, and my own little playground of ideas - be they considered correct, or not - for it can not be all things to all people, and still be me.

I will pledge only one thing to you dear readers - and that is that I won't be writing the fence - I will fall down on one side or the other - even if I find myself having to pull myself out of the mud.

9 comments:

nancy said...

Your post serves as a nice reminder to me to not be so judgmental. While I wouldn't necessarily use the word "courageous" to describe bloggers such as yourself who compose controversial posts, I do respect that you do in fact, take a definitive stand, so I might at least use the word "ballsy".

RickMonday said...

JP,

I respect people who stand by their beliefs and can defend them in an articulate manner. Though I may have a different perspective than someone, hell we all do because of our unique experiences, if that person can put together a logical argument, I tip my hat to them.

ANNA-LYS said...

Interesting provoking post JP.

I have many comments to make here, but have to get back on You.

Only to things first;

a)Howcome we bloggers always reflect upon why we create posts? Does journalists, authors of books?
IF we look upon it as dialogues, yes then we wonder why :-)

b) Upon the way of writing;
In the offline-world there is a discrepancy between scientists on "this" matter - what is most important, the problem solving or the creation of question (of the problem) - I am a believer of the last one, and it colours my thinking, my writing, my blog, my life ... its a way of "digging" .

To me posts that doesn't create space for anna-lyzing and reflections are putting up a closed door in front of my face. Instead of creating deep thoughts it press me into black or white thinking. It doesn't generate personal and interpersonal development.

(( hug ))

ANNA-LYS said...

On the other hand my kind of trigger-posts might look like I don't have any opinions of my own, does it?

JeromeProphet said...

Nancy:

I grew up in a time when Corporate Controlled Main Stream Media pretty much controlled 99% of the thoughts (TV, Radio, Magazines, Books, Newspapers) being broadcast to the people.

And while there were always exceptions most of it was lock step with what advertisers would sponsor, and therefore allow, or what some media elite decided we were allowed to think.

The Internet has opened up the field somewhat, and I'm hoping that people take part.


Rickmonday:

Debate is vital to any democratic society. Consider that in some Ivy League debate classes that debaters are assigned which side of the issue they will advocate.

What this means is that even if say, for example, a student is a staunch conservative that by the time they are finished with their debate they must appear to be the biggest advocate of social welfare programs that ever lived - to pass the course (and visa versa).

This is a means of preparing the student for a leadership role in a democratic society - law, politics, corporate management, etc.

I laugh my butt off when I read some bloggers take offense, and begin ranting about how they control their blogs, and will not tolerate any comments which they don't approve of. This shows their personal insecurity, and immaturity as a person. It's an old media response to the freedoms of this new media. It always reminds me of a crotchety old man yelling at the neighbor kids to keep of this lawn. We all know what the kids thought of the old geezer - well that's what I think of these control freaks.

I've only deleted a few comments in the last few years on the basis of personal attacks, but that's it.

To me freedom to explore all issues, and every side of an issue is exciting, and valued, and always will be on my blog - so always feel welcome here.


Anna-Lys:

I agree with you about feeling pressed into thinking in black and white terms. I throw ideas out and will advocate extreme ideas many times just to invoke a response - as a means of opening debate, and discussion - not because I feel that what I propose is always correct.

In the U.S. we have three cable television channels called CSPAN, which you may recall from your days living here. One program on CSPAN which I find very interesting is BOOKTV. BOOKTV is made up of a series of interviews of authors, and they are always asked why they wrote the book. Authors come prepared, and always have an answer.

So I'd say that people who write books have reasons.

As far as people who write news stories for a magazine, newspaper, or online news service - I suspect most of the content they produce isn't out of choice - although some of it is. I believe in their case the question is why they went into journalism, or a particular area of journalism. On CSPAN journalist are interviewed often, and I'd say their answers vary a great deal as to why they became writers - but it is a choice usually made in High School, or College.

Authors of Books on the other hand usually make their decision to write later in life - when they have something to say, or the time and resources to research, and write.

But I as a blogger write several times a week, and I do often wonder why I write.

I'm still exploring my motivations. I suspect there's no one single best answer - it's just inside me, and wants expression.

Marie Carnes said...

I may be missing something on the meaning of anonymous. You say, "For I am not an anonymous blogger...." Did you change your name to Jerome Prophet?

JeromeProphet said...

Marie:

My name has been published dozens of times in the Illinois Times and always associated with my blog.

Run a quick Google Search, and you'll find my name - Eugene Knox.

I can't make that go away - ever - and thus I am not anonymous, and haven't been for years.

If I start advocating the sacrifice of babies to the devil people would know who I am.

Tens of millions of bloggers on the other hand remain anonymous to a much greater extent - and some actually are anonymous.

So there you have it.

Eugene Knox - AKA Jerome Prophet

JeromeProphet said...

Marie:

Here's an example from IT:

Jerome Prophet's Springfield Local World War II veterans posed for a group photo with a restored B-17 bomber last week at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s “Aluminum Overcast” stopped in Springfield as part of the organization’s “Keep it Flying” tour. For more information about EAA, visit their Web site at www.b17.org. To see more of Eugene Knox’s work, go to jeromeprophet.com.
Eugene Knox

That took about two seconds to bring up on Google. Any sixth grader could find my name in seconds.

I am quite open to blacklisting, arrest, investigation, assassination, stalking, poisoning, kidnapping, etc., (all very exciting sounding).

Everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln employed a false name in publications in their days - even though people knew who they were.

JP

ANNA-LYS said...

I still wonder ... do we always need to know why we need to do?

I think my blogging the last year has more to do with reflections upon phenomena off- and online ... that I want to learn how the global community looks upon.

email jp

  • jeromeprophet@gmail.com

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