Saturday, February 26, 2011

I’m for transparency...except for secrets.

This year we have suffered floods, only mildly here but elsewhere both in Victoria and in Queensland devastating floods. And now the news of this ghastly earthquake in Christchurch and everyone is muttering Armageddon. As if all these dramatic climatic events signal the end of the world.

On top of this we have all these uprisings in the Middle East that might also signal a new world order. I can only hope in the end it comes out for the good.

People power. The democracy of the Internet, the marvelous capacity of Face Book and Twitter to connect people in ways no dictatorship had even dreamed possible. This has to be good.

And then there is the issue of transparency and what happens when information intended for only a select few gets transmitted further a field as in Julian Assange’s efforts via WikiLeaks.

Here in Australia Assange is attracting something of a hero’s status. Elsewhere in the world he is decreed a villain. My sympathies lie with him, as my sympathies lie with myself.

I do not think I would actively seek to divulge other people’s secrets unless they happen to my secrets as well and I thought it necessary that they be known, but Assange exposes other people’s secrets, namely the secrets of those in power.

I have been feeling despondent about my blog writing of late. Worried that I write the same old, same old stuff, struck by the degree to which I feel constrained as I write. There are so many things I cannot say here.

I read a terrific article about blogging recently, Why I Blog, in which the writer talks about the distinction between writing as we know it, the stuff that is laboured over, polished and refined, the stuff that makes its way into print and the blog. 'The feedback is personal and brutal,' Andrew Sullivan writes, 'but the connection with readers is intoxicating.'

I agree. Intoxicating, and at times crushing, but why? I ask myself. These people may exist. They are your readers and you are one of them, but they need not become the arbiters of your mood states. Yet often, as ever, they do.

Sullivan argues that blogging cannot be too refined. It must necessarily take place in a rush; it must not be too polished. It is the conversational style that wins over readers in the blogosphre, with its rawness and its close to the edge quality. Brevity is of the essence. I fall down here I’m afraid. And clarity of voice.

Often when we blog even as we imagine we are writing or creating a certain persona, our readers will see things in us of which we are unaware.

I have rankled at my own tendency to moralise within the blogosphere and my resentment when I read others doing this very thing. It is so easy to pass judgment within the written word. So easy to pronounce ideas with a heady certainty that we do not usually maintain in conversation.

Blogging allows for more freedom of speech and thought but it can also turn into a dangerous calcification of ideas, the good of it though, Sullivan argues is that both sides of all polarised arguments get represented. The hardliners will have as many blogs as the lefties all touting their views.

I am amazed to find in my forays into blogdom that I seem to gravitate towards folks of my vintage, though there are a few younger ones in the mix. But I cannot be sure.

Before I started to blog my daughters warned me that I would not know these people to whom I write. They could all be falsely created identities, not the flesh and blood people they purport to be online. I imagine there is a small number of such people within the blogosphere, those who actively create a false persona.

But in my experience, short lived as it is, most people within the blogosphere seek a certain level of honesty and truthfulness that I find breathtaking. I’m for transparency you see, even as I know there are many many things we cannot say to one another, out of respect for others, out of respect for ourselves and out of respect for the medium. Good writing relies as much on what is left out, as it does on what is included.

'You end up writing about yourself,' Sullivan writes,'since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. ... But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one.'

This is what I both relish and curse in my life as a blogger. The urge to tell all and the need to watch it.
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