Sunday, June 06, 2010

Keeping in Touch

What I do when blogging is pretty much the same approach I took to songwriting in the eighties; that is, I juxtapose. I once had a use for this perpetual means of generating fresh ideas for lyrics but now I find I can get more leverage from simply working from the title concept. Thus the shift from the rather unwieldy A Table for Two in the Fallout Shelter to the neat Drawn Inside and the positively insistent Elbow Room.

So why did I cling on to this notion of random association for Touched By the Son?
I've always seen a blog as a way of exploring thinking and ideas that are prevalent, but I don't want to strap on some didactic straightjacket and host just one more opinionated rant. It is the very tiresomeness of this approach that I am writing against. So when digging out knowledge and information that may help the decision making and participation, it is best not to go out looking for an article that confirms a preconceived notion on what is 'right'. With no mediating force, it is difficult to do this.  That's where the function of a found object stimulates the discussion.

Hyperlinks, happily, are the perfect vehicle for ramming together disparate elements and producing something unthought and unexamined. The best blog for me is a voyage of discovery for the blogger as much as for the follower. 'Let the cards fall where they will' is an excellent way to shine light on a subject. Of course another feature of political and idealogical blogs is that they string together images and quotes to support an argument, without genuinely engaging with the topic themselves. The way I see it, while it's good to strew a few good articles and quotes throughout, a more substantive argument is derived from addressing the points yourself and fearlessly interrogating assumptions. The main problem with the standard of debate, as I see it, is the way that each combatant goes in with a set of values and beliefs and attempts to cajole the other party across to this way of thinking. This retards growth and limits understanding; it is distinctly unhelpful.
For a concrete example of what I mean: let's say you wanted to write on the recent incident where ten people on an aid flotilla were killed by Israeli commandoes. You could approach this by defending our allies, Israel. You could take the position of the Palestinians, or the Turks. But wouldn't it work better from an objective standpoint to examine the facts of the case and reach a finding from that? Believing in the Israeli cause doesn't  - or shouldn't - mean that you defend all their actions, and nor does a general support for the attempt to get the aid to the territory blind us to the possibility that those aboard overreacted to being boarded. So why were there so many posts falling stridently down one side or the other, almost as soon as the incident occurred? Because of this very failure to be impartial and negotiate all the events that lead to the tragedy.

Neither does going in with an open mind suggest that one is subscribing to the postmodern notion of radical indeterminacy. Some things do hold true and can be seen as 'more real', but we must work to reach them. An air of abstraction may convince that this blogger at least is not just one more clumsy blowhard happy to ignore data if it helps his case.

Another precedent for my blogging methodology came in a quiz I used to run when I worked on the staff magazine; rather than starting from a point of view of what I, omniscient quizmaster, knew on the subject, I would try and distill the essential components of a special subject and frame the questions around those. It was a learning experience for me as well.


The approach wasn't universally popular in the fortnightly quiz, and it isn't exactly a winner in the blogging world, as a vain attempt to find someone who has bookmarked Touched by the Son on their blogroll will confirm. But that is because the millions who sign up to religion, major political parties, commentators, and popular culture tropes, don't want to continually engage, they want others to do their thinking for them. Cult leaders, charlatans, and conmen of every kind rely on this failure of nerve; this pride in 'meat and potatoes' acceptance of the norm.
No great advance in humanity has come about by conformity, it takes rebels. Not the stupidly reactive kind, but the ones who have analysed more data, explored more facets, deconstructed more tenets, and arrived at some lasting proposition as to how this works, or how it might work.


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