Back to Blogging

Nicholas Carr, in his generally applauded book The Shallows, which is about what the internet does to the brain, suggests that modern electronic life is in some ways making people stupid. The immediate hit of facebook, for instance, the know-it-all satisfaction of wikipedia, and the appeal to narcissi of blogging, added to the technology of electronic discussion, tends to undermine proper critical inquiry and long, difficult deep thought.

I think that that approach is to rationalise economic reality and to displace it onto intellectual life so as to make normal the ways that the new global middle class want to think, since they always think to feel comfortable and confuse the two.

Frankly, I'm not having it.

My experience of blogging has been anything but stupid--silly, yes, but stupid, no. Ideas which surfaced in blogland, or even on this blog, years ago, are now mainstream. The freedom of cyberspace allowed the prediction of a stagflationary recession, global cooling, peak oil, public ownership, and the passing of neoconservatism to be debated and recorded long before the dead tree press caught up. Indeed, the way that the mainstream has taken to disparaging blogs is a real sign that the bloggers are, or were, doing something right. The remaining issues--the inevitable failure of digital monetary expansion, the collapse of at least one regional economic regime, and the ongoing quarantine of the Dar-Al-Islam by European force as the US withdraws--are just playing out.

So I'd like to be back in on the conversation. Via an electronic monologue, admittedly, but you take what you can get and I enjoy the occasional comment. I apologise if you were one of my small but loyal band of demented readers, and are feeling neglected, but since you are all compassionate people you'll understand how much at sea I've been since my mother's death. Occasionally, I cry in my chair when I'm half awake. More often. I feel her presence. When taking advantage of a crowded tube train to close my eyes and say a cycle of prayers, I feel connected to her. What I have not been able to do for some time is to articulate anything, or to bother about things.

This is partly because it seems to me that things are on one of those predetermined paths for a while which will need to come to their predictable conclusion before creative destruction allows regeneration. We are in a generational stagflation; our economies are up the spout; the trouble spots of the world are burning; the things which could save us are not yet strong enough, or widespread enough, to do so. Officially sanctioned news and political narrative just denies, and denies, and talks in its own terms of its own perspective so much it isn't worth engaging anymore, and that filters down into the opinions, overheard or directed at you, with which people fill gaps, and which used to inspire a contrarian response.

So, you shut up and carry on and get on with work, and save some money here and there, travel a bit, hold to what's important--in my case, madgirl and my teaching--and you let everything else, including writing, slip, and wonder if the echoes of what you would have produced in your head are really the symptoms of some rolling, alienating problem or not. You pray a bit, read and watch a lot, listen to music, go to the gym, cook... but none of it does that much harm or good.

Do you ski? Do you climb a mountain? Do you dance in the rain? Well, you might, but I'm a big fat old non-practising barrister and I've done all those things anyway, so I'll blog. Normal service is really the only way out. 'Neglected, us?' you are probably asking, seven month party hat askew, earplugs out and valium unpopped in the drawer. I know. But, deep down, you did miss my loony postings, didn't you? Even the trolls must have been a bit lonely under that bridge of theirs, though admittedly they could amuse themselves by watching their heroes float past.

I hope that you like the new layout. It's optimised for touchscreens, and can be flipped to different views. Whilst waiting at the airport for my Christmas holiday, I picked up a kindle fire (no nexi being on sale) and love it, so I thought that I'd make the change. Onward and upward, and so on.

See you soon, viewers. Happy new year.


Martin said…
And a belated Happy New Year to you, Martin.

The point you make about ideas surfacing on the Internet first is a good one. Being an incorrigible narcissist myself, I like to think we in the blogopshere are for the 21st Century what the Enlightenment era debating clubs of the type that Adam Smith and David Hume belonged to were for the late 18th Century, the places where ideas get chucked out at random for their own sake.

As far as partisan political blogging is concerned, one can never do better than Hazlitt, whose essay on 'Coffee House Politicians' remains as fresh and relevant as it was 200 years ago -

"Meet 'any six of these men in buckram', and they will accost you with the same question and the same answer: they have seen it somewhere in print, or had it from some city oracle, that morning; and the sooner they vent their opinions the better, for they will not keep. Like tickets of admission to the theatre for a particular evening, they must be used immediately, or they will be worth nothing: and the object is to find auditors for the one and customers for the other, neither of which is difficult; since people who have no ideas of their own are glad to hear what anyone else has to say, as those who have not free admissions to the play will very obligingly take up with an occasional order. It sometimes gives me a melancholy and mixed sensation to see one of the better sort of this class of politicians, not without talents or learning, absorbed for fifty years together in the all-engrossing topic of the day: mounting on it for exercise and recreation of his faculties, like the great horse at a riding-school, and after his short, improgressive, untired career, dismounting just where he got up; flying abroad in continual consternation on the wings of all the newspapers; waving his arm like a pump-handle in sign of constant change, and spouting out torrents of puddled politics from his mouth; dead to all interests but those of the state; seemingly neither older nor wiser for age; unaccountably enthusiastic, stupidly romantic, and actuated by no other motive than the mechanical operations of the spirit of newsmongering"

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