Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Deconstructing the impossible...

The day before yesterday, I received a private email from a member of a Yahoogroup. The topic of the group is basically Buddhist community building.

The group is comprised of primarily western-style Buddhists, those who have worked the philosophy around to allow them to ignore the uncomfortable parts. I read the posts and don't say anything. I don't challenge them, even though there are some things expressed there that need to be challenged.

I got an email from another member who noticed my login name (thailandchani) and wrote me about Thailand. This individual also happens to be a transsexual. She has remained silent on the list about that fact as well as her draw and affinity for Thailand. In her, I may have met my match. We talked about the place on the phone for 8 hours! We said things we knew that no one who doesn't have this experience of feeling like an exile in our country of birth would understand. It's a kindredness. We talked, remembered, said the things we really think and feel with abandon, used every last little bit of Thai language known between the two of us, and generally felt the comfort of freedom to speak openly.

This would not have been okay on the email list itself. The risk of being ostracized would be high, not only because of our affinity for Thailand but for my open acceptance of transsexualism.


I've noticed it on blogs as well! Someone says something controversial and people disappear. That is why most people are afraid to say too much. Social consequences. We see it in our site meters.

I can mention Thailand here. I can say nice things about it. I can wax poetic about it and write beautiful word pictures of my experiences and my life there. I can even talk about the real reasons why I took such a radical step. Let me talk about how life in this culture sucked the soul out of me until there was nothing left? Even that's okay.. but... let me express my anger? My hits would be down to zero within the next two days. BTDT.


I remember one time, a really long time ago.. probably 30 years now... I went to a meeting of a religious-based women's group .. just to see what was going on and knowing I should have something to be involved in. It went great at first.

Then I disagreed about how the Palestinians were being treated by the Israelis. (This was during a particularly rough time over there... terrorism, wars, etc.)

Well, I was ostracized so fast, you would have been able to feel the wind!

The phone stopped ringing, people stopped associating with me.

I was shunned for expressing an opinion that went against the dominant opinion.


Just a few days ago, I deleted a comment on Julie's blog on the topic of political correctness because I was afraid it might be misunderstood or had been misunderstood. The content of the comment escapes me at this point because my memory matches my attention span. I deleted the comment because of the uncertainty. I didn't know whether it might be cause a problem and, yes, decided to not take the chance.


Consequently, everyone sits on their hands and no ideas of substance are exchanged. Nothing changes. We sit... stasis.

And I am not certain how to solve the problem, either. Even with my training in sociology, I don't have a bloody clue! This is a dynamic we never examined in college!

It's sad. Really sad. And such a waste of our planet time.

It's sad that we can't trust each other more, be just a bit more civil and really understand that, as the Desiderata expresses, that everyone, even the most ignorant among us, have something important to say. It's too bad we can't move beyond the notion that different opinions than our own should be annihilated.

It infects everyone and every thing. It has poisoned our ability to trust in each other's inherent willingness to accept contrary views. The group dynamic has silenced far too many voices, voices with something important to say. It has caused us to be overly cautious and overly fearful of the pack mentality reaction that often takes place when someone expresses an opinion that is not the dominant view or expressed with the dominant use of language.

At some point, I believe it's important to examine this, not only in terms of the costs to us as individuals, but the cost to us socially.



kaliroz said...

I think this is great, Chani. I've often found myself gagging myself on blogs. You know, I don't really do it in real life but I always get nervous on line because there's not tone of voice, you know? No inflection. And sometimes it feels like people are so ready to be upset over something that I'd rather not say anything than ruffle feathers. (The few times I have ruffled feathers, on message boards, I've gotten the boot.)

Julie Pippert said...

Okay bunch of random thoughts:

* I think you deleted what was actually a fine comment BUT I understand why you did because I was going to reply to your comment and held myself back. Why? Same reason, I expect, that you deleted. I worried it would appear to be an alignment, dogpiling...that it would present what I think isn't how I really feel and that is two sides to a single issue.

Hope that made sense.

* And yet because of the group, you two found one another. And somehow said something to provide an opening for a deeper connection.

I think groups are limited because we have so many layers and facets to ourselves, all of which we can't possibly present in a group.

I don't believe that makes the group bad or exclusionary per se.

But I do think we need to recognize the necessary limitations.

I don't, however, have an answer for when the group does exclude based on difference. I have to think hard about that. I have many minds on the issue.

I also don't have an answer for how it makes other feel when alliances are formed from but outside the group.

* I agree that there is a culture of lack of tolerance for differing POVs, but perhaps it is more a sense of not knowing how to handle it. This is remarkably ironic in the Age of PC.

Okay that's all I've have...for now...:)

Julie Pippert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Pippert said...

P.S. I like your approach of personal experience. I have gone round in my mind about whether specific personal history and experience (on the Internet, involving boots and repercussions due to vocalizing) plays any part in this discussion at hand---because it keeps coming forward in my mind. I've cut myself off saying anything in several cases when it has come up during the PC discussion, that experience that creates a sense of self-censorship BECAUSE the experience itself has made me feel a little gagged. Trying to figure this one out...

Cecilieaux said...

"Someone says something controversial and people disappear." This is true and very annoying. My policy is: if people don't something, they shouldn't look. Controversy is good. I loved it when we all went mano a mano on the burning issue of who should pay for dinner when a man invites a woman (of course, you're all wrong, right?).

I've often heard Kaliroz' point about the lack of inflection in written communication. It puzzles me. Does this mean that people who read online had William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway personally read their novels to them out loud so they could tell from the voices when to laugh or cry? I agree that many people who write online should be barred from doing so (or hung for murder of the English language). But I also think that a lot of readers need to be sent back to 3rd grade for remedial comprehension class.

Finally, I have noticed that women tend to overapologize, sometimes pre-emptively and occasionally without really feeling sorry at all. (Many men could use more apologizing -- and taking up acts of restitution, rather than merely abstract "responsibility") So to Chani and Julie I would say, stand up for yourselves, be forthright and learn to take the heat.

thailandchani said...

Roz, there are certain topics I don't bring up, either. Partially because there is a chance for misunderstanding.. or setting off someone's defensiveness.. so I remain silent. Part of the reason why that phone call last night was so special to me is because I expressed myself without any fear. We were on the same page.. and even if it was only for that short period of time, it was very meaningful for me.

I took risks with her on the phone that I would never take on my blog.



Julie, I am a communicator by nature.. and that's often gotten me in trouble because I simply don't have a hard time listening to other POVs.

The other night, I had a troll here in the comments section. That person spoke hatefully about me, about Thailand, about my loyalties.. a number of things.

I didn't censor her. I didn't tell her she couldn't say those things. I tried to address the issue as well as possible. Two other people who happened to be on line at that time did the same.

I didn't silence her until she accused me of being a pedophile.

That was a personal attack. I wouldn't abide it.. and I deleted her comments.

By the strictest definition, I suppose that was silencing her because she has a different view than mine.

Obviously, I know I am not.. that... and found it sickening to be accused of it.

It became a personal attack rather than a discussion of issues or ideas which is why I made the decision to delete. To, in effect, silence her.

But when it comes to different ideas, I don't get defensive or righteous about it. I don't know everything. And I don't want to close my mind at this point. I'm still too young for that.

So the issue of my possibly taking your comment as dogpiling is fairly remote unless you had, indeed, dogpiled me.

No worries, in other words. My mind is more open than the average. :) I appreciate the sensitivity though.

On the second point, I believe the best way to avoid that dynamic, the intolerance, is to not take things personally and have an interest in what others have to say in a kind of detached, academic way.. and take it from there.


Cecileaux, you're right of course about women apologizing too much. There are qualifiers and our speech is often peppered with obsequities (I don't want to offend or I hope this doesn't upset anyone but...)

We were socialized that way. It was our job to be the peacekeepers, the ones to unruffle ruffled feathers and make everything okay.

And there's a valid place for that. It only becomes damaging when it so completely silences us that our views are not being presented at all, anywhere.




Emily said...

I love Cecilieaux's comment about Faulkner and Hemingway.

If no one disagrees with the things you say, you oughtn't waste words saying them in the first place. Take Israel/Palestine, for example. I used to be 100% only about Israel, but people challenged me. I am still much more sympathetic towards Israel, but I have a more balanced opinion now. That's a good thing, but it took discomfort on both sides of many conversations to get there.

And, you would not lose all your readers if you expressed more anger; you'd still have me. I like anger. But, I guess you knew that about me.

flutter said...

Chani, as you and I have discussed, I encourage you to find the voice in you that is true and hits to your blog be damned. Those who are your friends, those who care will be here regardless.

I feel the same to a certain extent, in exploring political correctness, or politics in general or expressing my anger. I do fear to do the same because my views differ from many that I like.

Recently oh blogrhet something similar happened where I was basically told that I don't see color because I am a priviledged white girl and I have the luxury of not noticing color. I had my dukes up to fight, then backed down, afraid.

Lawyer Mama said...

I understand. I gag myself on my blog on a regular basis. Why? It's not just about the audience for me. It's about what I do for a living, the fact that my blog is not anonymous, and when you piss people off they can do mean things. Things that have consequences.

A month ago or so, I was basically threatened on a legal blog. I was scheduled to appear on Motherhood Uncensored's pod cast about the stolen duck to talk about the legal aspects. A lawyer on a legal blog basically said that by doing any such thing, I would be giving "advice" to clients on how to break the law and that I could be sanctioned by the bar for doing so. I alluded to it on my blog a few days later and explained why I don't discuss the law on my blog. And that's why. Because someone who doesn't even know me can threaten me and it has consequences. Even if I never said ANYTHING about the law or mentioned that I was a lawyer, if someone were to report me to the bar it would be investigated. It would hurt my professional reputation.

Another lawyer emailed me after the fiasco and told me I wasn't paranoid, that something similar had happened to her. So while I feel validated somewhat for avoiding many controversial things on my blog, it still doesn't solve the problem, does it?

I've noticed that when I post about controversial political topics, I tend to get a lot more hits. Not so many comments, but a significant increase in visits for a few days. Is that the opposite of your experience?

I always wonder if people are reading and thinking about it but are perhaps hesitant to jump into the fray, for all the reasons you mention.

Anywho, I've hijacked your comments long enough! I just didn't get the chance to post on the topic this week and clearly I had a lot to say!

Anonymous said...

I don't have anything of substance to add. But I'm glad you met someone interesting.

thailandchani said...

Emily, I liked his comment, too. A valid point! How many of us have had the authors of books come to read us personally. :)

Israel: I am sympathetic to Israel also... obviously. I've always been on their side in many issues.

The thing about loyalty is kind of strange at times, but isn't unlike the way we see our friends. We can be loyal to them and still see problems with some of their actions or choices.

My loyalty to Thailand doesn't mean Thailand gets a free pass. Neither does Israel. There's a difference between loyalty and devotion.

Thanks for your comment about anger. I have a really hard time expressing that because it can be so easily misunderstood, taken personally or cause other unintended consequences.


Flutter, I wonder if there isn't an element of fear in all of us, especially in a socially sensitive arena such as that BlogRhet post. There as a lot of egg-walking.. a lot of sidestepping.

It would be interesting to know what underlies that.


LM, as silly as this sounds, it seems to me that someone could threaten all they like.. but without an ounce of proof, it wouldn't do much good. Of course, I know (in my more mature moments) that it's far more complicated than that.

It's interesting.. what we do to silence each other. Why does someone feel threatened by anything you said?

I guess that would be my question.


De, thanks. Those things, meeting people that way, are so fleeting. It's a real gift when it happens.




jen said...

i know i love a healthy debate. a differing of opinions exchanged in free form. but that isn't always possible on blogs - a one dimensional communication that leaves things open to interpretation. i do know, though, that i don't run off if there is a disagreement, but i do think about how i'd like to participate depending on how i feel.

Christine said...

let me add my measly 2 cents. i might cross post this over at julie's too.

i often avoid the hard, pc, controversial, political, etc. on my blog and in comments because:
1) i am afraid, very afraid. i once felt a little strong voice emerging, but it was soon smashed by my fear of being different or rejected or a fight. i can't handle fighs and i always over apologize. celilieux noted that women over apologize and it's very sadly true.
2) i fear something else--idiocy. not in others, but myself. i simply cannot articulate my feelings on these subjects in the way that you, julie, slouching mom, lawyer mama, sage, etc, etc. can.(i am not fishing here, so please. . .)

i once told someone i wanted to change to conversation we were having from politics to something lighter. he told me only ignorant people avoid contraversal topics. it stung because it was true. and now i avoid these talks like the plaque.

a repercussion of it all, though, is that when offenses, slights, etc. come up much later and then you realize someone was hurt or was mad. like flutter above--it is awful that she felt bad about the blogrhet conversation, and now those involved in it will never really have had the privilege of discussing it further with her. and flutter is wonderful and smart, and her input would have been rich and amazing. yet i so get it. so, so get it.

off to write something light over on my blog now.

slouching mom said...

This is one fascinating comment thread! Chani, I love that you found a kindred spirit and were able to talk with her for EIGHT hours!

When I post something provocative (not that I do that much), I have butterflies for the next few days. Why do I need to be nervous? I wish I knew.

Thought-provoking post, Chani.

crazymumma said...

censorship is a big issue. and human nature is overwhelming.

I cannot get over the feeling that we are but animals following group code and picking fleas from behind each other's ears.

Anvilcloud said...

I guess a lot depends on both your regular blog-style and your clientèle. If readers have a certain comfort level with what a blogger has been doing and the parameters change, then they may longer be comfortable and may opt out. So, it's a blogger's choice on how to proceed -- damn the torpedoes or tread somewhat carefully.

meno said...

Chani, this is one of the most interesting posts and comment threads that i have read in a while. Thanks.

Communicating on blogs lacks some of the brakes that are present in face-to-face communication. So at the least sign of disagreement or frustration, some people feel free to start hurling insults. Which makes intelligent discussion difficult or impossible.

It's like the anonimity we feel we have in our cars, which again gives some people the nerve to act like jerks.

I am thrilled that you found someone to talk to about Thailand, and many other things it sounds like. What fun.

Greta said...

I stumbled across your blog today, and I'm glad I found it! I'm developing an interest in Thailand due to a brief encounter with a student I met on a plane going to teach English there (I was on my way to Japan.) I have relatives in Chiang Mai and am now considering spending a summer there teaching English. Thanks for sharing your information and love for this country! Neat blog, too. :)

Laurie said...

I have had people stop coming to my blog because I openly support my son, who is gay.

The only reason I know this for sure is because they took the time to email me to tell me that being gay is a sin or I should encourage him to seek treatment for his "disease".

I honestly would prefer they never stop by again because my son means more to me than anyone else ever could.

That being said, I have censored myself from time to time in both comments and on my own blog, for fear of being misunderstood or alienating my readers.

I agree with you, pack mentality is poisonous.

thailandchani said...

Jen, I don't run off, either. It makes a lot more sense to work toward resolution than it does to run away. People are too valuable for that.


Christine, your voice is safe here. Please feel free to express anything you want.. openly or anonymously. No one will mistreat you in this forum ~ and that's for certain. As long as I have administrative rights, it won't be tolerated.

So.. you're safe.. here. I can speak to that without reservation.


SM, it was amazing to simply happen upon this woman, unexpectedly. I don't feel quite so isolated with all of this now.


CM, I think a large part of the problem is that we complicate everything so much.


Anvil, I'm really committed to Right Speech. There are times when I fail, naturally... but I figure that people come here to read my thoughts and ideas, to express their own and go on to the next topic. I don't want to bash anyone with negativity. :) At the same time, I'm not a surface thinker.. it's hard for me to be "light" because I'm not a very "light" person.


Meno, this is just another way I'm weird.. but I still feel accountable in this space.. and the people whose sites I read also seem accountable. You know, I don't see vulgarity, negativity and ugly thoughts when I travel around ~ but I see your point. There are some who view the supposed anonymity as an excuse to act on all their basest instincts.

Bah! :)

It was great to talk with her last night. Gods almighty! Who knew there was another person, just like me, living our odd little Thai lives in the middle of North America? :)

She even has a spirit house in her back yard! So do I!

Yeah... it was refreshing, supporting... I felt very comforted by it.. and no longer quite so alone.


Greta, I'm glad you stumbled by. I know a few people who are teaching English over there right now. It's a lovely, beautiful and wonderful place! Chiang Mai is stunning. Especially look for the butterfly farm :)

Stop by again.. and if I can help in any way, let me know.


Laurie, that just makes me feel a bit sick that anyone could be so hateful! Those are the kind of people who scare me to death!

Most of my friends are non-mainstream people ~ gays, lesbians, transgendered, old hippies, artists, writers, people who live their lives differently than the culture prescribes. In that regard, I take it personally when someone attacks them.

It's horrible. Just horrible!

I'm glad you shoo them away. Who wants people like that around anyway?




Snoskred said...

Just so you know, I almost deleted this whole comment, but then decided not to censor myself. I hope nobody holds it against me. :)

Chani said - "It seems to me that someone could threaten all they like.. but without an ounce of proof, it wouldn't do much good. Of course, I know (in my more mature moments) that it's far more complicated than that."

That is exactly one of the major issues in this world today - Where there's smoke, there's fire.

There used to be such a thing as innocent until PROVEN guilty but in this age of mass media and talking heads 24/7 I sometimes wonder if that concept does exist anymore.

I'm now going to talk about an issue that may offend some readers. Michael Jackson.

Yes, he's a weird egg. However none of us personally know him. Accusations have been made towards him publicly. The very danger of such accusations is they are difficult to prove - but they are also very difficult to DISprove. These days it is becoming more and more common in divorce cases, especially in the US. I've even read cases where both parties were making those kind of accusations.

What I do know about Michael Jackson is that during an interview once he told about something that happened to him in an airport. It was a while ago so I'm a little foggy but it went along the lines of, he was about 17, he had really bad acne, and someone made a comment about it to him which he found very upsetting.

That one event may well have been the catalyst which drove him down the plastic surgery road - and it also might explain why he tries to hide the faces of his children from the public.

I'm not going to get into the other allegations made towards him other than to say I personally do not know whether or not they are true but what is clear to me is that he had a very unhappy childhood, that he was never allowed to play with other kids or do what "normal" (yes I hate that word too Julie) kids got to do. So the fact that he wants to spend time around kids does not necessarily add up to his being some kind of child molester pervert in *my* mind.

Just as a father bathing kids does not add up to something sick in *my* mind - and to those in whose minds this does add up to something sick I always wonder why is it ok for a mother to bathe their kids but not their father? I'm not saying anyone here thinks like that but those people do exist out there in the world and I truly think it is a horrible time for this planet when a father feels they cannot do certain things for fear of what people might think.

Of course please note that none of what I have said here is in support of any form of child abuse - I just do not think anyone should be able to make those kind of allegations in public unless it has been proven in a court, and I don't think anyone should make judgments unless they are either a judge, or work for the CPS.

Laurie - I am going to visit your blog *because* you openly support your son who is gay. I hope that's ok. :) And if I like it, I'm going to keep coming back. Just so you know.

And hello, why is there no political correctness when it comes to overweight people? They seem to be the only people it is ok to say nasty things about these days - and boy, do people take a lot out on them!

Carla said...

Another great, great post! It's true that sometimes we censor ourselves for various reasons. I've questioned my own reasons for doing so at times. But I really like your blog as you do seem so open and willing to put these issues on the table. I like the discussions that I find here.

River said...

Love this post. So much of it is true to me. I am two people, the "inside" me, who says and does whatever she wants, feels like etc. and the "outside" me who is nice, agreeable, doesn't rock the boat too often etc. Gets a little confusing in my head occasionally. Especially when I realise the "inside" me has spoken or acted when the "outside" me should have.

Anonymous said...

You said "Western-style Buddhism" and I pictured Buddha in a cowboy hat. :o) (Sorry.)

Most people don't want to be challenged. It permeates our culture, and probably every culture. People who listen to Rush Limbaugh or Lou Dobbs (for example) are looking for reinforcement, not truth. Religious schools are springing up more to keep out thoughts they don't like than to nurture the thoughts they do. Cable stations and websites are aiming for very narrow demographics, not the broad spectrum they used to serve.

I think that's going to be one of the big problems the world faces in the coming decades. People are withdrawing into their own gated communities (real and cyber), and are losing the ability to get along with people who are different from themselves.

blooming desertpea said...

I remember one guy, who's pages I used to read, once said he thought global warming was a big lie. I commented that I didn't agree with him. He then added another comment to mine - I'll quote him here:

"I'm sorry, Desert... but global warming is THE BIGGEST LIE OF ALL that's been thrown at us by a liberal based government and media. Every MAJOR biochemist in the WORLD has come out and said that. Stop believing everything ya read in the press and start buying some books from the people that know and forget about AL GORE... inventor of the internet. :o)~"

Well, I believe that if people disagree in major issues, it is difficult to stay and listen to them and learn anything from them. (I'm not sure what I could learn from a Bush-supporter, for example, I can't take them seriously) That's when it makes sense not to go back to their blog.

So, if people don't come back after you wrote something controversial, they're obviously on another track than you. Why would you like to be surround by them? You wouldn't in your real life, would you?

In my view, I prefer quality from quantity here, too. Rather have less hits but those who do read your page are in your tracks, that doesn't mean that they will always agree with you. I'm talking about the fundamental attitude to life. You can do without all the others. (Like that religious-based women's group obviously wasn't your turf). Do I make sense?

Bob said...

I find that I avoid certain topics when I blog (whenever that is, lateley!). I do this primarily because, despite the fact that is has become a great medium to build a community, it is a poor place for debate. There have been SO many times I have started to comment after reading a post and find that I've written two or three paragraphs and still haven't expressed everything I needed to say. who is willing to read an entire post within a comment thread - from each commenter?

also, there are so many ways for what someone has written to be taken the wrong way. so much of communication is non-verbal - inflections, emphasis on phrases, visual queues, smiles, smirks, raised eyebrows. these are all lost and to create a written discourse that accurately expresses the intent of the writer is quite difficult - and I think probably beyond a good bit of the population (or we would all be wildly popular publish authors).

see - I haven't addressed a single topic and I've still written a huge discourse. but then, that is my particular lack of writing talent - succinctness.

kaliroz said...

Cel -- I totally get what you're saying about Faulkner and Hemingway, and agree btw, but my thing is my blog is my real voice. It's not masked in fiction. I write about me, personally. So, if something I say is misconstrued and causes someone either pain or them to attack me ... well, I get upset.

I was on a message board a long time ago where I was far too much a free spirit. I spoke my mind. I challenged assumptions. I wouldn't let BS fly. It bit me in the rearend and I was drummed off the board. For being me. Largely because what I wrote was taken the wrong way.

I'm a communicator. It's what I do for a living. I hate having what I say misconstrued.

With Hemingway and Faulkner we can place on our emphasis and meaning in the words.

In my blog, and other nonfiction writing, that's not really the case. The writer's placing the emphasis. It just doesn't always come through as well once written down as it did when the writer was hearing it in her/his head. You know?

That was my point.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I find that for an insecure person, I am surprisingly lackadaisical about posting things that might be considered disagreeable to some.

My blog is my forum. I am most interested in how my thoughts are received and sometimes change or modify my opinions when convinced by someone's comment that my view is flawed.

I don't do it to make nice, though. And I really doubt that you would lose your hard core of devoted readers, no matter what you expressed. We all know by now that you are an exceptionally civilized and thoughtful woman, and would therefore take your observations about anything under serious consideration.

I think that transsexualism is a modern miracle and affords people a chance to set right what Nature got wrong. I cannot imagine how painful it must be to live in a body that feels dishonest to ones spirit and being. It takes great courage to undergo such a transformation, and to further punish such people is terribly cruel and always wrong.

Mary G said...

Chani, this is a great discussion and brings out a lot of really good thoughts about what can and can't be said. You have one of the most interesting blogs I have found, you really do. And I am pleased for you to have found a soul mate.

ewe are here said...

Fascinating post and follow up discussion.

I myself have 'disappeared' on occasion when a controversial topic (sometimes just controversial for me!) appeared on a blog, usually when I disagreed strongly. Because it's not worth the outpouring of anger and grief it can cause when people don't really want to see an opposing point of view.

I find a lot of it very sad, having to 'toe the line', so to speak, so as not to offend. Really stifles honest discussions. Much like your comment about the Israelie/Palestinian issue - and, btw, I happen to agree with you, and have said so.

--ducking--- ;-)

bohemiangirl said...

Thank you for sharing this. I know exactly what you mean about censoring. I don't know how often I've wanted to write something on my blog but refrained for fear of being judged. But then I think, there will always be someone to judge no matter what I say. And if I didn't sit there judging other people, I wouldn't give a rat's ass about them judging me. So my goal is to work on being me at all times and accepting that other people have the right to be themselves too. Although, I must admit that I do draw the line when it comes to people consciously hurting other people, animals or the environment. That's something that I have zero tolerance for. Other than that, everyone should have the right to freely say or do as they please.

Mad Hatter said...

Late to the party here. Great post and great comment thread.

I am always willing to listen to opposing beliefs in comments on my own blog. Sometimes the commenter broadens my perspective in ways I hadn't anticiapted and for that I am always grateful. Sometimes I disagree vehemently but don't have the time or mental energy to follow through with the debate. Sometimes I disagree vehemently and b/c I don't have time, I get snappy. That's one of the real-life impositions that being a parenting blogger places on a lot of us. Some days I can engage the debate; other days, there are far too many demands on me. I can't assume my readers know which Mad has come to the keyboard.

I have also been known to shut down debate on a topic before it even begins. I don't do this b/c I am trying to silence others but because my blog is my time and there are some debates that I am no longer interested in having. For example, I am pro-choice. I have spent most of my life defending a woman's right to control her own fertility. I no longer want to waste my time discussing whether this is right or wrong. My mind will not be changed on this issue. I want to take it to the next level and discuss ways of creating sytemic change. Unless the debate is pitched in a direction that I think will move my thinking forward, I may recommend that the debate be taken elsewhere.

The same goes for issues like gay marriage, whether or not I should call myself a feminist... There are so many debates that I have just had too many times to want to have them again. I know that my mind can't be changed and so I want to spend my spare time working out issues where I know my mind is still looking to expand and mutate.

I do find that I have become less engaged in my commenting on other people's blogs. The written word is so slippery, you know. We may not need to have Faulkner read his prose to us in order to understand it BUT thousands of pages have been filled by critics and readers who have tried to understand his writings and all understand it differently. Even if I am extremely articulate in a comment, the interpretive slope is so slippery. And then unless I am willing to follow through with my opinions until the bitter end (see time constraints comment above), I often hesitate putting the dissenting ideas out there in the first place.

Finally, I think I engaged more in ideas in the blogosphere in the early days--back when I was reading only about 20 blogs. Now that I read so widely and, sorry to say, cannot always read every post by every blogger that engages me, I feel a bit hollow about voicing dissent. I reason that the problem is on my end: if only I read this person more frequently and was more engaged in her community, then I would have a better understanding of how she sees this issue. She doesn't need to her my dissent when I may not even have the whole picture.

Make sense? Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble...