Why write in online journals?I recently became aware of my central motive in keeping and participating in online journals: to challenge conventional wisdom. I suppose I've known this all along but never have I explained it so concisely. Two incidents brought this to light.
The first was an online friend's challenge to my lack of emotional response to civilian casualties due to non-state Islamic bombings compared to my numerous, substantial responses to civilian casualties due to state-based bombings (most recently, Israel's). He characterized this slant as dangerous. Without significant, vocal, impassioned outrage toward non-state terror, he argued, we are not mustering up the morale vitally needed to oppose it; we are, in effect, submitting to an enemy.
I explained to him that I have built up a schema for non-state terrorists characterizing them as immoral murderers of civilians. I explained my expectations for Israel and the United States are much different. When non-state Islamic terrorists target and kill civilians, my emotions rise if I give myself a moment to think about it, but I'm not driven to post, because the behavior doesn't deviate from my schema, my conventional wisdom, and what I assume to be the conventional wisdom of those in my (American/Western) culture and those who will read what I write. However, when Israel wages a campaign which disproportionately slaughters a civilian population, it strongly breaks from this schema, this idea of what Israel is and how it should act. It disrupts my cognitive framework to an extent that I am motivated to post.
My friend characterized such explanations as excuses and generalized from the conversation that a "real and serious dialogue" could not be had with me, "The Left." His view, in short, was non-state terror should alarm me and disrupt my homeostasis at the very least as much as the recent actions of Israel. We should never take terror lightly, we should never become used to terror. If we do, we become complacent; we become a pathetic, weak opposition in allowing terrorists this validation of normalcy.
His is a good argument. He makes a strong, valid point. Every terrorist action should be a substantial disruption in my basic concept of what it means to be human. It should disturb me, it should tear through me, it should break from my ideas of what's acceptable so much that I AM motivated to post about it. I definitely need to re-examine the roots of my personal passions.
However, personal passions and posting on the internet, while undeniably interdependent, are two separate entities. I am all for fighting to overcome personal bias, but I feel subjectivity and intent have their purposeful roles in life as well. I am not a mechanical, clinical chronicler of events; I am a person with a perspective and an audience. My intent, to challenge conventional wisdom, distorts the events I report and how I report them toward that motive. I will not post concepts that are in sync with the conventional wisdom of my (American/Western) culture as often as I will post concepts that are in opposition.
And I realize this is how I've always been in emails to friends and online posts. I'm always drawn to distributing information and initiating dialogue when something I observe breaks from conventional wisdom. Does the fact that my disposition is to go against make that which I write about any less valid, genuine or accurate? I don't know anyone who would argue that. They may say I am missing something, though, by not absorbing myself in the flow of establishment on occassion -- in not reveling in praise when my culture does something right, in disgust when he who we oppose does something wrong. In a counter-culture of heavy SNL and Daily Show satire and cynicism, it feels against my nature to Rah Rah cheerlead on establishment, to be one more brick in the red, white and blue, these-colors-don't-run wall of condemnation of non-state terror. Maybe I need to alter my perspective. Maybe there is something wrong with that feeling. Maybe there is something wrong with me that I do not feel the need for, nor do I feel entirely comfortable with, my openly supporting the positive and condemning the negative when those things just happen to align with conventional wisdom. Could it be so cliche as doing what's cool and avoiding what isn't? Could it be I'm merely conforming to my own counter-culture's conventional wisdom?
The Obvious Child
(I think this song is appropriate --extremely so-- for just the one line: Why deny the obvious child?)
(to be continued)