For me, at least, this line of thought (if thought it be) began with some bloggage by N. Z. Bear:
"[W]hat we really need is not 100 more blogs being updated six times a day -- what we need is 100,000 more blogs that are all being updated once a week."
At first, I smiled at this, figuring that "N. Z. Bear" is yet another pseudonym for that notorious funster Humus B. Kiddinme; surely he can't be serious about this? But he can, and he is:
"The realization I've come to recently is that anybody who enjoys writing -- even a little bit -- should be blogging. It's not just to share your wisdom with the world. It's to clarify for yourself just what your wisdom is. The discipline required to sit down and state your case, to declare an opinion and back it up, forces a person to think critically about the issue at hand. By documenting your thoughts, you actually improve the quality of your thinking."
Perhaps needless to say, this set off all manner of harmonious impulses in my array of egalitarianism receptors. What better way to demonstrate the power of our First Amendment than by the unfettered publishing of the thoughts of thousands and thousands of our citizens? Didn't Bill Buckley once say that he'd rather be governed by the first 100 (or however many) people listed in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard?
But I'm not all that egalitarian, except maybe for public consumption. Yes, folks, it's a Deep Dark Secret emerging: I actually have some of those snotty elitist tendencies lurking in the shadows. Do I really want to sift through thousands and thousands of blogs? Are all these lives worth examining? Eric Olsen, who strikes me as neither snotty nor elitist, has observed:
"I tend to shy away from diarist-type bloggers because it's so ... subjective and all, yet I write about myself plenty and expect people to be pretty damned fascinated and edified. But other people's lives ... well...."
I can relate. I write about myself plenty, though I seldom expect to elicit any fascination from the sliver of humanity that reads it. And yes, it's subjective how could it not be? Each and every one of us comes factory-equipped with an incredibly-complex filtration system of startling simplicity: we see things first through our own eyes. And so if it seems to me that I have failed in the task of persuading others that my viewpoints might actually have some small measure of validity, and most of the time I feel as though I have, it's because I perceive that (1) I am not especially good at writing and/or (2) I am not especially interesting. It's hard to imagine how Mr Bear's proposed army of blogging soccer moms and such, many of whom probably feel some semblance of (1) if not necessarily (2), can face up to the task of churning out a few paragraphs for a mere handful of readers every few days. Even the best of the bloggers wonder sometimes what they've gotten themselves into.
Still, on balance, I have to believe that we'd be better off with all those blogs, even if they go mostly unread (and until they invent a decent 40-hour day without expanding the work schedule, most of them probably will), if only because a multitude of viewpoints should, I think, be preferred to a mere handful, and even if (as I suspect most of us do) we tend to prefer blogs that agree with us once in a while, very few issues can be boiled down to binary level. And when they disagree well, let's quote Eric Olsen again:
"[W]e all need to be broadened and stretched and told we are full of shit sometimes."
Some of us, I am perversely proud to say, more than others.
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Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill