Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat

Over the weekend I was able at last to continue with mapmaking, having finally researched the 600+ cities of India that I needed to have done in order to identify how large the cities were and estimate what political entity in 1650 was in control of those cities.  India has historically been a very bloody subcontinent, with intra-regional wars almost a constant reality, and it hasn't always been easy to identify from scattered histories who really was in control in any given year.  Still, we do the best we can.  It was a pleasant rest from equipment tables.

A year ago I did parts of Kashmir and the Punjab, so on the weekend and up until last night I mapped out Uttar Pradesh, the central valley of the Ganges River, and thus increased the defined population of my world by more than 20 million persons.  While the wiki page linked indicates 116 million plus, the number is now more than 138 million.

So I should be posting maps of the subcontinent sometime this Autumn, for anyone who's interested.  The work goes on.

While drawing lines and measuring mountains, however, I found myself thinking about the link from ChicagoWiz yesterday, ADD Grognard's request.  I don't want to lambast Grognard; I've made enough personal attacks this week, contributing to the number of Paul Lazzaros in the world, so let me say that I'm sure the request is sincere and well meant.

I want to speak about the reasons why people might want to delete their blogs.  The very act of blogging is seductive.  You are writing about yourself, and your feelings, and things that you find enjoyable or about things which you think matter.  Chances are, you will have someone, a complete stranger, stumble across your blog and post some kind of praise on it, which will encourage you to write again, and come in from the cold wilderness that is blogging in the first few months.

With a little more encouragement, and a few followers, you'll feel inclined to say a bit more of what you think.  For most people, what they think tends to be positive, and it will be positively received.  In the long run, the experience that they have, and which you will have, is that of being accepted by a blogging community that seems to respond almost as soon as you post your thoughts.  Within an hour or two someone will write 'good post' or even something a little deeper and personal about their experiences with the world.

Now, I said this was seductive ... but it is more than merely receiving accolades for a little bit of writing.  The truly seductive part is in thinking that what you have to say is harmless and in fact reasonable to everyone.  But as your popularity grows, you will find yourself attracting people who won't find your innocent remarks to be reasonable.

If this were to happen all at once, you would see the danger.  But it does not.  At the same time you are attracting the sort who don't, or won't appreciate your efforts, you will find yourself reaching around for things to write about.  Because you are essentially a decent, considerate person, you will apply a belief that you've been raised with all your life and which in fact you likely agree with:  Honesty is the Best Policy.

Well, online, it is not.

Fact is, when you are speaking about yourself, and being honest with others, whether in your loving relationships or out about town, your honesty will tend to be self-deprecating.  You will confess that you don't have the job you wish you had.  Or that you didn't do as well in university as you could have.  Or that you second-guess the decisions you've made as a parent.  A lot of the stories you will tell your friends, the ones that will make them laugh, are self-deprecating.  You will tell the story about how you fell out of the boat and nearly drowned, or how you drove your tractor through the barn wall, or the time you got yourself lost in the city you grew up in, because the municipality changed the street signs.  These are endearing, meaningful stories, and they go a long way to expressing how you are a person, and how you're not perfect, and how for the most part you're just struggling through this mess like anyone else.

If the stories are funny, and your delivery is real, you'll get more encouragement ... and with time and a lot of blog posts to write, you will cast about for other stories.  And so you will find yourself writing things that are not quite as funny, where you are not quite so much a protagonist.  You will write things - opinions, beliefs, ideas - on your blog in which, frankly, will make you appear somewhat dickish.

And when you have done that, you will find out what the internet has in store for you.

It is not so much that the internet is made of assholes and trolls.  The real truth is that it is made up of johnny come lately's, who don't remember you from your considerate self-deprecating tales.  They only know the later you, the you that is a self-righteous dick.  And no matter how many times you explain to them that they've got you wrong, they won't listen.  They haven't the time to read your backlog.  But they will have the time to hound you and hound you, and they will do so until you are absolutely sick of this whole process.

Let me stop here.

Some will think I am speaking about myself, but I'm not.  I am a pitbull, and I have been fighting flamewars since long before there was an internet.  This is my nature, and I thrive in it.  But many people are not Quixotic like myself.  They don't see the value in battling ignorant forces ad nauseum with no expectation of gain.  They lose, eventually, any further will to write another post, particularly when the next post sounds like something they've written before.  Their blog has been on for three years and they have written the novel they had in them two or three times now.  They're done.  They'd just like to go.

Why don't they want to leave the blog up for ADD Grognard's benefit?  Well, because now they just fucking hate the thing.  It has gone from an enticing nymph to a slatternly, aging whore.  We, the blogging community, have fucked the thing dry.  Just the thought of having the page online at all is a matter of distaste.  Better to kill it, get rid of it ... and get rid of its beckoning nature, the thing asking that more be written there.  Because you know, if it still exists, you will walk back into its trap again and write something.  And experience a brief thrill of your old friends coming back and saying, hey, where were you, we missed you, glad you're posting again, great to have you back, etcetera.

Which will only lead into another arc of being at a loss for something to write, and the guilt of being expected to write, and the abuse at what you have written.

Hey, look, it's better just to stab the thing into oblivion and have done with it, once and for all.  You just don't know what you're asking, Grognard.

It is an obscure play, made into an obscure movie, but I first learned this lesson about writing more than 25 years ago.  Felix, the writer in the Owl and the Pussycat, smashes his typewriter and Doris asks him, "What did you do that for?"

"It was either him or me," says Felix.  "The son of a bitch was trying to kill me."


ChicagoWiz said...

Not just yea, but HELL YEA in how it feels like that.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Great post.

Here's to the pitbulls!