Monday, October 15, 2007

What Good Do Blogs Do?

Early Friday, the Nobel Prize committee awarded Al Gore and the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize, and we were off to the races. Blog sites on the right and the left were inundated with comments for and against, saying 'what a crock!' or 'oh yea! congratulations.' And then of course, there was the 'now Gore MUST run for president' spin. The Sunday papers and TV news reviews were all a blather as well.

But was much new said? It seems global warming is about as polarizing as abortion, regardless of the facts. It seems that by far most of what was said had been said before. And so it goes: A vote for abortion is a vote against life. A vote for global warming is a vote against our way of life.

Crazy talk, really. No issue should transcend the facts. What is good for our way of life is what is good for life. And what is good for life is choosing when and how and with whom to have offspring.

No unwanted children. No unwanted pollution. What's the mystery here? Emotions are the mystery, really, how emotions squash, squander and nullify reason. We'll have to do better to take better care of ourselves.

Meanwhile, what good do the blogs do in situations like this?

They seem to do only one thing, and this regards the down side of free speech. Free speech is cheap. Cheap and easy. Thinking is hard, just the way it has always been. Thinking is the realm of a minority and a rather rarefied minority, it seems. It is not the daily stuff of regular folks. Speech, on the other hand, is the stuff of nearly everyone, and it's quality suffers in the squashing, the squandering, the nullifying.

What we learn from blogs is generally what we already know: what the chattering hordes are chattering about. With blogs, we have the chance to not be so isolated or naive to how emotion-driven and simplistic most people's ideas are. Gabbing with friends, meeting at the water cooler, those are so 20th century. Now we have blogs to keep typists in touch.

With all this freedom to speak and with so many taking advantage of that freedom, there is all the room in the world for nuance, for insight, for fresh perspectives, for wrestling with complexities. Plenty of room but not much regard. Nuance? Innovative ideas? Wrestling with complexities? Most of the chatterers are not up to those tasks. They've already chosen sides in more ancient, more tribal, more basic ways, and they just keep playing life on Earth as if it were a rugby match. Or a computer game.


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