Friday, January 27, 2012

You may now point and laugh

I am frequently, and lately more often, obliged to remind commboxers to read the commbox rules posted to the sidebar. I wrote them quite a few years ago when I decided that one thing I would never tolerate was rudeness. You can say whatever you like, that is, make whatever point you think relevant to a post either in agreement or not, but you may not use foul language, you may not use an unpleasant or unkind tone and you may not indulge your personal fetishes for anti-anything here. No idiotic anti-Christian insults, but also no unpleasant rants about atheists, Darwinians, or whomever the target of the day happens to be. You can, and are often encouraged to be sharp or pointy, but meanness, rudeness or bad language is not allowed.

I don't like it.

One of the things the commbox rules made clear that I am the boss, the sole arbiter of right and wrong, the judge of tone, the authority on offensiveness. I am also, more to the point, the person with her finger over the smite button and I have a deletion policy that people often, for some reason, think I will not employ in their case.

I try to encourage people to think of my blog as my sitting room. You are invited to tea and are encouraged to be interesting for as long as you stay. Disagreeing with me is part of being interesting. Coming into my house and insulting the other guests, sneering at the colour of the carpet or making unkind remarks, however, does not make you interesting. It makes you evicted.

One of the things that I have noticed in years of using the internet for my work is that some think they are not really addressing real people. It is widely commented upon that this is a medium that encourages the lower instincts in people, and this is, moreover, a time when genuine good manners (I don't mean just saying nasty things without swearing), are rarely taught to young people. How to disagree well is an art that is sadly being erased by decades of a culture that encourages everyone to express whatever vile thoughts happen to cross his mind at any time.

I once had to intervene in a bit of unpleasantness between a pair of unpleasant, and needless to say young, roommates. One had accused the other of stealing and was in a violent rage. I ordered him, with my best school-marm voice, to leave the room and come back when he was able to speak quietly. He rounded on me with the most extraordinary and memorable assertion that I had no right to try to stop him expressing his feelings. He was a young man, perhaps 19, who had been raised all his life to believe that as long as he "genuinely" felt something, it was acceptable, nay necessary, to blare it out to the world at large, and the "rudest" thing anyone could do was to tell him to shut it. It was a learning moment.

Younger people, I have since noticed, appear to be nearly all convinced that they have no reason whatever, in any venue at all, to modify their tone, their ideas, opinions or mouths. Or to listen to anything anyone else has to say. And brother, do they get indignant when someone tells them to behave. This observation has been borne out only too well by long experience with the internet. Perhaps I don't get outside my own bubble enough to observe how people interact. My friends are all grown-ups who know how to argue well and politely (for the most part) and are able to forgive each other their occasional slips and oddities.

I watched the "occupy" kids interacting on video several times with people who did not agree and in nearly every case the arrogance of the former was appalling, even when they were not outright shouting obscenities. Not only do these young people, (and often not so young) seem incapable of having an intelligent conversation with someone who does not agree, they are also apparently barely able to articulate their own ideas. It was quite a spectacle, especially coming at the same time as those "English riots" in which the few young looters who were interviewed were nearly sub-verbal.

One of the most important rules on this blog, in place to help us all avoid the temptation to let ourselves go and "express our real feelings" in the modern way, is the requirement to leave a real or plausible-sounding name. Anonymous posts, I reiterate, are not allowed. Neither is it allowed to use a moniker, obviously made-up pseudonym or adopt the name of an historical figure. If I think that you are not using a real name, (because I tend to be in a better mood in general in recent years) I will usually instruct the commenter to scroll down and read the commbox rules posted to the sidebar on the left".

I have found myself having to do this more often lately. I suspect it is because cancer makes you interesting, but for some reason the daily site stats have taken an enormous jump recently. In seven years of blogging, I have usually just carried on as if the only people reading were the ten or fifteen people who regularly toss out their ideas. I got a steady 300-350 a day and was quite happy. I hate large parties, and especially don't like a crowd. In the past, when I have seen a sudden jump in numbers, I have put it down to a link from someone more famous and have just battened down a bit and waited for them all to go chattering off somewhere else. But now I see that we are steadily attracting up to 1500 a day, so I suppose I must resign myself to having people here who do not understand the purpose of this blog.

I will make it easy. This blog is for me to write things I think about and it is addressed to my friends and long-time readers. Lately, I have been writing about what it is like to have cancer while living in a foreign country, and about art. But I often write about politics, religion and social and cultural issues.

If you are neither a friend nor a regular, you are still welcome and if you want to join either group it is very easy. Be polite. Say intelligent things related to the posts. Do not be a bore. Do not talk about professional sports. (Just a heads-up: I am inherently and always bored and annoyed by professional sports.) If you only have the urge to say, "Great post! Loved it!" please say it out loud in the privacy of your own home. If you are constitutionally incapable of being either interesting or polite, you will not last long here.

(And spelling counts. If you don't know the difference between "are" and "our," "your" and you're," or "there," they're" and "their," or think that "u" and "you" are interchangeable, you should turn the internet off right now and read a book. I am happy to supply a suggested reading list by email.)

One thing is always required: you must use a real or plausible-sounding name. If you make up a name, you may use one common to whatever culture you were raised in. If you use it consistently here, neither I nor anyone else will know the difference, and you will avoid the tiresome implication that you are a Person of Consequence with a Big Secret Identity to protect. If you are really a Person of Consequence who fears being fired or something for being seen here, you may apply privately and receive an authorised nickname that only you and I will know.

The idea is not to make sure everyone else knows who you are, but to make sure that I do. The first rule is always the most important. This blog is my universe; ultimately only my opinion matters.

Long-time readers will confirm that I have no qualms whatever about deleting you if you have annoyed me in any way. I control only two spaces in the universe: my apartment and this blog. And I control them absolutely.

I mention all this now because,


I seem to have accidentally erased the post with the commbox rules.

When I get around to it, I will reconstruct them. Until then, you may all talk quietly amongst yourselves.