Friday, July 29, 2011

"Outta My Face, Dude!"

Blogging is a recent phenomenon. It is journalism of the private kind, and, like the leap from black and white television to color, it introduces a whole new hue to the business of reporting and commentary.

It is micro-reporting and micro-analysis. The range of views is rich, indeed, from garbage to wit and wisdom and new information and perspectives.

The range of interpretations from readers is, however,  strikingly consistent.

People fall into one of two groups: (1) those who agree with the writer and are pleased that someone so intelligent is aligned with their own thinking, and (2) those who are outraged that the writer is such a clueless twit.

Black or white.

Seldom gray. Seldom even a search for gray. Seldom a search for reconciliation. One party or the other claims to have the definitive answer. It is more an exercise in the imposition of will than discovery.

The result is a relentless pushing of people of moderate view toward the extremes. And an increase in the frequency and intensity of disagreements.

The dynamic can be observed in American politics. Outrage and personal disparagement rule the day, and the method.

Or in Norway. Or in Maguindanao. Or as nations posture over oil-rich islands in a sea with three names.

Increasingly missing is the skill of searching for harmony, the tried and true technique of identifying areas of agreement whilst setting aside areas of disagreement for more work. Missing is the art of compromise and giving of face to those willing to concede. It is a win/lose battle, for elections depend on proving to an under-educated, emotional public that you are in their camp all the way. Even if all the way means consigning the nation to oblivion.

The same tools that bring us blogging also bring us the sound bite, the news snippets out of context to their real meanings, and the cute "analyses" offered up to attract an audience, not instill understanding. These tools turn smart people into reactionaries like the Tea Party dickheads who will not budge on an issue to save a nation.

THESE are patriots? E pluribus unum?

It's wild. It's wooly. It's dynamic. It is not neat or keen. It is dirty. It is dangerous. It is nurturing extremism.

It is into that scene that Filipino bloggers write, and I write.

My perspective is that of a westerner in the Philippines. My values differ from Filipinos, so there is automatically friction when I rub against the values they hold. My style also differs from most other writers and transaction-oriented Filipinos in that I am a "visualist". I don't report facts, per se. I strive for impact: idea transfer, not data transfer.  Satire, word pictures, coming at issues from a different angle. That is what I aspire to bring to my blogs.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is really lame, half-baked or even incomprehensible.

Do I seek harmony? Oh, yes, I suppose so, but not as a priority. I seek to have the reader bend his mind a little. To get away from transactional thinking. To search for principles and values and ways to make the Philippines productive and wealthy.

I write to learn, to get my own mind bent from time to time. To gain a better understanding of the history and motives of Filipinos. How to discern an issue from a person. How to recognize techniques of argument that are deceitful and therefore reveal that the writer is not interested in knowledge, but in winning and preserving his self-esteem, or some other personal advantage.  How to make an article meaningful and get away from the natural offensiveness of writing from a western perspective. That is very hard.

I write because it keeps my brain from rotting, and I appreciate those who challenge the ideas that come from my brain without questioning my personal integrity. I like disagreement that causes me to think, and I can change my mind with the best of them. We Gemini, we Myers-Briggs INFJ's, attach to little and drift from cloud to cloud, or idea to idea, on the fleet winged feet of Mercury.

I don't like disagreement that casts personal aspersions and cannot be disproven without subjecting oneself to charges of being a whiner. Deceitful people are skilled at twisting words. I usually go through three stages with them. One is to try to explain, which usually fails, especially if they are your typical old school, rigid, Ego-defensive Filipino type. Then to say "outta my face", which usually fails, because I dish insults back at them and all hope for a civil dialogue disappears. Then to say, "you are irrelevant" and wipe them from my existence. That succeeds every time.

For readers who stick with the issue, even if the issue is how my western perspective is unfair or naive, I say "bring it on!" We can share views and always emerge at the other end respectful of each other. Given time, we can become friends.

That is not a necessity, of course. It is just a warm side benefit earned by honorable intentions and words meant to teach or learn, meant for growth, not winning.


  1. Joe,

    I feel your pain. But I do not seek harmony. What I seek is a fair and balanced perspective of the local scene. Sadly, I have yet to find an objective Filipino blogger without hidden agendas or overwhelming biases. So I must content myself with trying to find information somewhere along these mudslinging Pinoys. My formula (which some expats also seem to do) is after reading a blog, immediately read the blogger's known opposition/enemy and you will often discover the truth somewhere in the middle.

  2. Expat, ahahahaha. Not a lot of pain here. Good technique on finding a middle truth.


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