Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Honesty and Voyeurism

# C

ommenting on my newest venture, this blog, one friend commented, "Nice job & beautiful name. One comment...I'd take this out:

"Perhaps "disputed territories," or, "over the green line," would suit the purposes of liberals, but for me, this is just politics.

It's honest but there's no point in possibly alienating someone who might read your blog & throw you some work."

My immediate response to these words was puzzlement. I couldn't think why these words would alienate or offend anyone. But this friend is someone whose opinion I value and I didn't want to dismiss her comments out of hand. After some thought, I understood her point: a great many people get really hot and bothered about their political beliefs and for me to toss off these words in such a cavalier manner could really get someone's dander up.

But blogs are meant to express the opinions of the writer with deep personal honesty. In the old days, people kept diaries under lock and key. The authors of diaries knew that no other eyes would ever read their words and this gave the writer a sense of entitlement and the absolute freedom that came with the permission to air private thoughts.

To my mind, a blog is a narcissistic venture by its very nature, which is why I resisted the urge for so long, to create my own blog. It seems to me that in general, bloggers crave an audience and those who read their words are engaging in some permitted voyeurism.

I wonder how Ann Frank would react if she could know that so many people have read of her most intimate, coming-of-age experiences and feelings?

But in fact, that is what keeps readers so entranced with her words: the writing of diaries is no-holds-barred writing. It's honest and straight to the heart of the matter. The author need not fear reaction, because the words remain unread.

These unshared words, never aired, are in a sense, unborn. We feel privileged knowing that we will never read more honest words than those never intended to be seen by other eyes. These words speak to us more than others, because we know that Ann was not concerned, as she wrote them, about how they would be received. More than that, we relate to her words because we have felt these same feelings, without having been able to air them to others.

There were some who vilified Otto Frank, Ann's father, for attaining fame through publishing his daughter's diary. The notion of someone becoming rich through personal tragedy was one root cause of this vilification, but there were some who felt that it was wrong to share Ann's most personal thoughts without her permission.

I used Ann Frank's diary to illustrate the idea that such deep and personal thoughts were once treated with delicacy and utmost privacy, at least until long after the death of the author. With the advent of the World Wide Net, we now have an open climate in which there are avid followers for the innermost thoughts of others. There is a partnership here: those who air their dirty linen in public, and those who like to watch.

So, yes, this seemed to me a difficult moral decision, this creation of a blog. I do want to be honest in my writing, but hope I will retain the dignity and delicacy of my private emotions.

But back to my friend's comments, which is where all this introspection really began. While I am not going to be publishing anything truly embarrassing on this blog, I do hope to feel free to state my honest thoughts about the issues and agendas that are important to me; those uppermost in my mind. My blog will not be about currying favor with a universal audience, but is instead, an attempt to gain a following by like-minded people, or to show those with different sets of sensibilities another side of the equation.

However, if someone were to become upset by my use of a particular phrase and write about it---well, great! Controversy? I welcome that.

I will never please everyone, but it seems to me that the next best thing to pleasing everyone is controversy and honest, polite debate.


  1. Love your perspective. Love the writing. Two thumbs up!