Saturday, 27 October 2012

A cause for optimism

As I browse the web, time and time again I come across a largely covert conflict between those who wish to express something in simple, relatively unambiguous language and those who seem to have a vested interest in complexity an obfuscation.

There is no doubt in my mind that complexity, obfuscation and business go together. By business I mean any profitable activity, whether in the public or private sector and whether the profit is monetary or non-monetary, such as professional status. Often complexity is merely intended to be divisive, to divide us from them, to erect barriers to entry.

Yet most bloggers and commenters seem to have a deep and genuine desire to extract a nugget of reality from political, social and economic events. They want to draw conclusions which actually make sense, particularly conclusions which can be communicated to other people with widely different backgrounds and interests.

They seem keen to share the world of ideas for its own sake.

Obviously this is comparatively new. From 1906 we had the Everyman'sLibrary published by J. M. Dent which brought all kinds of literature within the reach of modest pockets. Before that there had been lending libraries, pamphlets, cheap newspapers and magazines - all important developments in the spread of accessible knowledge, theory and comment.

Yet to my mind, radio and particularly television diverted us from that worthy beginning until the internet came along. It is almost as if there has been a self-improvement hiatus which may now be coming to an end as the internet matures.

So sometimes I think we may be too pessimistic about global trends. Not that these trends aren’t malign because many are, but like the cavalry galloping over the hill, the internet could have arrived just in time.

The whole world of information seems to have been reshaped in only a decade or two. It’s as if only now are we beginning to know what we always should have known about our elite classes. A decade ago we didn’t know because too many mainstream news outlets were too corruptible, too wedded to the establishment, too fond of the perks of professional status.

Now we see just how awful our MPs are, it is worth asking ourselves if they have always been awful. The Profumo affair was supposed to be a rare exception to widespread probity, but we probably knew others were dodgy even in those days. Cynicism isn't new, but we didn't know these things  in such painful detail. Neither were the details known by so many people because very few on the inside were prepared to paint a realistic picture for us, including journalists. 

Perhaps the internet is painting that picture and we are just getting used to how ugly it can be. Admittedly the twentieth century taught us about ugliness, but now we know even more. Maybe it’s a picture which always could have been painted, but it’s a case of better late than never. Perhaps the internet will change things for the better in ways we will only really understand after the changes have occurred.

Maybe that’s a cause for optimism. Not so much a chucking our hats in the air and cheering from the rooftops kind of optimism. More a reason for plugging away at the issues because it really is worthwhile.

Not that many bloggers seem to be under any illusion that their efforts will change much, apart from the really big blogs perhaps. For most of us it would be easier to switch on the TV, order a pizza and pour a glass of wine - many do. But many don't, at least not until we feel we've had our say and it is this I think that makes the difference.

Saying your piece is enjoyable. Better than TV, better by far than writing a letter to the papers or even to your MP. The fact that we are doing it and enjoying it - to me that seems to be where we draw our optimism, our feeling that yes, it may well be far more worthwhile than we ever imagined it could be.


Anonymous said...

Nice to get it off your chest. However I suspect the mainstream politicos never ever look, once upon a time they may have looked at the Times letters page. But now their failures and lies are so widely exposed they huddle up in the Westminster Village and only talk to their own kind. I reckon the blogs have widened the gap between us and them rather than close it.

A K Haart said...

Roger - I suspect you are right - the gap is wider. We need more independents with experience of real life.

Sam Vega said...

There is certainly more honesty and authenticity in blogging. There is, after all, nothing to lose, compared to professional and commercial life.

This is not always the case, however. Have you noticed how "influential" blogs end up getting doctrinaire and stuffy? Guido is one such (now unreadable) and Cranmer is another. They are desperate to save face and get on the "best blog" lists.

There needs to be another factor involved. I'm not sure what it is, but blogging certainly allows it to flourish, and the internet is made worthwhile by it.

James Higham said...

If one really wishes to convey the essence of the complexity of the point, namely that one is not in entire disagreement with the premise, then verbosity is not necessarily an attempt to obfuscate but to bring, in all its ramifications, to the reading public, the full extent of the meaning of the words:

I agree.

Angus Dei said...

I just do it because I enjoy it, if there is the odd interesting" fact then so much the better.

A K Haart said...

Sam - I don't read Guido these days, mostly because of a Westminster Village feel to it, but I'll take a look.

James - nuances can sometimes difficult without a certain amount of verbosity.

Angus - I do too and I think it shows with bloggers, but not in the MSM.