Being one of the 2.3 billion people1 currently 'writing a novel' I reckon writing stuff might be the best way to get better at, em, writing. So one of the aims of this blog is to have a go at different writing styles, see what takes my fancy and get a bit of criticism. It is also a great excuse for occasionally posting a complete load of tosh...2
1) I made that up
2) Do you feel some sort of labelling mechanism is required to distinguish heartfelt rants from entertaining fictions? I endorse this post completely, 100% Fullfat opinion, no artificial additives, that sort of thing?
I once lurked around a very grown up web forum where the first rule of posting was to pretend you were doing so at a dinner party, where you knew a few people, but where the majority of the guests were strangers to you. Break the rule, and you got unceremoniously chucked off. I liked that, and the forum definitely benefited from the politeness the policy produced in its members. Now, I know that merely stating that I like politeness is to invite the opposite, and that on an unmoderated blog it is too much to expect that everyone will be nice. Also I am not entirely averse to a bit of good, vigorous.. ahem, debate.
These days the places I hang around on the internet can get a bit shouty at times. And that's fine. Topics such as science, politics, climate change, religion and criminal justice do tend to go hand in hand with strongly held opinions. If only I was into football, I'd have the full set of contentious subjects as defined by my late, beloved grandfather.
But seen from within the narrow walls of the web browser, it would seem that positions are hardening to the point that opposing sides can no longer speak civilly to each other. Now we can all have our say, we do so vehemently, frequently butting heads with the ill informed bigots/woolly minded apologists who oppose our sometimes freshly defined opinions. Each group of individuals accuses the other of being a 'lobby' or worse, a 'conspiracy'.
I think I witnessed it when I recently went to see Richard Dawkins speak. He asked if there were any creationists present in the audience. No hands were raised. Not even one of the protesters from outside the meeting hall had paid the £8 to get in. Well, its a fair bit of money, and to be honest....
Anyway. So there we are. This choir being preached at, a closed loop of communication if ever there was one. Now, I know for a fact Richard gets out there and chats with the great and good of the religious world, but as to the ordinary believer in the street? I don't think so. And I can't see how this is a useful situation.
Most of my very good friends self identify somewhere on the agnostic/atheist/humanist end of the belief scale. I am a humanist who thinks the most important bit of humanism is compassion. But there is a girl who lives up the road from me who is really nice, whom I like a lot and whom I would like to get to know better. She seems fun, enthusiastic, and is deeply committed to charity work. She is also a deeply committed Alpha Christian. I am sure we could spend a lot of time disagreeing about stuff, but up to this point, I have found it more useful and rewarding to explore what we have in common. I hope that as we become better friends we will be able to disagree without falling out, and without becoming immoderate in our stances. Even if we don't become good friends, I am certainly not going to be berating her on her beliefs.
I know I am jumping from creationism to religious belief here. I know they are not the same thing, but there is definitely overlap between the two groups, as there is with the atheist/evolutionist camp. I think it is fair to say these two debates perfectly illustrate the polarisation of stance that appears so intractable to the casual blog browser. I am not undertaking a one-woman crusade for moderating one's tone while posting on the web, apart from anything else because I cannot always promise to be moderate myself, so I might be on a hiding to nothing. Nor am I saying we shouldn't disagree, that we should be tolerant to the point of being mealy mouthed. But I feel that we have to keep talking, somehow. It can only be a good thing, surely?