Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the start of Positive Liberty, by Jason Kuznicki. It is an anniversary that is well worth noting and celebrating. Jason thanks me for the many links I’ve made to his blog over the last year, and I have tried to send people to his blog as often as possible. But there’s a reason for that, and it’s because Jason has written so many compelling and thoughtful posts in that time. And for that, I want to thank him. There is a really interesting passage in his post on the anniversary that I want to quote:
In part, I’ve created a persona, which is something I never expected I would do. Make no mistake, Positive Liberty is a persona, albeit one that comes more or less reflexively. It’s like my real self, except it shares all the bad habits of most online personae, including confirmation biases, hasty conclusions, and a far bit of–say it isn’t so!–sarcasm. Though I do strive against these tendencies, I can’t say they don’t exist.
I have often thought that if I were to blog again, I might adopt a consciously different persona, mostly to challenge myself about who I am and how I present myself. Wouldn’t it be great if it were so easy in real life?
That made me think a bit. It is of course true that this blog only represents one aspect of who I am, perhaps exaggerated. More accurately, it represents different aspects of my personality at different times. One big split in my personality has always been between the part of me who really does think that calm and reasoned discussion between those who disagree is a great thing and the part that simply has no patience for outright idiocy or dishonesty. That’s why I greet some people and some ideas with sarcastic dismissal and abuse, while loving the intellectual give and take with those I disagree with on other issues. But sometimes there is a tension between those things, and sometimes I treat with derision those I should instead engage more kindly. There’s a tough balance there to find, but the fact is that both personae are entirely authentic parts of who I am. But I think it’s also true that the act of blogging is, at root, an act of arrogance. I go back, as I so often do, to Mencken and his unrelentingly honest view of himself and others. In The Author at Work in 1926, Mencken wrote:
One reason, I believe, is that an author, like any other so-called artist, is a man in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in. His overpowering impulse is to gyrate before his fellow men , flapping his wings and emitting defiant yells. This being forbidden by the police of all civilized countries, he takes it out by putting his yells on paper. Such is the thing called self-expression.
In an essay on his choice of criticism as a career, he had similarly written:
It is the pressing yearning of nearly every man who has actual ideas in him to empty them upon the world, to hammer them into plausible and ingratiating shapes, to compel the attention and respect of his equals, to lord it over his inferiors.
As much we might hate to admit it, Mencken was on to something there. I just wish I had a more coherent thought here to discharge with a flourish into the dense fog that blankets the republic. At any rate, congratulations to Jason for his first year blogging. Keep up the great writing and thanks for being a part of my blog neighborhood.