In a recent Maclean's article, Stephen Miller, the author of the book, Conversation: A History of a Declining Art was interviewed. As far as I can tell from the article, his book is a rather depressing account of how any meaningful conversation is becoming a rare commodity in modern society, plagued both by excessive electronic interaction and the "Oprah-ization" of conversation, in which a conversation consists of one person "sharing" and the other person being supportive.
I think it makes conversation impossible, because when people use the word "share" - after all when you share some food with someone the person isn't supposed to say, "Oh, thanks for giving me this pie, but it's terrible, I don't like it" - it just casts a blanket of excessive politeness on the conversation, and then disagreement is seen as a personal attack.
This hit a nerve. How often have I felt compelled to listen to someone spouting what I considered absolute nonsense - and all too frequently dangerous nonsense - and yet felt unable to say a word, knowing that any such word would be taken as highly offensive? It's a Catch-22. I really don't want to be seen as endorsing what has just been said, for varying reasons of varying intensity, yet I feel that speaking up will be counter-productive. I am not going to win anyone over to another way of thinking if I am seen as an oaf and a jerk for not being "supportive".
And how often have I seen in the eyes of a listener (or worse yet, missed it) that he or she just isn't buying it, but that there is no way they will say a word because they fear conflict? I would so much prefer it that they question me. How else are we going to learn from each other?
Hence this blog.
Here I am going to say all the things that "polite society" normally compells me to keep under wraps. I will take controversial stands if it suits me and I will - more rarely - go along with majority opinions when they make sense to me.
You are invited to join me in this not-so-polite society by agreeing, challenging, opposing, expanding or questioning. I won't take it as a personal attack. Unless, of course, it is, in which case I will delete it shamelessly. Profanity and genuinely offensive stuff will also get sent straight to File 13. Everything else will be interpreted as an attempt to come to a better understanding together.
As the title of this blog suggests, I will speak of many things: ideas, movies, books, social controversies, and just about anything else that catches my attention and seems to be worthy of mention or debate. I hope you will consider some of them worthy of conversation.
Technorati tag: Oprah