Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Freak in Me Speaks
Everything I write in my blog is public. Anyone with access to the internet can find my posts in all their ragged glory, contorted sentences and all. I am fortunate: I do not currently have a job where what I write here might turn up at an evaluation. (For an example of what could happen, here is a story about The Phantom Professor.) But the internet has a long memory and it's only getting longer. I signed a petition twenty years ago, not online but a real paper petition. That petition with my name attached to it is online. I'm not embarrassed by it, I still agree with the petition but I have mixed feelings about this sort paper trail being available to anyone with access to Google.
For me, a pseudonym is not something to hide behind, a license to libel or slander. I take responsibility for everything I've written on this blog. I try to be truthful and honest. I sincerely believe anything I say under my blogging nom de guerre I would also say publicly under my legal name. I may be self-deluded in such a belief. I often use a question as a test: Would I say what I'm writing to the person's face in conversation? I don't always live up to this standard but I attempt to.
There is certainly a level at which my blogging involves exploring and developing a persona, a particular aspect of my character, a style of presentation. I don't think it's false because of the circumstances. Rather, it is a personal adaptation, a process of gaining fluency in the form. As John Turturro snarls in the film Barton Fink, "I'm a writer!" Writing involves explication. I could write "Bush lies." I would call that a slogan for a protest rally or a simple statement lacking in supporting detail. More interesting to me is an explanation of how Pres. Bush publicly professes certain beliefs while he plans to implement obviously contradictory action and policy.
I am attracted to a certain style of loud punditry, not because I desire to emulate it but to understand its appeal to so many people. I once thought pundit meant someone with a certain specialized area of expertise, capable of analysis in light of extensive knowledge and experience. Most so-called pundits today are opinion mongers, mostly versed in speaking with faux authority. Today, pundits are usually declaimers and shouters, blusterers and meanspirited hypocrites. Their skills mostly revolve around control, domination and the ability to continually spew vehement opinion lacking factual foundation. Yet they seem very popular. Their populist appeal (in the negative sense) is a result of popular alienation, our ever-growing sense of being at the mercy of social forces beyond our control. We divide, we label, we despise the "others" of whatever group is our target today. We increasingly do not identify together, we identify in smaller and smaller subgroups, never claiming the power of collective action to change society for the better.
And here I am, declaiming as well. Because I believe in the power of words, in the ability of people to read and think about what they read. I too am an opinion monger but I have few delusions that my opinion is much more than a opinion. I have little in the way of specialized knowledge to contribute to social or political discussions. I have never worked in politics or Washington, DC. My journalistic background is slight and never in a truly professional capacity. I have no academic credentials and never graduated from college. Much of my work history is as a temporary worker, a office drone, an hourly wage slave. Of course there's more to my life and history than what I've just outlined. But mostly I'm a guy trying to figure out what's wrong, trying to gain a little insight, and trying to communicate some of this through my writing. And the reason I share my writing is hope: Hope people might find some resonance, some commonality with my questing words. I hope to change through writing: change myself, change other people, and somehow change our consumptive society.
So why should I worry about using my real name here? What is my fear? I'm not exactly advocating revolution in this blog (although I'm not sure revolution would be such a bad idea.) Yet I remain a bit cautious, a little paranoid-ish around the edges. To me, the US is taking on an ever more distinct tone of authoritarianism, of intimidation of progressive opinion, of intolerance of dissent. Our government has a long history of targeting and harassing those speaking out against it. It's grandiose of me to believe my voice is worth a millisecond of thought by anyone in our government much less actual action. Yet the caution remains and I make rudimentary gestures toward hiding my identity.
This, of course, is a false security. This blog could be tied to my real name and identity without much effort. I've made no really serious attempt to hide my identity beyond getting a separate e-mail account and using it for my blog and comments in other people's blogs. Practically everything online is traceable. Privacy only comes if no one looks for the information. Perhaps it's to keep possible future employers from being able to google my name and find these posts. Perhaps it's a slight deterrent to keep my biofam (biofam=biological family, parents, siblings, etc.) from reading these words. I admit I'm not sure.
So I use my self-deprecating, unpretentious, don't-take-me-too-seriously name: Wordlackey. And I use it semi-proudly, perhaps cultivating an impression that I might just be a fool, a fop with low self-esteem, an unlikely threat to the status quo. Yeah, what can a lackey of words do against the majesty and might of US imperial rule? Throw words at soldiers? Shout imprecations at tanks? Write manifestos no one will read or heed? Yes. Words can describe a path, create a possible future, and nurture hope. Words can inspire, stoke fires of resolve, and burn tyrants from their citidels. Words are a weapon as sharp as a sword. Words are songs of resistance, of union, of consensus. Freedom and liberty are not empty words. (well, maybe when Bush uses them.) See? I'm just a funny fool, laughing at myself in amusement, hardly a danger. Humor and satire are hardly weapons of mass destruction, are they? Depends on who they're pointed at.
Now you know why I really secrete my real name: shame and embarrassment.