Attention Conservation Notice: Long (tl;dr) and solipsistic post about teachable moments, egos, blog commenting etiquette, intellectual and emotional courage and old “battles.” Not for anyone with a life, or who finds the picking of old scabs to be offensive.
I was running (alright, plodding) around the local oval the other night, having written but not yet published the blog post that I’m blockquoting below, when it occurred to me how little any of us ever learn, and how often, when a teachable moment comes, we clamber for the high moral ground instead. Self-righteousness because we fear our self may not be so right after all….
And it connected, as I ran (alright, alright, staggered) with something I saw weeks ago in the computer shop where I was getting a new power lead and battery for my beloved laptop. There was this customer (age and gender irrelevant) who just kept interrupting the guy behind the counter. And the guy knew his stuff, and was trying to give the options available, and good advice. But he could not finish his sentences. Customer, who presumably like the rest of us mere mortals, is nervous around computers, especially when they’ve gone wrong, was covering these nerves by just, well, blathering. And if Customer had managed to control the fear, he/she might have come away with more knowledge, and self-confidence. But it never happened, and after he/she’d left, I remember pausing for a few seconds to let the guy get over what must have been a pretty frustrating, if typical, encounter.
It had been, for me, one of those really clear moments, when you realise that every day there are ‘teachable moments’, which, if we are open to them, can help to make us more effective, better (more compassionate, resilient, empowered and empowering) people. But these moments are lost because we are not brave enough, compassionate enough, open enough. Deep, huh?
So, more blog posts on error-correcting mechanisms (and, to reframe it, error-maintenance mechanisms!) and mistakes and ways and means of self-knowledge and so on to come in the not too distant. [See previous post on “An error isn’t a mistake until you refuse to correct it”] For now, that blog post which was worming its way past my irony filters as I ran (alright, heffalumped) around the footie field.
Dire Mountain, the Fourth.
Attention Conservation Notice: For no particularly good reason, I take another pop at the “Dark Mountain” crew, this time for their inability to approve helpful comments. To be avoided unless the site of ageing middle-class bloggers bloviating does it for you. If it does, you really need help.
There’s a new blog post on the darkmountain site, talking about the next gathering. Long-term readers of Dwight Towers may recall these posts (one, two, three) about it. Oddly, these posts (especially the first) still get hits, and people still come to the site after a google search of “dwight towers dark mountain”.
To recap – there were stated goals for the Dark Mountain Festival 2010 that were, in my opinion and that of others, simply not met. I wanted my money back, but didn’t get it.
So, under the new post, about the likelihood of another Festival, I left the following comment, starting with a quote I pulled from the post.
“For one thing, we want to move away from a format which involves an audience in rows of seats and speakers sitting under spotlights.”
And when I went back today, they had published someone else’s comment, but not mine, and a new post was up as well. My comment had disappeared from the “awaiting moderation” status into… oblivion. Which is amusing, because during the commenting to-and-fro on my posts back in June or so last year, one of the principal Dark Mountaineers had done the whole “you won’t dare approve this comment” thing. (For the record, I did.)
Do I really care that they’ve not had the guts to post the comment? Not so much. But it does – IMHO – speak volumes about their emotional and intellectual maturity and courage that they were not able to do so.
And they need to know about open space – they clearly didn’t last May.
If they couldn’t stomach posting anything with the name “Dwight Towers” attached to it, they had the option of at least clipping the Open Space link and putting THAT in the comments. As a resource for other readers of their blog.
And I’d still like my £55 back.
So. In that above post I’ll admit to displaying a lack of empathy for these guys (I obviously don’t know who dumped the comment). To look at it from their perspective – last May they put on this big festival. Spent lots of time and energy. And one of the first things to appear on the tinterwebs about it was a scathing critique of its inadequacies. And now, a year later, the clown turns up to comment on their site.
But still and all, it comes down to this. If the Dark Mountain crew say we need to do things differently – they say that facing the future is going to require emotional and intellectual courage – then surely they have a duty to be a good example of that courage, and one way of being a good example is to publish constructive comments whether they come from a source they approve of or not?
Which puts me in mind of my (lack of) a comments policy.
First off, I like to believe I would not have deleted a similar comment from the Dark Mountain lot if the situation were reversed.
Second, I am in the fortunate position of not getting so many comments that I can’t respond to each. (But then, so are Dark Mountain, as far as I can see. (If you REALLY want to see willingness to engage with commenters, check out Tim Wise’s scrupulous and tireless efforts in the comments box after his essay on left racism).
So far I’ve not – to my recollection (could be wrong, self-serving memories and all that) – ever refused to approve something that wasn’t just spam/splog/sping. The stuff I’ve disagreed with (usually from climate denialist trolls) has been relatively easily dealt with (climate trolls, after all, pretty repetitive and brittle ditto-heads). Sometimes the engagement with someone who has disagreed with a post has lead to them writing some really good stuff that has educated me enormously (and hopefully my readers too).
I suppose my comments policy, (subject to revision of course) would be
*ad hominem attacks will only get published if they are genuinely witty
* anything that says people of colour/women/muslims/white men etc are all “x” or “y” or “z” must have links to decent supportive evidence or it’s going in the trash, cos them’s fightin’ words…
* anything that is abusive but contains useful information/coherent statements will get snipped and clipped, time and interest permitting
* if a commenter repeatedly wanders off topic after agreeing not to, I’d suggest they set up their own blog, and I’d take to deleting their off-topic messages, approving only their on-topic ones.
I sincerely doubt that this policy will ever need updating for reasons of volume of traffic!
What do people think?
PS There has been a bit of a kefuffle in the Australian blogosphere because The Online Opinion site has not been moderating its comments to a level that you might expect, or consistently, according to its critics.