Friday, May 7, 2010

Societal Selectivity

Bill Mallonee--"Rationale" (mp3)

In the novel, The Beach, a group of hedonistic young people gather illegally on an island inside the National Marine Park in Thailand and start a society. That society is simple and successful--through a division of labor, if you do your chores in the morning (fishing, cooking, gardening, or carpentry), you are free in afternoons to lounge, swim, get high, or whatever else suits your fancy.

It is its own kind of Eden. There is only one problem.

Well, two, actually. The first is that they share their illegal island with drug lords who grow wonderful fields of marijuana, also illegally, and so don't want a bunch of unwanted visitors coming and drawing attention to their operation. They allow the beach society to exist, so long as the status quo is maintained. So the other problem, or other part of the problem, is that for this society to enjoy its Eden-ness, it must severely restrict its membership.

The Beach society is, in fact, a secret. While its presence is rumored, the only ways to get there are 1) by personal invitation from one of the current members, or 2) by receiving a map that shows how to get there. So as the members enjoy their fragile existence, they know full well that if the hordes find out about it, it will be doomed.

This is the basic societal dilemma: should we restrict membership in our "society?"

It is why Arizona recently passed its immigration law.

It is why the country club in Augusta doesn't allow women.

It is why the school I work at has strict admission standards.

It is why it is a mixed blessing for a city to be named "One of the most liveable places in America."

And it is even having an impact on this silly little blog. At first, when Billy and I started, we let a few friends know what we were doing and encouraged them to read, listen, offer an occasional comment. But friends tell friends and our readership has grown and that has been gratifying. Beyond that, a focus on Van Morrison or the crawfish at Champy's or most any other topic has brought in the outside world via the Google search.

I took a blog post down yesterday. In many ways, the post had created the perfect situation for a blogger--controversial topic, plenty of comments, some interesting back and forth, some jabs at the writer, some disagreement. But nestled in among those remarks were those anonymous ones, and I thought, wait a second, I don't know who's reading this, I don't know who my audience is anymore.

It felt a little bit like throwing a party and having a good time, when you're hanging out with your friends being yourself, but also having the distinct impression that someone is at the windows looking in and not being really sure who it is. It was that hairs-stands-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck when you know someone is watching.

To be fair, the post was too revealing. The names may have been omitted to protect the innocent, but the details were still there. I stand by my perceptions, but they were probably too direct for public consumption. I suppose I was viewing this blog as a frank conversation that I would be able to have with close friends, but now I realize that it has become something different than that.

So I will have to retool my thinking. A blog does not allow for the kind of societal selectivity that The Beach community or a country club might enjoy, and I don't want it to. Some of the best comments I've read over the past two+ years have come from people I didn't even know were reading. But I will admit, I don't understand the anonymous comment thing. It's a little creepy, you know?


Thom Anon said...

I actually took down my entire blog, because even though names and places were changed, those folks close to me who recognized themselves in the writing were worried who might be reading. Meanwhile I couldn't give less of a crap. Nothing in my life is off limits as far as the Art is concerned. But family's family, and I didn't want to lose anyone over a silly little blog.

I have since resurfaced Anonymously in order to protect those same folks. Now my life can belong to anyone who cares to read it as a pure form of fiction.


Bob said...

Good helpful inights, T.A. Most of the time, I just think WWHD? (What Would Hemingway Do?) Of course, he would continue to write his fiction with only the thinnest of cloaks on his "fictional" characters.

And please know I don't include you in my comments about "anonymous." Though I don't necessarily know who you are, you are at least the same you, whereas I never know with "Anonymous" whether it is one or many people.

Billy said...

"Now when we lie to each other, we do it through computers." -- The Hold Steady (from their newest and most easily-accessible album to date)

As for TA and the other nom-de-plumes (Daisy, Troutking, etc.), I agree with Bob that it feels different than Anon.

Little Steven said...

More posts about Little Steven.

Daisy said...

Does this mean that Trout, Thom and I get own bar stools?

Bob said...

More than barstools. YOu get a seat at the crawfish table.

Jason said...

I have forgot to input my name in a couple of times and the famous anon name has come up.

Randy said...

Maybe you could embrace the problem by making an annual contest to guess who was the inspiration behind your "characters". karmic of you to be getting that "creepy/being watched feeling" shortly after picking 1984 for the summer reading book.

Bob said...

What if I just start every example with, "I have a friend Randy, who..."?

Daisy said...

A seat at the crawfish table? Now I am truly honored!

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you lived in your mom's basement. I do know that you occasionally sit in your underwear. Oh wait, TMI....