Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Censor Within

One of the reasons for writing in the first place is to write those things that one wants to read, but that nobody has written or published. It is also to write those things that one cannot talk about with others, either because the perceptions are too personal or because others simply are not interested in these topics or what one has to say about them.

This was one of the more powerful motivations for me to sign on to Blogit. At long last, I thought, I will finally have a platform to get my ideas down and have the possibility that someone else might stumble upon it and read them. But this was quickly followed by the realization that I either had to censor myself, because I had become too personally identified with my blogs (even though most readers don’t know me in real time), and the frustration of not being able to put into words those things that I thought would be a departure from what is already out there.

I have dealt with the problem of self-censorship by publishing things, with even greater anonymity, in other parts of the web. I have lots of “naughty” writings circulating out there, and that has had the liberating effect of fine-tuning the expression of those thoughts and impulses without having to “own” them. I think it is important to work out all aspects of one’s personality (advisedly under “safe” conditions) rather than ignore or repress them. Only in this way can one move forward.

The latter problem has been a bit more difficult. As much as we think of ourselves as being original thinkers with a unique perspective, when it comes to laying it down we find ourselves parroting the ideas and opinions of those around us, and is propagated in mass media. Moreover, as much as we talk about “free thought” and “free speech” in this society, we have established conventions of thought and expression that are extremely difficult to move beyond. Even the most “radical” images have become cliché. Long ago, advertisers learned how to market and institutionalize rebellion.

I notice that most of the blogs on Blogit have degenerated into petty sniping and the creation of an artificial sense of “community” in cyberspace. I’m not knocking this – to each his or her own. Some people joined Blogit with that kind of alternative social interaction in mind. But for me, that seems like circulating the same old ideas and patterns of behavior all over again – it is not breaking the cycle, which is my motivation for writing.

The shock comes with the recognition that it is not as easy to break the cycle as one thought it would be. Remove the censors, give me instant publishing Рinstant access to an audience, and I will write what other people have been wanting to read or express, but never found their way into publication before. That is the feeling at the outset; but it soon gives way to something trite, something trivial, something clich̩, something that has already been said before Рmany, many times before.

It is hard to press ourselves to draw out our unique expression. Maybe we are configurations of pre-fabricated personalities that we have grown up with in mass media, schools, religious institutions, families, communities, and so on. Maybe there is little-to-nothing about our perspective that is original. And it certainly doesn’t help if one actually sets out to say something that is “different,” as opposed to digging for one’s own original thoughts, insights and perceptions – aware that if one can express these they will be distinctive.

The first chains we have to be liberated from are inside of us.

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