When I think about it, I don’t think I make for a very good socio-political blogger.
I started blogging when I was 17. That was seven years ago. I felt back then I could change the world with the power of the written word, do Big Important Things and practice critical thinking. Like most of the things I’ve done, I almost accomplished these goals.
My earlier pieces were fuelled with raw passion and felt like slashing sabres. When I look back on them now, I think I was just channeling puberty-driven hormones and teenage angst into my articles and rationalising them away as good or necessary or something. Then I stopped being so hormonal and tried being more critical, went through different phases in life, learned a bit more about how the world works. Now, I can’t write the way I used to write. I’m just not (all that?) angry any more.
I prefer to think through things. For whatever reason, I’m just not moved by extreme displays of emotion anymore. If anything, if I see such things in an opinion piece, my first reaction is to distrust the writer’s judgment. Emotion-laden opinion is a poor substitute for rational argument, yet it is and remains the fuel that feeds the modern-day Internet.
Hence we have Occupy Wall Street, lauded as heroes but completely directionless and having accomplished the nothing it had set out to do. When a George Zimmerman shoots Trayvon Martin in self-defence in America, the world is outraged, but when a group of black people rob and assault a white man in Martin’s name, it’s mentioned only once. I’ve seen bloggers I respected spread conspiracy theories after the Boston Bombings. More and more now I see people taking cheap shots and calling it critique, people screaming vitriol in the name of some pet cause without looking deeper into the different angles, and Wikiperts and Googlefools shrieking at people who try to use reason and common sense instead of appealing to the simplistic meme of the hour.
I won’t name these harpies. These slings and arrows won’t even reach them. There’s no point in that. But I will say, I refuse to be one of them. I am a better man than that.
There is this old saying that goes, stick fast to your beliefs even if everybody else disagrees. That’s only half the truth. The other half is: beliefs have as much substance as a thought or an emotion. I studied knowledge, truth and beliefs in Junior College. ‘Belief’ is a way of thinking about something, ‘Knowledge’ is justified true belief. Beliefs can be wrong. Beliefs are changeable. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and no amount of denial or vociferousness will change that. If you want to be right, you have to change your mind. You can’t change others’ for them, only point the way to what you think is true. Not necessarily what is.
All my life I’ve sought to know things before jumping to act. That means keeping silent on many, many things until I get a good idea of what’s going on. That means spending the time and energy trawling for facts — hard, verifiable facts — and expert input. That’s not how the media — traditional or alternative — works today, as everybody rushes to comment and generate meta-news on the hot topic of the day.
I don’t work like that. I can’t. I am not wired that way, and I do not intend to spend half my writing time jumping all over myself, correcting mistakes and running updates. Likewise, I can’t spare the time or energy engaging in Internet debates anymore.
Call it growing older. Call it growing up. But these days I have more important things to do. I need to eke out a kind of living on a degree no one wants. I need to work towards my goals of being a successful independent author. I need to plan for future housing, family, career, a hundred other things schools don’t usually talk about. I’ve got other things to do than spend hours writing blog posts and Facebook essays. I have to focus, and that means closing the door on blogging as often about contemporary affairs as other bloggers can.
I don’t bestow the words ‘blogger’, ‘writer’ or ‘journalist’ with some kind of holy reverence. It’s just a descriptor of what a person does in a particular context. Not necessarily membership in some privileged circle. Likewise, I don’t consider myself part of the local socio-political blogging community, except very loosely in the sense that I am Singaporean and I have a blog. Yet this feels like an ending, of some kind. Perhaps a departure to some distant shore, another step in a life-long journey.
I won’t stop talking about politics, though. Quite the contrary; I’ve received word that an article I’ve written on Singaporean media regulation has just been approved. It’s just that I need to streamline my life in accordance with my soul and seek a new balance based on my new priorities. It’s also a refusal to do anything trivial or time-wasting, be it monkey dancing on Facebook or pointless pseudointellectualism on my blog. I’m better than that, and I just don’t have the time for it. I sense I’ll only be writing about politics when I can spare the time, or if I get something out of it. Otherwise, I’ll be writing about other stuff. Maybe here, maybe elsewhere. Or else working on something else.
I’m 24 now. I’m not going to get any of my years back. I have to focus if I’m ever going to do anything with my life.