Blogging is hard…

15 06 2011

For a full time office drone (I like to think of myself as the grease in the wheels of justice), an armchair social critic, and an inveterate procrastinator, a commitment to produce content of a reasonable standard on a consistent basis is probably not realistic. In many ways, I do envy my friends sheltering in the academy, with their prerogative of whiling away their days, pondering and writing. Not that I’d ever admit it without the camouflage of a WordPress handle, nor that I’m ever one to shy away from producing my “real world” authenticity as an argumentative trump card, when the need arises.

(On the flip side, I get the feeling that my office colleagues, when they’re being kind, tend to think of me as an essentially well-meaning, but fundamentally misguided, hare-brained, academic type, at least when it comes to matters of social policy. This is a topic to which I shall return.)

The quandary: to post and be damned, or to agonise over the crafting of incisive and cutting-edge material. For any number of reasons, not least my intellectual shortcomings, I think that the former approach must prevail, if this blog is to survive as a going entity. You have been warned.

Then there’s the question of tone. I credit my legal education for the destruction of my writing style: ten years on, I’m still struggling to find a balance between the stuffy constraints of discursive formations assimilated in my youth, and my simple joy in language as a vibrant, crucial, humourous, irreverent force. I wonder whether it is possible to accurately address the lived realities of crime, while remaining aloof from the profane and the subversive; the carnivalesque world, captured so vividly by the late lamented Mike Presdee :

[C]arnival revels in abuse. Using popular argot, it brings down the mighty and uses language, the tool of discourse and reason, as a celebration of oaths, of colloquial language and abuse. The many popular unofficial voices of carnival shout in opposition to the monologic speech of the dominant order. Against the coherent logic and language of the talking head, the stomach and the arse speak out the belch and the fart, destroying the logic of language and in its way disrupting and destroying order. The carnivalesque becomes the language of disrespect par excellence for, after all, carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people but lived by them.

Thus carnival represents a world upside down, but most importantly a world that is restructured through laughter, for alongside its images of social upheaval carnival is joyful. The laughter comes, as Eco et al. point out, through the breaking of a rule, and this laughter is both deriding and revitalising, ambivalent or Janus-faced. Additionally the laughter is both directed out to those in authority and is self-reflexive; carnival laughs at itself while it laughs at others. Its laughter appeals, as Orwell remarked in ‘The Art of Donald McGill’, to the ‘Unofficial self, the voice of the belly protesting against the soul’. Humour rightly understands the law, its weaknesses and its true lack of rationality. It truly transcends the law and carnival humour looks to the consequences. Here in carnival is the ‘survival’ humour of Nuttall and Carmichael, which challenges and contests, turns inside-out and upside-down the efforts of authority to maintain law and order. Crime is here the subversion of bourgeois order.

The tendency to fret over whether a commentator can remain credible in dealing with the big issues, while deploying a linguistic style that is playful, entertaining and engaging is the bane of my blogging life. The effort to develop such a style is its purpose.

My other blogging bête noire is the question of time management and personal effectiveness. How to find the time to produce work of a publishable standard, even when the bar is set as low as a bloggers? In this regard, I’ve found The 99% to be a goldmine of practical advice. I’ve always tended to, at best, sneer at anything approaching “self-help” material, at worst to think of such works as crude disciplinary technologies of the soul. Be that as it may, I must give credit where it’s due; I’ve picked up a lot of interesting tips from that site. Implementation is the trick.

Now, that’s quite enough self-reflexivity for one post. More substantive material to follow.