Happy 200th Anniversary! Part IV
In celebration of my 200th blog post, I’m blogging about blogging. Last week I talked about my (mostly boring) writing habits. This week I’m answering this question:
Many of your blog posts adopt a position quite different from those we read about in the mainstream media, left or right. Are you naturally contrarian or do you try hard to find a different perspective on events? And while we’re at it, are you a Republican or Democrat?
I’m a registered Independent and have been since 1974.
Regarding the main question, on 99% of all the issues of the day my views are as conventional as anyone else’s. But of course I don’t write about those issues because, well, why would I? Nobody wants to clutter up their inbox with views they can hear every day on CNN. I only write about an issue when my view is different from the views my readers are likely to encounter elsewhere.
When I have a different view about an issue, it’s not because I’m trying to be contrarian or cantankerous. Those views, when they’re different, reflect not much more than the fact that the course of my life has been different from that of most other people. Naturally enough, those different life experiences sometimes lead me down different intellectual paths.
For example, over the course of my life I’ve moved from the lower working class in America to the top of its upper middle class. That used to be a road well-traveled, but over the past three decades the road has become virtually abandoned and what’s left of it is full of potholes. People mostly don’t travel that road any more, and in a few years it will be visible only to future archeologists.
My occupational career has also been, well, let’s just say bizarre. Like a lot of folks I got my first paid job when I was twelve years old, delivering the local newspaper. But since that time I’ve been, more or less in order: a gas jockey; a truck driver; a factory worker; a supervisor at a halfway house for retarded juvenile delinquents; a political aide; a tour guide; a factory worker (again); a soldier; a truck driver (again); a prison guard; a cop; a political aide (again); a lawyer; a foundation president; a family office executive; a failed entrepreneur; a successful entrepreneur; a financial advisor.
Only someone who never held any of the earlier of those jobs can imagine that it was a fun or interesting career. I detested most of those jobs and only did them because the alternative seemed to be starvation. Worse, they mostly paid very little. From the time I was married in 1968 until 1983 I never earned enough to support my family comfortably. Fourteen years is a long time to have the wolf at the door at the end of every month.
Still, as Nietzsche was always saying, what does not kill us makes us better bloggers. As I slogged my way up from my working class roots I touched every base along the way. I lived with those people, socialized with them, listened to their opinions, worried about their outcomes. And the same with all those lousy jobs. I worked lousy jobs for 24 years, but most people work lousy jobs for their entire lives – and that’s the good outcome.
When I turn out to have a different perspective on an issue from most other people, it’s not the Greg Curtis who is happily living in his upper middle class bubble who’s having that opinion. Nor is it the Greg Curtis who twice drove a truck and once worked as a screw who is having that opinion. No, it’s both of those fellows, currently cohabiting in the same body and giving each other the gimlet eye.
So the bottom line is this: if you want to think outside the box it helps to have lived outside that box, preferably for a long time. But most people don’t. Poor people, working class people, middle class people, upper middle class people, they (we) all live in our own bubbles. We’re born there and we die there. And we have almost nothing to do with each other, have little understanding of what each other thinks or why.
So the bottom line is this: if you want to think outside the box it helps to have lived outside that box, preferably for a long time.
Worst of all, we have little empathy for people in the social classes above or below us. To people down the socioeconomic ladder, people near the top of that ladder are “elites”—and it isn’t meant as a compliment. It’s meant sarcastically, meaning “they think they are but actually they’re a bunch of self-centered jackasses.” To people near the top of the ladder people further down are rednecks and bigots who live in boring, inconsequential places called “flyover country.” One of these days, just to brighten everybody’s Friday, I’ll write a post called “How to Foment a Class War.”
When I publish a post, nothing makes me happier than to hear from readers whose eyes were opened by it, who think and feel a little bit differently about the world than they did before they read it. It doesn’t happen very often, but the fact that it occasionally happens makes it all worthwhile.
Which leaves us time for one more question:
Are you ever going to stop blogging about blogging?
Next up: The Illusion of Control