Sunday, February 7, 2016

To Blog or Not to Blog: Is that the question?

""There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." Oscar Wilde

 I have been diving deep in the waters of writer's block for the past year, in part because I have been really busy, bogged down in family, work and actually training and climbing. The other issue is deciding what's worth writing about. I tend to seek out issues of contention instead of the feel-good mode typical of most climbing media these days. It's not that climbing is not worth writing about but that the current ecosystem of magazines, videos, and social media posts is a self-reflecting pond of complacency and plenty of marketing. How to move past this to the real thing is the only interesting path to follow in my view. To cut through the noise and image seems the only goal worth pursuing.

 Truth is I don't mind marketing per se. We all need things in order to climb well. Good products deserve our support. It's the mindset that in the end the market is all that matters that is the problem. Climbing becomes a mere conduit to the market and the value of a climb is its marketability. This is giving rise to a startlingly large number of social media presences who are far more about the marketable personality and photogenics than substance. If I point this out, I will be described as a "hater" and a critic. But what's wrong with being a critic?

 Basically there is a double standard at work here. For whatever reason, someone decides to tell the world about something and how awesome it is and then there is a video or a Kickstarter, etc. The key point is that this person wants something from us. Attention, time, money, whatever. They want to be recognized for their work. I consider this kind of presentation more of an argument than a statement of fact but many are surprised that a statement regarding the excellence of something could be debatable. In the current mode of thinking a critical reaction is seen as a problem, as though somehow everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard and to benefit from it. This equality of opportunity and reward is to say the least highly debatable. Why can't we say this and debate it?

 In fact climbing used to be full of arguments and critique. Questions of style, ethics, the environment and so on filled the pages of climbing magazines and journals in the past. Granted that some of this argument was competitive bluster, nevertheless a lot of it was actually serious and very relevant to the present day, which, for the most part, sees next to no discussion in public fora on important topics in the areas mentioned above. If we factor in the deadening hand of social media which tends to flatten all too quickly the contours of a question and combine in with that a general tendency to present a cheerful and likeable social profile, suddenly there is a vacuum regarding serious discussion of serious subjects.

 This vacuum certainly exists today. If any readers can point me to people writing regularly in even a mildly polemical mode, let me know. I'm still making up my mind as to whether it's worth it. I kind of think it is but then again I'm a busy person with too much to do and not enough time or money to do it. We'll see.