A colleague directed me to a blog written by a leftist friend of mine—someone whose views on everything from metaphysics to politics are radically different from my own. We have not seen each other for years but we had worked together rather closely for a short while and I thought I knew something of his character. But as I read his blog entries I felt more his hate than his tolerance, more his pain than his reason. I discovered in my own reactions a sense of separation—the kind of separation that comes when one ceases to believe that a genuine exchange of ideas is possible. We have nothing to talk about, it seems.
I reflected on the contemporary forms of political talk that allow or even encourage splenetics. Rather than venting with buddies over a beer, we can vent to a larger group of virtual friends. But unlike the face-to-face venting, the words of the blog hang around, becoming more solid, more self-evident, by virtue of their seeming permanence. I suspect that the more one asserts claims in such a public forum the less likely one is to challenge one’s own beliefs. Of course a political splenetic serves no real political purpose—it doesn’t seek to persuade and it doesn’t open the door to compromise and it doesn’t contribute to anyone’s understanding.
Possibly I’m wrong. Maybe this form of venting, this written scream, not only makes one feel as though one’s voice has been heard but also cements one’s relationship with others who share all the same political views. Perhaps this is a good thing, but I doubt it. I, for one, feel the loss of something important—the possibility of political friendship among those who disagree.