‘this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet’

Someone whose blog I read has not been writing much recently.  When she wrote about how difficult she was finding it to write because she’s going through big life changes, interestingly there was a chorus of responses from others feeling the same way.  That made me feel less unique.
But one person wrote: ‘My writing, in this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet, is what keeps me strong.’  I love that mix of adjectives – it says it all, and in a way it’s that mix of adjectives that is at the root of my own silence and inability to write.

My blog was a year old yesterday and I feel I need to write something although I am kicking and screaming not to!  I have wanted to write on my blog for a few weeks now but have felt unable to, for a mixture of reasons, largely to do with things going on in the world of e-mail and other virtual communications, that have proved difficult to deal with.
I am not very good at conflict.  I run lots of workshops on it, perhaps as a result.  ‘Conflict’ is one of those words that most people react to.  Many people associate it with negativity and words like hostility, aggression, discomfort and even ‘nuclear war’ have been provided to me as first associations.  A few people have neutral or even positive responses to it, seeing conflict or disagreement or different perspectives as a source of creativity and interest – a resource for stimulating discussions and explorations, for discovery and breakthrough.  I tend to share this second view but there are some essential ingredients required to make conflict be such a positive experience. 
They are:
the maturity of all engaged (people behaving like adults, not parents or children; here I’m speaking from a transactional analysis frame of reference – Eric Berne)
a welcoming of difference and, even more, a feeling of safety with difference
a vision of a positive relationship and outcome.

If you don’t have even one of those prerequisites, you’re on to a loser.  You won’t be able to make it work.  

‘Virtual conflict’ – you hear a lot about it – people who write aggressive, inappropriate comments on the internet and live to regret it, with indelible eternal slurs on their character as a legacy. 
But just as in real-life there’s passive-aggressive not just aggressive-aggressive, so on the internet there are far more subtle types of conflict and aggression.  
Going back to that phrase – ‘this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet’.  How different is this space from life?  Life itself is an oddly open space, and you can find yourself deceived, betraved, supported, and surprised in life just as on the net.  But….it’s that sense of an invisible audience that the internet offers that is particularly disconcerting.
The performance/audience aspect of the net is also what makes it strangely fascinating.  A moment of behaviour passes in life.  On the internet it’s eternal.  Anyone can observe it in real-time or nearly real-time, and posterity starts the moment afterwards.  In life people have memories, and memories transform and confuse and muddle. Sometimes they also soften. The internet has an unforgiving memory.  It’s all there tomorrow as it is today.  Past is forever present.  In that sense, the internet is inherently Eastern like TS Eliot’s Four Quartets.
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

TS Eliot – Burnt Norton

Fox watching cat - photo by Chris Hill

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking myself, why am I here?  And I’ve been revisiting all over again why I started to write this blog – to reactivate my own reflective writing which has grown dormant over recent years and to stimulate discussion in a community of interested people. I feel I’ve succeeded with the first of these objectives and occasionally with the second, which is outside my control.
I have loved my blog from the outset, and loved the people I’ve met through it as well as those I already know who show other dimensions on it, and the comments I’ve read here are invaluable.  I also find discussion groups hugely energising and they help me crystallise my thinking.  The potential for others to join in and the learning to magnify and multiply is exciting, though that promise often remains unfulfilled.
I think this has just been a time of reflective silence.  I see small flowers pushing through the long grass. 

Goosegrass, stitchwort nettles - Portishead - photo by Chris Hill

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8 Responses to ‘this oddly open, deceptive, treacherous, compassionate, quirky space that is the internet’

  1. Karin

    As always I’ve read your post with interest.
    Re conflict, I was brought up that conflict must be swept under the carpet, but as a Psychologist friend of mine said “after a while it starts to smell’!

    About 16 year ago I did a Diploma called ‘Learning Through Movement’ with Jabadao. We were privileged to have a very skilled facilitator – especially around conflict. I learned that the outcome can be positive, even creative when, as you say Karin, there are certain pre-requisites:
    ‘ the maturity of all engaged
    a welcoming of difference and, even more, a feeling of safety with difference
    a vision of a positive relationship and outcome.’

    The training transformed my life – I still find conflict difficult but I’m not as afraid.

    btw It was wonderful to spend some time with you at the weekend – thank you so much!


    ps I love Chris’s pics esp. goosegrass etc

    • karin says:

      Hi Amanda, thanks for your comments. I realised after I put this post up how many gaps I’d left – conflict avoidance I think! The training you experienced sounds really good. I always have this vision in my mind of really being able to explore things – but usually the conflict happens when doing just that isn’t easy for whatever reasons.

      Yes, it was great to spend time with you too and I hope you felt the whole experience was successful. I’m sure the feedback will be very positive. It was nice to be able to compare some internet experiences too – some of the good ones, that is!


  2. Michael Reid says:

    Never avoid conflict, otherwise it will return -but next time it will be better armed and more dangerous.

    Always call those determined on conflict onto a battlefield of your choice – or you will later face them on a battleground which they have chosen.

    Always offer peace first before you fight. Fighting is the choice of the stupid.

    If that is spurned then fight unemotionally but firmly, and when you have won never ever show mercy. Be utterly ruthless in victory, take their battle honours and burn them publicly. Humiliate those who refused peace. Expose them for the weak dangerous people they are. Otherwise they will delude themselves that you are weak and seek revenge.

    (It has become unfashionable to stick people’s heads on poles at the city gates but there was some merit in that lack of ambiguity.)

    And always remember God gave you your victory -so go and say your prayers and thank him.

    • karin says:

      Thank you Michael. I know your heart is always in the right place, even though I don’t always agree with your tactics! Thanks especially for your concern and your straight talking.

    • Stephen says:

      What’s with the God stuff? If your god gave you your victory why did he also give your opponent their defeat? Always remember the right doesn’t always win, however you define winning.
      The approach espoused by you Michael is similar to that of Machiavelli’s The Prince. This maybe a very good way to conquer regions in Italy in the 1500s and one could argue that politics hasn’t changed that much in 500 years but I think there are some subleties that make this approach in work and home situations fraught with dangers – or is that just me avoiding conflict. Probably!

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Michael and Stephen, Good to hear from both of you again.

    I laughed out loud with delight, Michael, at the appropriateness of your comments to a battle I have been having which started in ‘real life’ in a community Committee and then took to the internet. What you said in your first few paragraphs was exactly what I did – tried to avoid the conflict for too long but then decided that I had one chance to sort the issue out and went for it. Not sure about showing no mercy – although I shan’t show any if the fight breaks out again. Not sure about thanking God either but it was good when the Vicar (also on the Committee) told me that I’d done the right thing!

    • Stephen says:

      Hi Chris – your comment regading mercy “I shan’t show any if the fight breaks out again” confirms the Machiavelli philosophy, show no mercy and it will never cause you a problem again. It reminds me of talking to the IT staff about Incident and Problem resolution, I explained that a Problem isn’t resolved if there’s the remotest chance that it will crop up again. They really struggled with the idea because there was an acceptance that problems are never resolved for ever. It all depends on what the problem is I suppose.
      Going back to the Internet – it isn’t going to go away and we all have to find ways of living with it and making the most of it, to suit our lifestyles and personalities.

  4. Chris says:

    Yes – I think it does depend on the problem. Mine’s a scatty empassioned misguided blonde lady who wants to re-set the world to about 1950. No guarantees that she won’t stage another camapign. Or even that it won’t be about exactly the same things as last time. She went to the water dripping on stone school of warfare.

    But, as usual, in good broad terms I agree with you.

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