B is for Blog
I used to write a blog. Almost daily. It mostly dealt with political issues. But sometimes I wrote film reviews and once a week wrote a biblical commentary. I had almost 2,000 subscribers in the end.
Then I got sick. Very sick. In several different goes. Last February, I smashed my femur in a fall and spent 3 ½ months in the hospital. Afterwards, I had to learn to walk again. Which I have. Not perfect. Slow. Sometimes I stumble. But not bad. But initially I could not write. Or even think coherently. That capacity too has recovered. I am not sure to what degree. Several weeks ago I wrote a blog and distributed it only to family members and close friends. It took much longer than I had been used to, but the response was positive.
Blogs are wonderful devices. A blog is akin to a journal. The entries can be brief. In my case, that is difficult. Mine averaged six pages. As a retired philosopher, they were filled with thoughts and reflections rather than any record of my activities. Nor were they snippets of news, perhaps with my comments on the side. They were not primarily expressions of my beliefs, though some readers would beg to differ. Though I certainly opined, they were not opinion pieces. They were strongly analytical. The Globe and Mail has a slogan that you have a duty to publish your opinions. I have never felt that obligation. But I am impelled to analyze and record the results of my analysis. And then inflict the results on anyone who would read them. At least, the only cost was the reader’s time.
Though readers were welcomed to offer feedback, they were not encouraged to do so. That was a shortcoming. Those blogs could have developed into a forum. But the format did not encourage readers to interact with what I wrote. I am not sure I can correct that failing, but I intend to try. But I will not be so adventurous as to include pictures or videos. But I do intend to rejoin the blogosphere.
For one, my paper was growing much too long. My notes would have to be turned into a short book-length manuscript. Second, I wanted feedback. I needed feedback. I wanted to present and share a work in progress. But it would be too long and too dense to just present it as a paper. Why not reverse the process and present the paper as a digest of my blogs? Perhaps the world of academe and thirty years of blogs can be merged and re-ordered. As “the paper,” it could include much more information. And it could invite readers to provide more – as well as their comments. After all, as much as I read, I bet I refer at most to 1% of the material that is both relevant and available.
I am retired. I have a pension. I do not have to make a living from my blog. Besides, I never got paid for the many academic articles I wrote. And my book royalties were always a pittance – which may say something about my ability to write for a broad audience. But blogs have a large advantage over academic papers. They are not reserved for specialists. They can easily be forwarded for wider distribution. What is not so easy for me is maintaining my blogging and distribution system and keeping it up to date. I know there are systems that are supposed to be easy to help me. But I am a techie dunce. I have tried three and each takes too much work on my part. Perhaps this time I will learn how to be proficient and efficient in that area. Thus far I have tried, but with little success. Managing the system still takes too much time.
I do have a new advantage. My subject matter is very topical. Hopefully, the blog can be a meeting ground for diametrically opposed groups to engage in a dialogue. Debate! Conversation. This is what I want and not just a forum for rapidly publishing my own analysis. And I am not building a base. I have absolutely no political ambitions. I do not need or want cheerleaders. But the blog will not offer “breaking news” nor investigative journalism. Quite the reverse. I will often rely on those journalists as well as academics to compose my pieces. But I do not intend the blog to become a complement to that journalism. Rather, hopefully, it will stretch the academic field and allow a much wider audience to be reached without sacrificing academic standards. I want to make analysis, criticism, debate an intimate part of dialogue and discourse. I want to counteract the silo effect of social media and offer a portal to reach someone with a different perspective.
Why not a podcast? I have a very low voice. I often mumble and am hard to understand even when not undertaking analysis. Though I hosted and produced a television show called Israel Today for twelve years and was applauded for my relaxed style, I assure you that I was very far from an ideal host. My hope was that my skill in asking substantive and penetrating questions made up for my communication handicaps.
These blogs will be distilled down to a paper to be delivered in Norway in June. Feedback is invited. Note that the substantive material will start with the third blog on Communications. To that end, I will try to create a forum for readers to post comments to which I might respond. Dissent will be welcome. But not insults. No defamatory language. The blog is intended to be the centrepiece of a conversational activity that will create an “intellectual” community, but without all the negative and detracting features of much intellectual discussion.
Following the guidelines of state failure indices and of general strategic analysis, as well as other category systems for dealing with an issue, including measures of democratic progress, I have divided the series of blogs into a number of categories that will be both easy to remember as well a reasonably comprehensive in covering the material and, hopefully and fortuitously, in a meaningful order. They cover the areas of challenge that Israel faces in attempting to improve the functioning of the state. Only at the end, after a great deal of effort in establishing a base, will I probe how the failure in peacebuilding has affected Israel’s maturation as a state when I get to Part II and discuss the current imbroglio over reforms to the judicial system.
It is no exaggeration to claim that Israel currently faces an abyss, an inflection point at which it can sink into conflict with the Palestinians and be torn apart by very deep divisions within OR it can once again prove its resilience, compromise if not resolve its tensions between the political right, the liberal centre and the left and shift from the path of indifference towards the Palestinians of the West Bank towards positive engagement. Acknowledging the historic breakthrough of the Abraham Accords[i] and excluding the climate crisis, which may be the most important strategic challenge for Israel, Israel faces a number of strategic challenges that I will analyze in future blogs.
The imbroglio over the proposed “reforms” to the judicial system is hived off into a separate Part II. The analysis of the very serious current brouhaha over judicial reform seriously threatens to push Israel onto the path of a failing state. In is in that section that will bring together the results of my analyses in the previous blogs. I hope you will be patient enough to get there. I believe it will be worth it.
Enough of introductions. Onto the substantive material. I look forward to our conversations.