On a National Bloggers' Association
On issues not relevant to street children as it is to the blogiverse: the National Bloggers’ Association. Before reading this, I recommend first reading the thoughts of Carlo Ople, Jayvee Fernandez, Aileen Apolo, Manuel Viloria, Regnard Raquedan, and Juned Sonido on the matter.
Some eight-nine years ago, I became part of this community by signing up for a blog. I’ve seen many blogs come and go, many bloggers go and grow. I’ve seen bloggers get rich, I’ve seen bloggers get awesome jobs. For me, blogging helped me grow up: the stories and messages I read in the blogosphere helped me mature. Blogging helped me cope with the storms in my head: it gave me an outlet where I can be heard.
I didn’t need the formalities of an association to do that, I just blogged. Like thousands of others in the blogosphere today, blogging has always been something personal to me.
I’ll be the last person to tell any blogger in the Philippines not to participate in an association of their choice, or to form one. Now I may not agree with the idea of a National Bloggers’ Association, but Janette Toral and Tonyo – or anyone else for that matter – are free to do that. I am absolutely sure that those who support this cause have good intentions. Though I’m not going to join one, or create one of my own, at the end of the day my blog – my voice, my writing, my opinions – will be represented by this association, should it be formed.
That, to me, is the problem.
I’ve always believed that the Philippine blogging community is more of an online mirror of the Filipino community than a group of individuals requiring an association. The fact that we bicker, debate, chismis, and stand up alongside each other in times of need are good examples of why we are, in Tonyo Cruz’s own words, “one country, one blogging community.” This sense of openness and freedom, this attitude of “I-blog-about-whatever-I-damn-well-please” (one that I don’t necessarily agree with all the time, but I defend the right to do that), is the reason why the blogosphere grows.
By making the NBA “national in scope” and “progressive in character,” those who ardently and actively support the formalized association themselves set parameters for exclusion. It sends off the wrong message at the outset that may be incorrect interpretations, but valid concerns nonetheless. Feelings that may not be well thought-out or articulated, but feelings nonetheless.
My problem is when the word “blog” – like most others, a practice I have a stake in – is appropriated for gains that I don’t agree with, and becomes formalized in a group that I am not part of, I lose my stake in it. I become excluded from the national scope. I cease becoming progressive. I become represented by interests I don’t agree with. I no longer define the way I would blog and how I feel that could contribute to the nation: rather, all those parameters are dictated upon to me by a Board of Directors. Worse, if I’m not part of the National Bloggers’ Association, I cease being a blogger.
I don’t mind that situation personally – I like being an outsider – but a lot of people are left out of the conversation.It sets off the precedent and argument that a Filipino blogger must first file membership to some organization to have the license to blog. All that runs counter to what social media is all about.
We need, again, to look back at what social media is all about. Social media succeeded because it worked on the periphery, that it validated the power of the individual as strong as a seven-nation army, that the old ways of organization and association don’t work in a medium where every engagement is intimate and personal. Our collectives in social media are, at best, loose groups: no overarching body ever took to representing bloggers, Twitter users, Facebook users, and so on and so forth. No requirement was ever made for the netizen.
The fact that we call our environment a “blogosphere” should be enough to validate the sense of community we aspire for. What is essential is invisible to the eye; in this case, invisible to RSS. We have united in times of need, divided in times of debate, rocked and rolled all night and partied every day if need be. Through it all we have established that blogging is a personal enterprise, an informal setting, a mirror to society.
The true strength of blogging lies not in associations, but in difference. The diversity of opinions on this whole issue should be proof enough that we care enough for our small community to defend what we believe it should be, that we are one blogging community. As individuals we’re strong, and as a community we’re stronger. We’ve gone places as a community – so many places – if only because our opinions differed as much as our styles, or names, and our blogs.
DISCLOSURE NOTICE: I received a copy of the manifesto on February 21, 2011. The manifesto is not posted or quoted in this post with respect and deference to the letter’s postscript.