I have a few posts I am itching to write, but some online events yesterday have left me tentative about typing. Without going in to specifics I watched a developing debate on twitter with an increasingly tight knot in my stomach.
I am very non-confrontational, and worry endlessly at the thought I may have caused anyone offence, even inadvertently. Although I love a good debate, it’s more, much as with this blog, the construction of an argument, and bringing together of words and ideas that I enjoy rather than being pitted against any opposition.
Yesterday a blogger published a brief post about a restaurant, with some (in my mind) lovely pictures of the food eaten. The post didn’t really review the food, but was reasonably positive about it, whilst also including a little social commentary about the local area, and why the new development where the restaurant was located meant that, although he enjoyed the other branch of the restaurant in another location, this venue was not one he would revisit.
I only saw this post because the chef responded on twitter incredibly angrily, being affronted by the threat on his livelihood, and with some fairly choice language, soon joined by his followers in denouncing the blogger. It left me cold. It reminded me of all of the things I hate about the internet. It has continued to cloud my thoughts.
There was a suggestion that bloggers are self-absorbed (or words to that effect, I am avoiding going reading it all again). I completely agree. For me blogging is exactly that. That’s why I started it. The chance to devote a little time, regularly, to myself, to writing about things I enjoy, and enjoying the process of writing itself. Anyone who writes a blog, assumes, I think, that someone else might be interested in reading it, that’s why it is public. So that point I concurred with, but I didn’t necessarily see it as the insult it was perhaps intended as.
What has been mulling around my brain was the assertion that the blogger, having not trained as a chef, and not owning a restaurant, had no right to comment negatively. This perturbs me. As with many professions, I have trained for many years to be considered competent to perform my role. Again, as with many professions, my role involves providing a service to the wider public. Many of those people do not have the same depth of knowledge as I have gained through my training (although many do, I must quickly point out), and therefore their perceptions of any experience come from a different context to my own. Does this make them invalid? Does it mean that I am automatically right? Absolutely not.
Criticism (and I am talking generally now, I still can’t see any criticism of the food in the original blog post) is never easy to hear, but I don’t think being the “expert” provides exclusive rights to being critical. I think that sometimes having years of training, having technical, specialist knowledge of a subject, can make it difficult to see the lay perspective. And when a profession involves provision of a service to the general public, surely that lay perspective is of paramount importance.
I want to post about my recent trips to the theatre, and recently visited restaurants. As I said here I don’t under any circumstances consider myself an expert, I just want to reflect on some memorable experiences I have had. Others might possibly find them interesting, possibly not. However I want to do so honestly, I don’t want to censor my opinion for fear of a diatribe, or causing unintended offence. The prospect of a “flame war” (thank you Good Gobble for the education) leaves me terrified. Ultimately, as many have surmised, I think the response did more damage than the original post ever could. I intend to write my posts. Not as an expert, not claiming to be a critic. Just as a member of the public. I won’t criticise unnecessarily, but I don’t intend to lie for fear of retribution. That is a worrying trend, if the only valid opinions belong to the experts. At least, that’s my, inexpert, opinion.