The few people who have found and follow me on Google Buzz or Google Reader1 know that I have a fairly massive list of websites and publications I subscribe to and follow daily. It is a wonder how I manage to get anything done at all what with all the reading I have to do before I feel reasonably “in tune” with what’s going on in the world.
In addition to the China-related news and blogs I read, I follow quite a bit of other “stuff” as well. Readers here at china/divide know I’ve pimped out The Last Psychiatrist before, and those following me on Buzz or Reader know I dig alternative/quirky news stuff. It explains why I’ve always been an unapologetic supporter of chinaSMACK. Nothing quite humbly reminds us of our humanity and consequent human fallibility like a daily dose of what’s seriously weird or whack happening in the world. Others follow such websites for different reasons, but I don’t apologize for following or sharing stuff from websites like Sankaku Complex2.
Before you ask where this navel-gazing is going, trust me, it’s getting somewhere, though it amounts to navel-gazing as well.
Some of you know I don’t actually sit around blogging and arguing with other online commenters all day, that I actually do something that pays for the food I eat, since I don’t really subsist on words and insults alone. While my education was in law, what I’ve done has always been quite squarely involved in marketing. Some of you might find that odd, given my propensity to not give a damn about alienating people when it comes to certain topics, but it might actually make a lot of sense for some others. Either way, this is all to segue into sharing an interesting post from Seth Godin, a reasonably well-known marketing “guru”:
There is no tribe of normal
People don’t coalesce into active and committed tribes around the status quo.
The only vibrant tribes in our communities are the ones closer the edges, or those trying to make change. The center is large, but it’s not connected.
If you’re trying to build a tribe, a community or a movement, and you want it to be safe and beyond reproach at the same time, you will fail.
Heretical thoughts, delivered in a way that capture the attention of the minority–that’s the path that works.
china/divide is now nearly 1.5 months old and anyone who has read our About page or followed the trollings of our first critic3 knows that we joke about ourselves as being “middlenuts”, our self-professed alignment not to the extreme “left” or “right”, the “panda-bashers” or “panda-huggers”, but rather to the “moderates” in the “middle”, the “center”.
What does that mean? It means we think that there’s too much idiocy in both the Chinese media as well as the Western media, that there is too much ignorance, prejudice, and false narratives repeatedly being propagated and reinforced, contributing to a growing “divide” between a rising China and the still dominant West, between still-insecure Chinese and, well, arguably insecure Westerners. Knowing that there are actually plenty of others like “us”, who hold what we self-righteously consider more “nuanced” and “reasonable” views on China and its relation to the world in contrast to the one-sided views so amplified by this backdrop, we figured we’d hobble together and try to amplify the voices, the understandings, even the criticisms in and from that “center”. Whether you laud us for this, or sneer in derision, we do think — perhaps incorrectly or foolishly — that’s where “most” people actually are…until they get swayed to one end or other other. We just want to remind people caught between the increasingly vocal and emotionally persuasive extremes that there is a “middle”, a “center”, that exists and is not only a fine place to be, but probably the right and even normal place to be.
And Seth here, who has regularly challenged how I see things, is telling me we’re going to fail.
Is he right?4
Can china/divide be a place where nuances breed greater understanding for a meaningful amount of people, a growing community, a “tribe”…or is it just going to flail in desperation?
- I’ve never actually shared either account, unlike the Twitter account I don’t use — sorry to everyone who follows me on there. I do get a warm fuzzy feeling when I get those e-mail notifications from Twitter that you added me though. [↩]
- I can’t decide if that website is filled with “mature” or “immature” content. Which is why it is so great. [↩]
- Or is that “criticisms of our first troll”? Either way, it went downhill from that point on. [↩]
- I know I’m playing a bit loose with Seth’s words and what he’s referring to, but this should be an interesting thought-experiment nonetheless. How much traction do views from the far ends of the spectrum gain with people in general? Are they dismissed as extremes, or do they subtly influence and seep into what the average person believes about any issue? [↩]