December 29, 2000
Phil Agre: Nonetheless, I do
Posted by Bill Stilwell at December 29, 2000 12:00 AM
Nonetheless, I do think that there are legitimate purposes in public discourse for accounts of personal feelings. My own purpose, clearly and consciously, is empowerment. I want other people to be able to use the Internet in socially positive ways, but I am also aware that many people hold back from establishing a public voice for emotional
reasons. Many people fear being attacked, or saying something stupid, or getting overwhelmed. The worst part of those feelings is feeling alone with them, as if they had never happened to anyone else. That is how an authoritarian society works: everyone lives in a little box, atomized and isolated, playing out a role in the artificial public
space of "ordered liberty", never saying what they think because it is too dangerous to even let themselves know what they feel. Knowing that other people feel the same way can thus be liberating: one is not alone, and the feelings are not only common but understandable.
Of course, a story about feelings can become its own dogma, but that's just one of the transitional phases that people can go through as they try stepwise to emerge from the mental prisons of oppression. In the end, everyone has to recognize the emotions that can keep them from
doing something useful in the world.