State of the Blog and Answer to Critics

I’ve been publishing this blog for a year now, it seems like a good opportunity to engage in a little navel-gazing, a sort of state of the blog, if you will. I haven’t really tried to explicate my reasons for writing this blog beyond the briefest of explanations in the About section of The Salty Egg.

My original motive for the blog was a desire to begin writing books. My research indicated that getting published in today’s market virtually requires an online presence. I now recognize that traditional publishing is probably not the route for me. If I write a book, I will likely follow the indie publishing route. Therefore, this blog is not serving its original purpose.

Also, it is shockingly time consuming to publish one post a week. I’m an inefficient writer. I type about 1.5 words per minute, and am easily distracted by the Internet, TV, two flies humping on the windowsill, etc. I squeeze my writing in-between work and family commitments and it absorbs most of my free time. So, why continue the blog? Simply, I am writing about something I care about, the lifestyle of Asian-based expats. Most my readers are also expats. I feel our stories are being lost. Our home country’s don’t care about us, as we are not an important political force. Our data is not being collected through censuses or other social research methods. Likewise, we are unimportant in our adopted countries, again because we are politically inconsequential. I have a vague hope of filling in some of the blanks, giving voice to at least my own experiences, and hopefully some other’s experiences as well.

Some critics have accused me of glorifying minutiae, one elegantly claimed that I have graphophilia, and what I write amounts to little more than compulsive jottings and random brain farts. [Kudos. I really enjoyed that one]. However, he missed the point. My academic background is social history, I tend to think the mundane aspects of daily life give the deepest insights. I hope that in two or three years the articles, cumulatively, will give a little feel for the expat life.

Since I’ve broached the subject of responses to my writing, I’d like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read my blog and comment. I don’t generally interact too much with commentators. However, I usually take note of what’s being said. Most of the comments are positive and I appreciate that. I also appreciate that the negative comments are generally thoughtful and genuine, an anomaly on the Internet. I haven’t engaged with those posters partly to avoid getting into purposeless online squabbles, and I need to preserve my equanimity to be able to continue writing. However, I will admit that some critics have made valid points that deserve to be addressed.

A pretty common complaint is that I am guilty of overgeneralizing. That is both totally true and totally inane. I’m writing about culture, of course I’m generalizing. The generalizations that are most contentious are not my own. They are the work of various academics I’ve drawn from, Edward T. Hall (cultural linguistics), Umberto Eco (cultural anthropology), and Agnieszka Sorokowska (proxemics). This criticism tends to come from business people and engineers. I guess their training makes them uncomfortable with this type of macro thought. History is the art of generalization. I’m in my academic comfort zone.

A more valid criticism is that I, as a foreigner, white person, outsider, etc., have no right to criticize Asian society. I have some sympathy with this viewpoint. I would note, I don’t really criticize so much as write about my life, family, observations, and daily experiences. My adult life experiences have almost all happened in Asia. I cannot write about my life without writing about Asia—they are inextricably linked. Sorry if that causes discomfort, but I absolutely assert the right to an opinion about my own life, and to express that opinion.

A related criticism is that I, as a Westerner, should not try to change Asia. It is insulting. Again, I have some sympathy with this viewpoint. However, I would first note that my blog does not try to change Asia. I am simply describing aspects of my life here and occasionally giving an opinion about the quirks of my life. The only instance where I proactively sought to change Taiwan is my post The Hot Pot Conundrum Explained. [If I were able, through my meager efforts, to break the constant cycle of hot pot dining I would consider my life not to have been in vain]. All other posts are descriptive, not a call to action. These complaints that I lack the requisite Asianness to comment on Asia come mostly from foreign-born Taiwanese and occasionally Western college students. Taiwanese living in Taiwan seem more interested in hearing an outsider’s perspective. I have no idea what, if anything, is the social significance of this. I just find it interesting.

I also fundamentally disagree with the assumption that it is invalid for society’s outsiders to try to improve their lives. It is the kind of immigrant-hating commentary that is rife around the world. “If you don’t like America, if you will not bend yourself to the mores of white America, then get out.” I have not made significant efforts to improve Taiwanese society for the betterment of expats . (I have my reasons). But, I believe everyone has the right to try to improve their lives. Though I don’t contribute, I am impressed by some of the lobbying being done by foreigners regarding Taiwanese immigration issues. No group in any society should be made to feel they must either accept the status quo or get out.

A smaller, though valid, complaint I get is that my Word Press theme is not very compatible with some mobile devices. I know this and would like to fix it. I’m currently using one of the free themes provided by Word Press. The price is undoubtedly a contributing cause of the wonkiness. Since I am not about to start writing code, the easiest way for me to improve the situation would be to buy a Word Press theme that is compatible across all mobile platforms. This costs money. I recently purchased a new house and am currently redefining broke. I may begin exploring ways to monetize the blog with the goal of improving it and making it self-sustaining. If I do that, I’ll try to only use unobtrusive methods that don’t make visiting The Salty Egg an exercise in annoying ecommerce.

If I didn’t directly address your particular complaint I apologize. I probably won’t do another one of these state of the blog addresses for at least another year. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to read my blog, comment on my posts, and share them if you like them.

Thank you for reading The Salty Egg.