Today, I did something that I've been putting off for a couple of months. I responded to an email that a reader of the Barnet Eye sent me. Normally, I am pretty quick off the mark to respond, but the content of the email was very disturbing and sensitive. They asked me not to share it, which I fully respect. They had read a blog about my schooling and asked for my opinion of certain individuals. I found what they confided rather difficult. This was not because of any legal issues, but it made me challenge myself. I felt that whatever response I gave, I had to be reeasonable, fair, stick to the facts and where I had a strong opinion, that I couldn't really evidence, say so.
The aspect that disturbed me most was that I realise that when I write such things, they are subjective. I have no control over who may read them and in truth, some people may not only strongly disagree, but might be very upset about my opinions. By the same token, some people may be given the strength to speak up about things that should be spoken up about. Perhaps, just perhaps in some cases, the tin of strawberry delight you think you are opening quickly becomes a can of worms. What do you say when something that you experienced and that you chronicle becomes something far darker and more difficult?
The truth is that nothing I experienced (as opposed to rumours I was aware of) at school at the time I was there broke any laws by the standards of the day, these days maybe a quarter of the teachers would be sacked on the spot for their behaviour. Some of my mates have said (and I don't believe they've got the evidence to support it) that the best teachers were the ones who had the toughest attitude. I certainly can't think of a single teacher who was an overbearing bully who I respected or learned anything from. The ones I've always had time for, were the ones who treated me like a human being.
It made me think about the responsibilities of writing a successful blog. I try and be reasonably careful and sensitive about what I write, whilst also trying to be honest. If people email me, I try and give a fair and reasoned response. If I've made a mistake, I try and correct it. If I've unreasonably upset someone, I try and apologise. All of these are easy to deal with, because it is easy to see the rights and wrongs. What I find hard to deal with is when I find I was more right than I realised. When I wrote something that needed saying and maybe I held back and didn't say everything that should be said. There are usually good reasons. Not least because most people will only hear my side of the story. If someone tells me something I wasn't aware of, which cannot be corroborated, but I am certain is true, that is the most difficult. My view is that if I put it out there and three or more other people corroborate it, then I take it as fact. If they are prepared to go on record (not the same as being named in a blog) I often have published follow ups. At times, powerful interests have then challenged me. I have stated that I have three or more people who I have written confirmation will go on record. To this point, that has been the last I've heard from the challenger. At times even more information has then flowed. What usually happens is people simply point me in the direction of the supporting evidence, which is as good, if not better.
But my email correspondence today reminded me of the necessity to be delicate and balanced in some matters. It doesn't usually take me two months to get my head around my response, but if that is how long it takes, all the better. I happen to think blogging is a solemn duty that the Lord has bestowed on me, so I do it to the best of my ability as best as I know how. If I get hit by lightening, you'll know the Good Lord decided I was rubbish at it!