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Hwaet! (Hello, and why naming is not debate)

October 5, 2010

So, you’ve found this page, and the first thing you’re thinking is ‘who the hell does this pretentious twat think he is, naming his blog after a character from William Blake and a Nordic poet?’

Good, you’ve learned the technique of what I’m going to call ‘debating through naming’. This is an argumentative fallacy where one considers that derogatory naming is a valid way of rejecting opposing points of view.

Examples of this include referring to political suggestions you consider unworkable as ‘undergraduate idealism’, anyone whose political views you disagree with as either a ‘socialist’ or a ‘tory’ (depending on political stripe), or anyone who happens to like books as ‘pretentious’.

Naming is a great way to re-enforce your own worldview without having to engage with the arguments of others. If you’re religious, it’s easier to say ‘You’re going to hell!’, and if you’re atheist it’s easier to cry ‘But there’s no scientific evidence!’ than to engage with the other person’s views. This tendency is especially prevalent on the internet, and has the ‘advantage’ that both parties come out of the encounter feeling that they’ve won.

Unfortunately, it also leads to greater divisions between people, and stifles communication. If you dismiss the title of this blog as pretentious, the chances are you’ve not read this far. If you have, you may not have changed your opinion, which is fine. However, the name of this blog is meant to compress the themes I intend to cover into a handy phrase.

Los, a figure from William Blake’s poetry, stands for imagination and idealism (something I don’t see as negative). This gives some idea of the character of the blog, as well as suggesting two of its themes – politics and literature.

Skald, an Old Norse word for poet, also has suggestions of performativity, as the skald, like the Old English scop, would often recite or possibly improvise poems at public events. This adds the final elements of the blog – an interest in slightly idiosyncratic elements of history and culture, and a concern with drama and other performance arts.

So, politics, literature, history, culture, drama, performance. I hope to use this blog to encourage conversation, communication, and other community focused practices with co-prefixes. Enjoy reading, feel free to disagree, but I hope that you’ll find this a place where the political becomes personal (in a collective ‘politics affects people as individuals, not names’ sense), the pretentious becomes parody, and we all generally have a good time getting to know about new things.

Next time, I’ll be looking at how western media images of the Middle East have been influenced by the earliest extant play – Aeschylus’s Persians.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2012 2:05 pm

    once thought i knew william in a previous life.
    not sure who i was in ovids mind.

    will try to read your next another time, and may have something to say about that.

    hope thats ok
    i do go on.

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