Friday, November 10, 2006
Been an interesting day so far. Quintiles called me, and want to do an interview next week Thursday.
I rewrote my Linguistics test, so I think a distinction is in the bag, thanks to Susan. Nice of her to give me a second chance since I screwed up in the first test. I had no idea we had to study Wheatley, and in the test we had to write an essay on him, and the essay constituted the bulk of the marks.
Also interesting is feedback I received today on the complaint I lodged several weeks ago. Instead of an apology or any kind of gesture of: 'You know what, this is an unfortunate misunderstanding etc etc' I was given a thick document. Guess what the basis of their rebuttal is? This blog? Yes. Instead of looking at the specific issues I've raised, they've sniffed in garbage cans and black rubbish bags. What they came up with was www.3xluck.blogspot.com.
Apparently these words I'm using here are in the public domain, and can raze buildings. So by way of defending against a complaint, they've found some cannon fodder (or so they think) on this blog. Yes, it also took me a few moments to register that this was a serious response to a letter of complaint. Intelligent people wrote this?
But wait a minute. Are blogs really that important? Isn't it true that you can only find information on a blog if you're particularly looking for it? For example: If I tell my friend Hennie that I think Barendine sometimes has a bad attitude, and I relay that information here, is that slander? If you hurt someone's feelings on a blog, can you be sued? What if you write something disparaging about yourself, can you sue Google for publishing it on your behalf?
Blogs will continue to test the concept of the 'public domain'. At the moment, blogs are tiny in South Africa. I don't know of anyone...hang on, I met a handful of people at a recent conference, who blog. I also don't know of hoardes of people in South Africa who even read blogs, simply because connectivity in this country is so expensive. So just how public is a blog with 100 hits compared to another with 1000 000? And what about context? If you're writing about justice and manners and you come across someone who is a pretty poor specimen in terms of society, are you suppose to use Nom de Plumes? President Shrub of America is doing a really crap job. But thank goodness the Demigogs have been voted in to clear up his mess - not that they will, their hands are pretty much tied too.
Aren't you entitled to say things about people you don't approve of? Isn't that what blogs are largely about? Not necessarily exacting justice, but venting our personal paradigms of what justice is.
A vindictive blog would be all about vengeance, filled with swear words and impropriety. It would have as its raison detre some sort of negative compulsion. This blog obviously isn't, and doesn't. It's (for the most part)an altruistic, constructive dialogue. But it's also written by a human being who sometimes becomes grumpy or upset by other people who are rude or unprofessional, or in this case, both.
So when your blog is about righting (writing) societies wrongs are you supposed to put an X in the place of someone's name? How many of us are just trying to survive in society, without having to worry about crossing our t's and dotting our i's? Even when you're doing something good in this country, do you still have to watch your back? I think we do, but that's what's wrong with this country. I mean, corruption goes right up the ladder. Look at our head of the police! Our president-in-waiting? The leader of the free world - a liar!
So it's a little bit sad when people come hunting through the good books of good citizens. If you want smut, go to a porn site. Which makes me wonder: just how bad is slander on a porn website that no one (well, not the well to do anyway) is supposedly supposed to visit.
So the point remains: if you have to search for slander, is it slander? What about context. If I tell a stranger I don't like someone, that's altogether different to telling their employer, or family, or a potential investor. What happens, though, when what you say happens to be true?
Heartland magazine currently owes me R8000. They're in default. Am I required by law to keep that a secret? Should I actually warn as many potential clients to avoid them like the plague? The answer depends on how much money you have to defend your position.
In the Heartland case, is the law on my side? Legally, there's no question the money is due to me. But the law isn't about legality, it's about appearances, and what you can prove. Unfortunately there's as little accountability in law as there is in life. Heartland are due in court sometime next year. They will probably attempt to settle out of court, and then default again. And so the game goes on.
The game in terms of this blog goes something like this:
I handed in a complaint which was basically ignored for about a month. I mean that. I was told today that it ought to have been handled within 10 days.
Then, out of the blue, I was given a thick document, and right at the back was an interesting document I was asked to sign:
A confidentiality statement. Not stipulating confidentiality about a particular body, or institution (bit of slip up I'd say)just a general statement asking me to remain mum about events.
I signed it, but attached an *asterisk (a reservation) stating that so far as my rights were not properly protected, the document would automatically lose its validity.
Now I wonder why a confidentiality statement was snuck under my chin to sign one month after making the initial complaint (and thus having to redo the whole submission-of-documents process)?
1) Because they had already found information on this blog which indicated I'd published information, and this was a way of scoring a point in their favour (but after the fact)
2) Because dirty little secrets must be protected and hidden away, unless they're my modest inkstains.
A man with a quivering upper lip spoke to me today. It's a sad day when you ask someone for an apology and the best they can come up with are dirty tricks and behind the scenes muddying. Very immature, sir.
But nevermind, it opens the door to the far more serious issue of incompetence. Am I guilty of calling someone 'overweight' in the public domain. Shame on me. What about striding through the halls of power and pointing out gross incompetences on an every day, departmental scale. Perhaps when the dirty tricks are out of the way there'll be some soil left to grow a spine and manage professionals in a professional manner, and do the obvious thing: one's job. Also get others to do the same: be on time for work, actually come to work, and when doing so, do so in the right place without asking outsiders where and when work ought to be done. Have work completed on time. Have your employees do their jobs according to their own schedules. And most important: instead of being dysfunctional and emotional on a daily basis (and finding fancy excuses and tip tapping around mistakes) function professionally.
The worst case scenario is a serious (if ridiculous) legal battle, but that should give my blog some real exposure (since it's really a pretty invisible force at present). If you want to make this blog the subject of a legal inquiry, let's do it. But then I'm also going to write far more specifically than I have here. Let words earn wrath, and if the implication sticks, let's see if it spins the other way too. If we're all about protecting the public domain, what about the individual (me) in that public domain? What about my rights to express myself?
But as I said, this blog is about altruism, not childish bickering, or alcohol induced ranting (a la mushypeasontoast). So I'm not sure if this negative road is what I want. In the right hand margin is the Memorandum of Association for this blog, and as such, I'm trying to deal with serious issues: 'undoing harm', and getting people to listen to each other. I doubt whether these goals are going to be achieved here. So far, what I've demonstrated is the extent to which a stubborn person can get herself to 'not listen', and even enlist the help of the hallway cowboy. Perhaps at the end of the day we can ask You to be the judge. Isn't that what blogs are asked to do: extract the wisdom from the masses? And aren't the masses so often the victims of Corporate Chutzpah, but the worst possible kind. The kind that ask you to sign away your rights, to be silent about conceit, and to humbly go where all humble men have gone before (quietly out the door, and home to another Telkom bill).
Well, we'll have to see
what more trickery
is in store
and what a thing like this
is really good for