Eight years ago, Barataria began as a humble blog like so many others. It grew out of a need, first and foremost, to get a few things out of my head that would otherwise rattle around and bump into the stories that paid the bills from my job as a professional writer. It has grown into a loyal community of readers who are hunger for new perspectives on this crazy world and respectfully offer their own.
A rapidly changing world needs a diet of more than high calorie headlines. It needs time for a slow meal, carefully prepared and savored through a lingering evening. In a visceral sense that’s what I mean by “I don’t break news, I fix it.” We are all in this together, taking time to chew and swallow before we open our mouths in a joyous moment among friends.
Every anniversary has its own reasons to celebrate. In March 2015 we topped 277k pageviews and now stand at 1,298 posts – every MWF for eight years without a miss. 13.4k comments came in response through the years, adding so very much to the mix.
But this is about far more than the numbers, of course.
Rapid change means more than a world which many of its residents can hardly recognize. We live in a time when fear of change and newness has recoiled many people into anger and resentment, leaving them largely unable to participate in the great civil process of democracy in a constructive way. Tomorrow induces anxiety more than hope, and a closely connected world with cameras on every person introduces us to surprising degradation far more than exhilaration and joy.
Making sense of it all requires a strong half-step back – just enough distance to have perspective but still close enough to keep your hands dirty.
Perspective is what Barataria is all about. My own opinions about the world are thin most of the time because I know, more than anything, that this pale white boy can only see so much from the middle of this great continent. If I hold any one political perspective sacred it is that all politics has to start with the everyday lives of people – what bedevils them and their most fervent desires for a better tomorrow. Without that, I will tell you to your face that your politics is meaningless.
Geopolitical analysis has terrible limits because it demands an understanding of the perspective of the players, often people very hard for any of us to relate to. And we all live much closer every day to people we do not easily understand.
If perspective is the meat of this meal, the starch is an analysis of connections – between people, from people to ideas, and from yesterday to tomorrow. The natural anxiety of this world has only one antidote, and that is a solid prediction of where all this change might lead us. A free market itself demands risk analysis to function well, so consider this an expression of a faith in the strange social, political, and legal framework that creates such a thing in the first place.
If you listen to public radio far too much, you know the score. I was going to ask Garrison Keillor to put in a guest appearance, since he lives just up the hill from me here in St Paul, but when I knocked on his door I got this glowering stare that gave me a terrible case of the willies. Let’s just say I’m not going there again.
Pledge drives take on a life of their own. More accurately, they have a death of their own – in the sense that the announcers get up there and slowly, horribly die. Every Pledge Drive goes through the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief – a fun way to look at them, if for no other reason than it has an umlaut.
Stage 1: Denial – This will be the best pledge drive ever! I’m so excited!
I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do an in-blog Pledge Drive before. Think of this as a way to show that the ‘net doesn’t have to go totally commercial in order to bring out new ways of looking at the world. Why not simply ask people to show their love rather than resort to some cheesy ads for Viagra on the side that no one wants to see anyways?
Stage 2: Guilt & Anger – Why aren’t you giving? I do all of this for you!
OK, so you don’t necessarily want to open your wallet while trying to digest the lengthy and difficult stuff that I write. I understand. But I know that some of you have come to rely on Barataria, which is truly gratifying. This has always been about a life that is thoughtful and away from commercialism. If you define yourself by what you think, not what you buy, this is the blog for you. But I still have this strange habit of eating that I have to support. A little help would go a long way.
Stage 3: Bargaining – I only do this because I have to. I’m not asking a lot!
I’m not really asking you to fund any of my more expensive habits, just help make this worth the hour or so I put into every post, not counting research time. Who else do you know digs through the data of the Federal Reserve and reports back with raw data in chart form? Who else gives you tips as to how you can digest the flurry of news that comes at you every day? How many people stick their necks out with solid predictions that they can be held to? It’s gotta be worth something, isn’t it? Less than a dime per post?
Stage 4: Depression – If I don’t meet my goal it will be the end!
OK, so maybe this was a bad idea. Everyone hates pledge drives on public radio, so why would they put up with them here?
Stage 5: Hope – The end is in sight! This Pledge Drive will be successful!
Even on Barataria, posts don’t last forever. This one is almost over. It’s going to work! I’m going to make it!
What more needs to be said as we celebrate eight years of Barataria together? One thing stands out, something that cannot be said enough:
Thank you all for reading, because without you there would be no point in writing. Thank you for sharing your perspective and inspiring me to keep going with this. Thank you simply for being hungry for a different way of looking at the world.
Thank you all for making me a better person, keeping me honest and forcing me to think through things I would never have otherwise. These eight years have been a great joy all around.