Friday, July 17, 2020

Writing Wishful Fiction

I confess that I have always looked down a little on fiction writers, perhaps because I know something about insects and how their natural history often rivals or exceeds anything our imaginations could conjure. Consequently, I never seriously entertained the idea of writing fiction myself. Then I realized that every time I write a comment on social media, or publish a blog post about how I wish the world was, instead of how it is, I am doing precisely that: writing fiction.

Never could I craft a novel about some dystopian future, I think we are already living that. I write in part to fend off depression and articulate rage, not plunge deeper into it. I want to provoke, get people to think outside the institutions that they have relied on to guide them through life. Every human institution, be it government, business, religion, or education, is deeply flawed. They all create belief systems that support aspirations of material wealth, rewarding greed, and then “educate” us on why it can be no other way.

The more I age, the greater the urgency to put out my ideas and viewpoints before I die; and most days I feel like I cannot die fast enough. The truth is that I would rather be living in a different time. One thing education has taught me is the “history” in “natural history,” and now I know what I am missing. Carolina Parakeet. American Chestnut, and on and on. All species matter to me, but how can we get there if we cannot respect all of our fellow Homo sapiens?

There is a certain degree of fear to be faced in being true to yourself, let alone publicly articulating your interpretation of the world. Most of us shut the door too quickly on unsolicited views that disagree with what we have grown-up with, and feel threatened by anything contradictory. Some respond with verbal or physical hostility to new ideas. We are seeing that now with the disgusting backlash against those who are, finally, forcefully asserting their rights as human beings and citizens fed-up with oppression in every form it has taken.

I used to feel fortunate to have been born white, male, and a citizen of the United States. I no longer find much pride in any of those circumstances. Privilege is now a burden, a shame, but it should be. I have accrued my status less by what I have achieved, than by what others have been deprived of. Higher still are those on social and economic pedestals that require reinforcement through deprivation of those beneath them. Do they not see they are eroding what is supporting them?

Our cultural evolution should be far more advanced than it is, but in America at least there are orchestrated attempts to halt it, if not return to less enlightened times. Those that long for the comfort and consistency of discrete norms and gender roles and monochromatic populations are doing a disservice to all people, including themselves.

The time for dreams and other wishful fiction must end now. Those positive products of our imagination demand to be transformed into action and tangible benefits for all. I think I am pretty good at spitting out ideas and concepts, not very good at implementing them. You? We do not each live in a vacuum. Time to make connections and complement each other’s strengths to achieve things greater than we could without cooperation.

Here is an exercise for you. Make a list of things you cannot live without. It should be pretty short unless you list family and friends individually. I hope it includes other living things, too, and clean water, healthy food, affordable shelter, healthcare, and lifelong opportunities for education. Freedom of expression. That is about where my own list ends. Now make a list of everything you are willing to sacrifice so others can have the things you can’t live without.

Demand better, please, of yourself, and of those who represent you in government, religion, and business. Connect more with those “different” from yourself and you will quickly realize you have more in common with them than the elitist class you have always been instructed to aspire to. We deserve better than the ephemeral taste of mere material success.