Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous. We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage. Why is that? Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?
Bullies exist, they always have and always will. It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives. However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately. It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.
Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet. Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic. The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism. The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended. It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are. Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?
Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none. No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place. Offended people now are the social bullies. Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.” How do we fight this? Call it out for what it is, bullying. Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind. Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be. The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate. Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most. Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards. We all need this. Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.
I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people. This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters. One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt. So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.
We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings. I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it. I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child. I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced. One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.
Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure. We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it. I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past. My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.
We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person. That being said, no pain is too great to overcome. Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure. I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain? There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to. This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?! I have been wronged!” Yes, yes you have been. You know what? So have the people you think are against you.
If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow? If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern. If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing? Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division. There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness. If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.
It was November of 2013 when I first started blogging on WordPress.com. Since then, I have learned much about myself and the whole blogging process. What started out as a mission to let the readers gain insight into the worlds I built and the process of writing, became so much more.
Truth be told, blogging was something I despised. I saw it as a way for people to sit from the safety of their homes and critique the world around them without having to get involved. Around the time of started on WordPress, I knew of someone who used his blog to spew criticism at the culture. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say about societal shortcomings, but I wanted a theme, something to tie my stuff together and that’s writing.
Writing was to be the topic and I resolved not to deviate from that. In July of 2017 I finally moved on from WordPress.com and bought a domain. Along with that came a new vision with my blog. During the couple years I only wrote about writing, I struggled with topics, yet I did not want to be an armchair critic. Blogging after all is something anyone can do, anything can be said, and facts largely become irrelevant. That isn’t something I want to be a part of. However, many authors use blogging to discuss life, social issues, and the world.
I realized that if a reader is going to take the time to read a blog they want to know more than the ins and outs of writing. A variety of content is essential, especially if a blog is going to become monetized. I began writing on more topics, and realized that I can do it in a way where I don’t have to offer sanctimonious platitudes without facts. I can write about my observations in the world, sharing my thoughts and feelings while at the same time directing my own words back at myself. I have a blog about refusing to get offended but instead pausing and taking time to formulate our thoughts instead. This is something I need to do, especially in this crazy world that only seems to be getting more insane. Now, the challenge is to not become what I dislike about blogging, and become a critic from behind a computer screen without living up to my own standard.
That may seem like an odd question. Why would people crave tyranny? No rational person would desire to have less freedom, would they? Most people hate being told what to do deep down, even if they know it’s good for them. The answer is in the other part of human nature, laziness.
As an author, it is my job to pay attention, close attention to the little details in current events and history. In turn, I can use these things to inspire my stories and make them more realistic. A general theme I have seen in history is that there is freedom and slowly those freedoms are chipped away until there is nothing left but tyranny. Sometimes power is seized and there is a sudden switch from freedom to fascism. However, other times power and freedom of the people is handed over to a government with less than good intentions.
In this post, I will not delve into all the historical examples, that will come later. Right now, I want this theme to be in the back of our minds as we consider what is happening in the world. We need to consider the possibility that sometimes people hand over their liberties in exchange for a false sense of security. The obvious example of this was the rise of the Nazis. When Ben Franklin was asked what sort of government America would have he answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Republics don’t have a good track record of lasting historically long periods of time. This isn’t a political piece and my intent is not to make people afraid. I simply implore my readers to pay attention, to listen, and to remember the past. Remember that once we hand control over, we might not get it back. It is something to think about as tensions rise in America and globally.
There is a trend lately I’ve noticed. Perhaps it’s been this way for a long time, but it didn’t start to grab my attention until about five years ago. I don’t know if it is the hypersensitive culture we now live in that’s contributing or not, but it appears that individual characters in fiction are viewed as representing a whole group. An example, someone I used to know made the comment he doesn’t like the show Home Improvement because Tim Taylor is aloof and a bad example of a husband, father, and a man in general. That assessment may be true, but that isn’t the point. Tim’s character isn’t supposed to represent all men it is an exaggeration of what some men might be like, or more specifically these are traits specific to his character that are hyperbolic due to the comedy genre.
I have come across countless critiques like this where someone will complain about a character poorly representing women, the LGBT, religion, race, or anything you can think of. There may be certain isolated incidents where this complaint is warranted due to shady motivations from the writer. However, unless there is evidence to support that the writer is using a character to propel stereotypes, that shouldn’t be assumed.
The personality traits of my characters reflect on them alone. If a woman has a weakness that doesn’t mean I think all women are weak or need to be saved by men. If there is a male character in my books that is a little dull that doesn’t mean I think men are dull or can only survive if a woman is there to prop him up.
Fiction, if done right, should not be afraid to have a variety of characters and the personalities of the individuals in the story do not necessarily reflect on a greater whole.