As an author I feel it is my job to pay attention to cultural leanings and norms. I’ve written before about the politically charged climate we live in. People have adapted an “us verses them” mentality not just with politics but faith, lack of faith, and even mundane things like movies. Yes, movies, I’ve seen some impassioned arguments about them on the internet. With these discussions one primary accusation comes up; the other person or side is a hypocrite.
The truth is, no one likes a hypocrite and we can smell hypocrisy a million miles away in another person or group but struggle to see it in ourselves. It’s undoubtful that everyone has been a hypocrite before. I certainly have, everyone I know has been. That is an inevitable part of being human. There is a problem when hypocrisy is a pattern or even a lifestyle.
Hypocrisy can evolve to a point where a person is utterly lacking self-awareness. The problem compounds when such lack of self-awareness spreads throughout a culture like a cancer. Perhaps I’m cynical but from my perspective this seems to be where we are at in western society. We see this especially in politics. If someone from our “team” is guilty of something we look the other way and justify their actions. However, if the “other side” does the same thing we lose our minds and catastrophize the situation. The same thing is with religious verses irreligious folks. The common attitude is that people can have their faith and believe what they will, but they must keep it to themselves. However, irreligious folks, sometimes flood the internet with comments about how people who believe differently than them are delusional idiots.
There is a surface celebration of diversity in our culture, but rarely are diverse ideas met with approval. It is the norm to shout down, belittle, and attack those who think differently. Maybe we should try to understand why someone believes differently instead? That is much harder. It also goes against human nature. It requires an immense amount of empathy, but it is not impossible. I’m directing these comments as much to myself as anyone reading this. This is how we become self-aware and do not become what we hate in others.
No one wants to be judged. There are few absolute statements that are true, and that is one of them. It is our nature to want to be seen and heard as people, not viewed through the lens of our mistakes or differences. We all know mistakes and bad things are a part of the human experience. There is a difference though between judging a person in a condemning way, and noticing a destructive behavior and mentioning it to that person. As much as we don’t like to be judged, people also don’t like seeing their loved ones commit to destructive behaviors.
Ever notice that those who complain about certain behaviors in others are often guilty of it themselves? I can certainly raise my hand for that one. After all, this post is directed at me as much as anyone. The same thing applies to “Don’t judge me!” How many times have we spouted that or complained about judging someone when we are judging others in the same breath.
To compound this issue, constructive criticism of behavioral choices are often confused with judging. You think I’m posting too much political stuff on social media? Judging. You think I shouldn’t smoke as I drive with my kids in the back seat of the car? Judging. You think I should let go of the past because I’m letting bitterness poison my life? Judging. None of these examples are truly judging if the other person said it in gentleness and kindness, with your best interest at heart. To judge someone is no calling out destructive, immature, or unbecoming behavior. Judging someone is to condemn them, to see them as defined by their behavior and that behavior makes them less than you are, or at worst worthy of Hell.
Anymore, it seems that people cannot take criticism without blowing it off as “you are just judging me!” Certainly, people can be judgmental over the examples I listed above, and context must always be considered. The issue I take is that most people are all too ready to assume intent or get defensive when we can all learn something. If a loved one mentions we should maybe try a different approach, it isn’t necessarily a judgement, it might just be what we need to hear.
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.
I discussed here evil and what it is and how villains in both fiction and reality see themselves as good. I briefly discussed this in that post, but feel that it needs to be further explored, would we recognize evil even if we saw it? Can a culture become so warped that it no longer knows evil when it infects it? History confirms without a shadow of doubt that it is very possible, look no further than Third Reich, or Russia during Stalin’s rule.
Those are just two small examples of long history when humanity has adopted a sort of reverse morality. This is a lesson to all of us, that we must be diligent. It doesn’t take much for evil to become popular and acceptable. Evil isn’t always a megalomaniac, it is often subtle, with seemingly harmless ideas. The difficulty of evil is that it doesn’t always look or feel evil or destructive. It seeps in and slowly poisons everything around it.
Fiction of all kinds address this very issue, and it should serve as a metaphor for what could happen in the real world. Real human history also shows us what happens when we allow toxic ideas to spread and infect until they are normal and they evolve into terrible atrocities. Other than being diligent ourselves how can we stand in the way of evil? The greatest way is to measure it against truth and to not be silent.
Often, we hear “don’t preach at me,” or “don’t lecture me,” when we share our perspectives on morality. Obviously, there is a way to share our thoughts in a way that is more receptive to someone else, but sometimes people simply don’t want to hear differing perspectives. Some folks are so married to their ideology that they cannot even listen to other views. This sort of attitude is never constructive for anyone and does nothing to help society. The thing is, we need to diligently keep an eye out for evil seeping into our lives and culture. Sometimes we need to be “preached” or “lectured” at. Surely no one would deny those saluting Hitler needed it. We see it in both fiction and history, an evil idea becomes popular and those who need to hear truth reject it out of pride and ultimately people suffer. Let us leave this sort of pride in fiction where it belongs.