Tribalism Pt. 2

“If you aren’t with me, you’re against me.”  Hopefully most people would find that to be an absurd line of reasoning.  Yet, we see it put into practice by so many people.  Particularly lately when tensions are high between political ideologies.  At this moment everything is affected, and it quite possibly will only get worse.

I’ve said many times before on this blog that it isn’t the writer’s job to pander.  An author is a conduit which the characters use to tell their story.  In my previous blog, I focused on how media is often seen through the lens of politics.  I did address that sometimes authors use their medium in order to push an ideological agenda, but for the most part I feel a lot of times people are simply reading into stories and getting offended over nothing.

It is time to address the fact that there is legitimate political pandering in not just books but television, music, and movies.  This contributes to the paranoia that everything is pushing an agenda, whether that is the intent or not.  When this happens, there isn’t just a bias, but too often the message is, “If you don’t believe or think like me you are evil.”

To avoid the misconception that I am adhering to political conspiracy theories, I will simply say that often only one side of the spectrum is what’s represented most.  When this viewpoint is represented, it also more likely takes the more extreme point of view of this ideology which is “if you don’t believe like me you are a terrible person.”  Yes, I know there are people who think like that in EVERY belief system.  This is merely a general observation I’ve witnessed.  This isn’t productive, nor what fiction is about.  Obviously, the beliefs of the creator come through into the product, but it shouldn’t be overbearing or pandering.  Subtlety is almost always the best approach in fiction when trying to get a point across, that is what all of us writers must remember.

Tribalism and the effects on fiction

It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically.  Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics.  While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview.  However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.”  This is seeping into fiction.  Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.

I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats.  I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons.  I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet.  Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil.  Yes, evil.  Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil.  The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics.  Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.

This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for.  It often overflows into media.  Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works.  Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.

In my next post I will continue this topic.  For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.

Lessons from writing: I have a voice

I’m a quiet introvert.  I spent most of my life being submissive, avoiding conflict, and generally letting people steamroll over me.  Due to dealing with bullies for many years, I feared being friendless and rejected.  I rarely voiced my opinion, especially in situations where I knew someone would disagree with me.  If a “friend” spoke harshly or was even mean, I kept my thoughts and feelings private, pretending outwardly that I wasn’t bothered.

This started to change once I had a life-changing event take place in 2013.  I was riddled with anxiety due to yet another abusive friendship I found myself in.  That year I finally spoke my mind on the toxicity of the friendship dynamic.  Something which was completely foreign to me.  A year later I decided to publish my first book and start blogging.

Writing has opened a new window for me.  I feel more confident in what I have to say on a page and that has transitioned into my personal life as well.  I’m done being a doormat, and once I made that decision, people started to take notice.  Some were flabbergasted that I would dare to speak my mind.  Writing has shown me it’s okay to have an opinion or voice, even an unpopular one.  Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, even if their behavior doesn’t warrant it.  However, that doesn’t mean, as I erroneously once thought, that we cannot or should not stand up for ourselves.  In fact, I would go so far as to say if a friend or family member doesn’t listen to your voice, especially if you are treated poorly or have an issue, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship.

If you are reading this I want to remind you that you have a voice.  You have a right to speak up for yourself, your beliefs, and to defend yourself.  Perhaps like me, you will find writing a means to empower you and your voice.

Social Justice Bullies

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.

Open-Minded

We hear about open-mindedness a lot in our culture.  It is often viewed as a good thing, a virtue even.  Those who adhere to traditional values on the other hand are viewed as the antonym of open-minded, and the enemy of diversity.  While that certainly can be true, open-mindedness, like everything else must be tempered.

Being open to ideas, experiences, and other people’s beliefs is a generally a good thing.  In a society that is so divided, a little more of that would do wonders to bring about healing.  Not all ideas are equal.  Some view all religions, political beliefs, and philosophies to be the same.  If only people would understand that, then there would be peace, right?  Not exactly.  Many belief systems are destructive, and because we are human, even the good and true ones often get warped.

A balance should be struck between the hardened skeptic and the hippy that believes anything goes.  Listening to people is always important, but that doesn’t mean their ideas are valid, in fact they might be very toxic to society.  How much toxicity have we allowed into our culture for the sake of being “open-minded?”  That is a question the reader will have to answer for him or herself.  I certainly do not have the answer, but with all the dystopian media I have consumed along with the insane ideas now peddled as truth, I cannot help but wonder if fiction is closer to reality than I had thought.