Writing in an intolerant society
We all remember what’s happened in the overall publishing market, and in science fiction and fantasy in particular, over the past couple of decades. Political correctness, “woke” thinking, and intolerance have come to dominate traditional markets for authors. Fortunately, independent publishing has become a viable alternative, offering a platform that isn’t dependent on one’s views on anything in particular.
However, there’s a wider issue, and that is the society within which and for which we are writing. We need to take into account that our society is changing, and probably not for the better. How are we going to adjust to this in the way we write, and perhaps in our content? Is it even necessary to do so? For some of us, it probably isn’t; for others, it certainly will be.
I’d like to start by quoting from a recent article by Simon Black, titled “When the world became unrecognizable in less than a decade“.
It’s amazing when you think about it– how quickly the world can radically change… sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. We’ve seen plenty of examples in our own lifetimes.
In 1995 hardly anyone had even heard of the Internet. By 2005 it became so ubiquitous that we couldn’t imagine our lives without it.
In 2000 hardly anyone had a mobile phone. By 2010 nearly everyone had one.
At the start of 2007, no one had ever seen a touch-screen smart phone– Steve Jobs would unveil the first ever iPhone in January of that year.
And in less than a decade, our entire species has become completely zombified, swiping and scrolling our lives away while we walk, eat, and drive without ever looking up.
… each of these trends represents a radical shift in the way we live, work, and engage with one another.
We’re living through another one right now… a powerful, dangerous social trend that’s being driven by anger and ignorance.
Think about it: 5 years ago around this time, things still felt pretty normal.
There was always political bickering and ideological conflict… but discourse was pretty civil. No one advocated for violence or called someone else a racist simply for having a different opinion.
Then all of a sudden, in late 2015, people started becoming completely unglued.
At first the madness was isolated– ultra-liberal universities, pockets of social media. We saw crybully students in California and on the east coast physically blocking certain speakers from setting foot on campus– anyone whose opinions they found ‘offensive’.
Like most movements, this one started slowly… but quickly gathered momentum.
Suddenly it became acceptable to expect everyone else to conform to your whiny sensitivities.
Terms like “safe space” entered the lexicon, and ‘social justice warriors’’ started demanding that we avoid using certain everyday words and pronouns to ensure that no one would be offended.
At the same time, socialists came out of hiding and quickly became mainstream. Some of the most popular politicians in the world now are card-carrying socialists.
. . .
This trend is a major force, like a runaway freight train … And given a broader view of history, it’s unlikely that this trend goes gentle into that good night. In fact it’s far more likely to accelerate.
And just like other major trends, this one also stands to fundamentally transform the way we live, work, and do business … So, if you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to start thinking about a Plan B.
There’s more at the link.
A “Plan B” for independent authors? Yes, I think that’s important. For example, what would it do to us if the outlets we currently use for our work – the Amazons, Ingrams and others of their ilk – were to start censoring the books and writers they allowed to use their facilities, much as YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter censor their users? Would that put some of us out of business? What alternatives are there? If there aren’t any, are we going to start new ones, or modify our writing (and our public personae) so that we still have access to the outlets we’re using now? Those are questions requiring answers.
The sentiments freely expressed at present by much of left-wing America are dangerously close to totalitarianism. Those of us who grew up fighting the reality of Communism in other countries (for example, Sarah Hoyt, Monalisa Foster – who’s just written about that very subject – and myself) know this all too well, and we’re very uncomfortable to see it here.
Those preaching such left-wing, progressive drivel often have no idea what they’re talking about. They’ve mostly been indoctrinated and brainwashed by liberal/progressive schools, colleges and universities, which take great care not to teach them how to think for themselves, or educate them in the history of societies that did. That’s something we need to address in the education of our own children, and those with whom we associate. As the saying goes, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” As far as I’m concerned, I want to light so many rational, logical candles that the progressive left accuses me of intellectual arson! That’s a label I’ll wear with pride.
Rod Dreher says we’re terribly naive about the threat we’re facing. I think he’s right.
This stuff is so outrageous that we can’t wrap our minds around how these people will ever come to rule us. Listen to what these people who grew up under communism are saying!
Nadine Gordimer said:
“All the young are candidates for the solutions of communism or fascism when there are no alternatives to despair or dissipation.”
The religion of social justice is rushing in to fill the vacuum. Nice liberals, and nice conservatives, cannot allow themselves to think of where this might go. Solzhenitsyn knew better:
If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in twenty, thirty, or forty years had been told that in forty years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings, that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bedbugs; that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the “secret brand”); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that, in the luckiest possible circumstances, prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums.
So did Dr. Silvester Krcmery, a Slovak Catholic lay leader in the underground church, who suffered isolation and torture in a communist prison for his faith and resistance. In the memoir he wrote after communism’s fall, Krcmery warned future generations that the past could be prelude to the future if they were not vigilant:
We are so often naive in our thinking. We live, contented and safe, with the idea that in a civilized country, in the mostly cultured and democratic environment of our times, such a coercive regime is impossible. We forget that in unstable countries, a certain political structure can lead to indoctrination and terror, where individual elements and stages of brainwashing are already implemented. This, at first, is quite inconspicuous. However, often in a very short time, it can develop into a full undemocratic totalitarian system.
Again, more at the link.
Robert Zimmerman offers a real-world example (complete with video evidence) of such intolerance in action. He notes:
Note that am not defending this woman’s political beliefs … I really don’t know much about them. And in fact, I don’t care … This is the United States. She has the right to walk on a public street and express her opinion without fear. Or at least, she should have that right. It appears however that in too many places in today’s America, such ideas of freedom of speech are no longer honored, replaced by mob rule and a mindless, emotional, and soviet-style despotism.
Nor should it matter any longer whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. This violence and hate that now dominates the power structure and culture within the left … has become a direct attack on the principles of freedom and justice epitomized by our Constitution and our culture. These people no longer support these values, only the acquisition of power over everyone else, by any means necessary. You only need to watch this video to understand this.
We need to understand that anyone who won’t go along with “mob rule”, or meekly allow themselves to be silenced, is in danger of running headlong into such opposition. Fortunately, many of us live in areas where such physical confrontations are unlikely. Sadly, some of us are not so blessed. Furthermore, what about conventions? Will less-than-fully-“woke” conventions be disrupted by those who are offended by their lack of “solidarity” with the current zeitgeist? Frankly, I won’t be surprised if that happens.
I submit we need to take such factors into account as we write, and plan accordingly for our future. What say you, fellow writers and enthusiasts?