In my post on “political correctness” someone said, in effect, “Well, that was interesting, now get back to work.” I know that some writers would be annoyed by that, however well-intentioned. I know that some would be flattered. I had both reactions. But, in fact, it is, quite simply, a reasonable point and one worth addressing. After all, what I am, first, last, and always, is a writer, a story-teller; I am not a politician. Although we all, from time to time, may be called upon to take a stand on some social issue lest we prove ourselves morally bankrupt, politics is a calling, like the priesthood, or teaching, or writing–and it’s one I don’t have. So why don’t I shut up about politics and get back to work?
Last night Jen and I attended a speech by David North on the fifteen year anniversary of the World Socialist Web Site. It was deeply engaging, and triggered some thinking.
As a materialist, I have held all along that being determines consciousness. This is not a mere abstraction, rather, it helps explain a great deal in contemporary ideology. For example, those involved in identity politics are, or at least speak for, a highly privileged section of the upper middle class who care exactly nothing for the conditions of the impoverished millions, but want to see their own position elevated to that of those with even more privilege. Obama appeals to these same sections, who give him support (albeit sometimes critical support) to carry out measures of repression, including assassination, that would have created a huge outcry had Bush attempted them. And so on.
But this law–being determines consciousness–applies to me as well. Very much it applies to me. I am not immune to the social forces around me. Quite the contrary. In my testimonial to the World Socialist Web Site I said the following: “No matter how much one tells stories of magical beasts or impossible worlds, in the end, it is always the world of here and now one is writing about. The better one understands that world, the more powerful the stories will be.” I truly believe this. I more than believe it, I feel it. And so, when events in the world leave me confused and disoriented, it becomes more difficult for me to tell a story about an ex-assassin on the run and his flying lizard familiar. That is a plain, unvarnished fact, and I must ask you to accept it.
But look at what has been happening in the world. An American president has, with the agreement and cooperation of the media–even the supposedly liberal sections of the media–all but thrown out the Bill of Rights. Habeas corpus is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The New York Times justifies depriving human beings–even American citizens–of life without so much as a nod at due process. Look up the Articles of Impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon after Watergate, and compare them to the crimes that Obama has admitted to. We live in strange and difficult times, my friends. In my own field–in the science fiction community–there was the (to me) tremendously disorienting Scott Card affair (if I sounded sure of myself in the discussions of that matter, please believe I was not–I was struggling to find my way).
I attempt in my work to depict people as they are, in at least some, if not all, of the complexities of human and social relations; to understand how the society we live in is reflected in the individual choices we make. While I try very, very hard to keep direct politics out of my work (I figure my readers hate being preached to as much as I do), my world-view is central to it, and I make no apologies for that.
However, the process is dialectical. It isn’t as simple as, “Okay, now I’m going to understand things. Good. That’s done. Now I can tell a story.” It doesn’t work that way for me (nor, in my opinion, for anyone). It is much more complex: the work on the story feeds questions and answers into my attempts to understand the world I live in, and my understanding of that world feeds questions and answers into the story. This blog is one of the tools I use to work through my understanding of the complex and contradictory events in life; which then permits me to enter, fully engaged, into telling the story.
In brief, I have been writing more on political and social issues, because political and social issues are becoming more difficult, complex, and explosive. Because I live in the real world where those things affect my ideas and understanding. Because working through that understanding is a necessary part of my story telling.
I hope that clarifies matters, Chuck. Now I’m going to get back to work on Hawk.