The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, January 27, 2006

Writing Who You Know—part 5

Writing Who You Know—part 5

So this is the wrap up.  Our basic premise is that if you begin with the assumption that human beings are human beings, and that most people are behaving according to values and beliefs that make sense to them, the trick is in bending your head around that notion.  Listen to the national discourse and you’ll see countless instances where people misunderstand each other to the point that they deny one another humanity. 

As a thought experiment, try wrapping your mind around some additional positions;

1)     The far left and far right, politically, each seem to think the other side is un-American, traitorous, cowardly, etc.  Stand outside the system and formulate a theory as to why this happens, and what it means.  Start with the assumption that neither side has a higher degree of patriotism, honesty, compassion, or intelligence. Can you do it?

2)     Gay and Straight.  The sociobiological roots of homophobia are rather obvious.  Can you see the issue from each side without moral condemnation? 

3)     Christian and Moslem.  We are still suffering the after-effects of centuries of war, colonialization, and cultural arrogance…on BOTH sides.  Radiacals on both sides would like to “kill them all” or “invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them.”  Can you step outside the system of thought that says one side is “right” and the other “wrong” and see what BOTH sides are doing to increase the tension?  I promise you that leaders on both sides are incapable of this.  I also promise that from within that system, there is no solution.  Yin and Yang must be resolved to create the Tao.

4)     Atheist and Believer.  The saddest one, for me.  The question “how shall we prepare ourselves for the next world” has probably led to more death than any other question in human history.  More war, more repression, more torture, more pain.  On the other hand, the question “how shall we live in this world to be good, moral, loving people” tends to unite us, and is a question that tends to avoid the nasty traps.  Regardless of your own beliefs, can you step outside, and see that there are good, decent, loving, intelligent people who don’t believe in a conscious deity?  And that that there are good, decent, loving,  intelligent people who do?  To what do you attribute that?  Can you postulate a difference without resorting to pejoratives on either side?

There are so many more dualities.  I invite you to look into them.  Yes, there are types I have trouble with: child molesters, rapists, serial killers, Nazis, Klansmen, etc.  But all are human.  To see their humanity is not to excuse their behavior.  To sympathize or empathize is not to refuse punishment. 

What is needed in this world is clarity, and as much of it as we can get.  As storytellers, purveyors of fiction, parents of children, merchants of worthwhile goods and services, or whatever…we must understand each other, even if we disagree.  If we cannot, there will simply be more wars, more violence, more hatred.  And that is not a legacy I would pass to my children, if I have any say in it at all.


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