I reflect on issues of social justice quite a bit in my times of solitude.
I write about them often, but rarely in short form.
Not because I feel that they are not my problem. Not because things like equality and safety are such obvious instances common sense that they need not another endorsement; sadly, it seems that they are not to all, and need reminding. Nor is it because I feel that they should be written by the people at the heart of these issues.
Some things are everyone’s concern, whether a truism or not. The people at the centre of those fights can use all the voices and support that they can get.
When I write about them, it’s abstract. They’re veiled, and appear in novels in long-form.
One of the reasons that I enjoy book-writing is the process. I’ve grown to appreciate a longer period of digestion on a subject, be it social issue or cause or anything. I begin a journey. I withdraw from discussing the topic with most folk, providing them with any lightly scabbed-over opinion I may have achieved as an initial reaction. I ruminate until my true sentiment has had the time to take shape.
My mind moves fast, too fast for me to control. As a result, through writing, I’ve learnt to slow my reflexes. I do my best not to make any judgements with haste: to come out of pocket and speak only to regret it. It has also done wonders for my temper.
It’s not that I don’t agree with such-and-such cause, because I might, but I need to be certain of my own thoughts. They must be allowed to bloom entirely and unfurl every angle. I must come to my own conclusions after sincere reflection.
My instincts are mischievous. Instantly moving in a way to find holes in a story and pull at the string of a narrative. I don’t think that I’m negative. A realist. A cynic, perhaps. Or, I can no longer rely on my ears and eyes like I used to. I’m not embittered, the world tastes funny sometimes.
It doesn’t matter if a cause is benevolent and righteous, I will find dangling thread. I don’t want to, but I do. I’m my own devil’s advocate. Even when I want to see something as a beautiful, absolute truth, there’s always something fit to be scrutinized.
We’re in a time when the truth is subjective and argumentative victory is the primary objective. Truth is a game of numbers. That may be the only thing that opposing sides may agree. Stalemates are the norm.
If truth is now a personal experience, then for me, it is only come-upon when every contour is appreciated. Allow my reflexive biases to recoil, take a step back and kick the tires.
Looking critically at your adversary’s strengths and your own shortcomings can sting, but it really shouldn’t. It’s appreciating the complex textures of the world that we live in. Empathy and understanding don’t carry a blade, it’s pride that bares its ugly, jagged quills when something provokes us.
There’s a much to be gained in looking at the opposing side of something that you endorse and truly believe in. To know your enemy, to appraise your own cause, to determine how to make it more inclusive and how it can better serve the struggle, and sway the ambivalent or even the opposition.
I’ve created characters and entertained conversations among them that ended differently than I’d have thought. They don’t speak for me, but speak for me: in front of me, in spite of me, independently of me. I do guide them, but I don’t participate. I actively listen to what they say and give them a space for that conversation. I become invested in their journey.
There are no straw-men. Any forgone conclusions must still be embarked on and arrived to. The characters represent my own journey of self-reflection. They make discoveries and pose the questions that I am not comfortable uttering to other than a few close ones without building a foundation to provide context and tone.
You may create a character born from pure hatred. A bigot, a misogynist, a sociopath. They are made to be loathed, made to be the villain. But, they are still a piece of you; intertwined with influence and emotion. They come from somewhere inside of you. Even something as small as ‘what if’ that you guiltily stashed in an area that you hoped no one would ever see.
Because the world is complicated and absurd, and because nothing is infallible. You can agree with something while finding aspects that don’t jive. I can believe a message without sponsoring its tactics.
When I criticize, it isn’t meant to be dismissive. There is no perfect anything in this world. The imperfectness of our reality demands criticality. It’s dangerous to treat our opinions as immovable facts, sharpening them in an echo chamber in preparation for any disagreement. I’ve angered friends while siding with them, hinting at minor errors in things that are deemed sacred.
I believe that if we treat something as sacred, we’ll never evolve: it or ourselves. I don’t speak of rights and freedoms, I speak of institutions and states of mind.
When I press a pen to paper, my goal is not to lord over the piece with opinion dressed as fact. It’s to create a self-conversation in the reader. Deliberation and meditation. To challenge the readers to challenge themselves. To offer a different way of thinking about something. And, to entertain.
The greatest gift is time given. It’s costly, with all the immediate needs that we have.
The writer spends time writing. The reader spends time reading. The least, and the most, that we owe ourselves in finding the spend to spend thinking for ourselves and getting to know who we are.
I feel that this has made me a much better person and a better writer. I’m less quick to judge, a better listener, and have earned the knowledge that I know nothing but the world how I, and only I, see it.
Which is important, because I learned that I’m not the only person living here and that everyone has their own journey.
I know that the mistreatment of another group is wrong and something to speak out and rally against. The ‘pass-it-on’ type of message relay, which is so crucial and enabled so swiftly via social media, helps to spread awareness and gather others to fight.
But, I don’t work that way. Perhaps I can, but I don’t like it.