Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Readers ask: Why do you think good writing is resistance?

This question comes from a reader responding to something I wrote in an essay, Find the Bigotry, published in Re-Imagining late last year. That essay offers my take on “woke” culture. The reader is responding to my claim that books surviving over the centuries commonly critique the powerful in their own time periods.

Before I get into a detailed answer, I need to stress that all writing resists something, if even a reader’s basic unawareness. However, that doesn’t make it good or bad. Manuals for things like leaf blowers resist those who don’t know how leaf blowers work.

These days, we think of resistance as a political and sociological force standing in opposition to disinformation, the harvesting of fear and bigotry for political and economic gain, and the dismantling of civility and culture. I feel, as I tried to communicate in Find the Bigotry, that we should work to oppose all propaganda, and all efforts to destabilize communication. Fascist propaganda is not the only type of discourse guilty of destabilization, though it’s particularly dangerous. As I argue in Relief by Execution, my memoir, the most dangerous kind of disinformation denies atrocity or responsibility.

Obviously, in order to have propaganda or disinformation, you need writers (or “content providers”) to compose it. If our definition of good writing is writing that seduces the audience to belief or action, then propaganda is good writing. It’s certainly more effective, and more seductive, judging by its appeal, than is writing that provokes introspection.

Frankly, I’ve lost interest in whether or not writing is good. I’m interested in whether or not the writing is trying to aid our survival. I don’t think writing does this by pointing fingers at “the bad people” as it tries to elevate itself somehow. We are destroying ourselves by shopping and sitting in traffic.

Most important: artists aren’t noble by default. Take the photos of musicians I’m including below. I know plenty of people who’d elevate classical music over American folk, though in this case I’ll take Woody Guthrie over the Vienna Philharmonic.

Vienna Phil

 

Woody

Of course, Guthrie’s machine did not kill fascists. In his hands, it offered a counter-narrative. In someone else’s, it could incite loathing. In order for it to do one thing or another, it requires a listener to draw conclusions or take actions.

As far as writing goes, if there’s good resistance, it rests with the reader. Without a reader, writing doesn’t exist.

***

Photos from Wikipedia and Deutsche Welle.

 


Your right to hate speech

This should only be said once.

Dear Nazis, no one is taking away your right to spew your hatred. You’ve been doing it all along: on the Internet, at dinner parties, on bar stools, during Thanksgiving dinner, and now in Portland, where you were met with opposition.

The reason you believe you’re being oppressed or denied rights is because you conflate your right to spew blather, ignorance and mental sewage with the listeners’ need to believe you or agree with you. This is how freedom of speech works. You stand up and spew your hatred, express your ignorance, make public fools of yourselves, and your peers duly note it. When you stage your protest, the counter-group stages theirs. That’s not a denial of your rights. On the contrary: it’s you expressing your right to stand up in public and say “I’m an imbecile!”

We know, and we’ve known all along.

There’s a reason most people don’t believe you. You’re blatantly and idiotically wrong, and your world view is psychological and sociological pollution. Your loathing is based on a false perception, on constructs you’ve never taken the time to investigate or think over. Your ideas would bore most of us if they didn’t lead to violence and the destruction of lives.

It bothers you to witness those you loathe supported politically or enjoying economic success, larger acceptance into mainstream society, or just greater confidence to walk hum-drum down city streets as everyday people and not “others” or “freaks”. ¬†You believe that the success of those you loathe disenfranchises you. That’s to say your power or station in society is not actually the result of anything you yourselves can do or manage. In order for you to feel secure, you need someone else to be struggling or denied their humanity. “How come I’m not wealthier than these people I hate?” Good question. Don’t most of you believe that you get what you deserve, that individuals determine their own fates all on their own?

Your mistake is to think that power and acceptance are ladled out like soup. More soup for “them” means less soup for “you” until the whole pot has been distributed. Forget about the idea for a moment that the difference between “them” and “you” is constructed in your mind. If you woke up to see that your neighbor’s success actually makes your life easier, you’d have no need to raise your right hand in defiance of your society’s democratic values.

But you won’t ever see that. It’s obvious. Every time you speak freely, raise your hands into the air, you make that perfectly clear. It’s clearest when you stand up and wonder why you don’t have the right to speak freely, as if you’re unaware that you’re speaking. That has always been to most baffling part to me. It’s always the loudest and most hateful drunk in the bar screaming “Why isn’t anyone listening to me?”

Soap Box