Here is an important thing. I might as well write about it. The time is only 11:17 ayem, and I already have a headache...so writing about it can't give me one. By the way, I don't necessarily mean to alienate people. But it happens when you decide to tell the truth, that version of the truth that your Reason and Observation has arrived at, I mean. As there is no Absolute Truth. See what I'm getting at? My moral relativism just alienated three people.
Yeah, well, okay. Here's something I believe is important, getting back to what I call "professional outrage," but also touching on an even more – at least potentially more – insidious phenomenon. I'm still not sure what to call it. There is an ever growing contingency of people online (and, presumably, offline) – largely, it seems, young, college-educated white women/girls in the Echo Boomer/Homeland Generation age bracket* – who are so astoundingly, viciously, humorlessly hyper-politicized that they are incapable of approaching a given work of fiction as a work of fiction. They approach it with their dogma held out before them like a shield, blinding them to whatever's actually going on behind the shield. Probably, I'm saying this poorly. For that I apologize, though not for the sentiment. But let's set art aside a moment.
Let's try this: Yesterday, I saw a sort of parody of the "X out of X kids are experimenting with drugs" ads. Only, substitute "science" for "drugs." It was smart, witty, and important. It was an attempt to use cultural satire to drive home a vital message about the miserable state of science and math education in America. Okay, so...the top image is a row of preteens. First kids a black boy, then two white boys, then a white girl, then a white boy. The girl has been circled and she's the one who's used as the example of that one American kid in five with an interest in science. Cool. The whole thing was funny, and it made the point.
Which no one seemed to get.
Instead, the comments section had been flooded with indignation that the black boy had not been chosen. The whole affair was deemed racist. Exclusionist. Classist. Even sexist. All the dæmonic -ists and -isms were there. But...
Had the black kid been chosen, there would have been outrage that a male had been chosen. Are we not supposed to encourage girls to become scientists?
And, of course, a white boy could not ever have been chosen. That much is obvious.
I suppose they might have dropped an Asian child in and used him or her, but then people would have been screaming about stereotypes. Also, what about an Hispanic child? And how do we know whether or not that girl was heterosexual, lesbian, bi, polyamorous, or...whatever? Can we be sure she was cisgendered? If she was, why wasn't a transgendered kid chosen? How much money does her family make? Those clothes she's wearing look like they were bought at Old Navy, and she has good teeth, and clear skin. Is she omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan? And why didn't they choose a physically or mentally handicapped child? Can we be sure of her religion? Are her parents Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, Wiccan, or Jewish? Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian? Wait! Why did I just list Jewish and Libertarian last in their respective sentences?! Is that some sort of cryptoelitism?
It's a trap of almost infinite regression.
So...how is a problem this idiotic ever addressed? The whole matter of science education (upon which the future of each and every nation may rise and fall) was swept aside in a storm of arguments and accusations over diversity, over race and sex and class (factors that, are, by the way, important in solving the mess that has been made of science education).
I haven't got an answer. I can only see the calamity. That young people have been so sensitized to issues of an ideal complete inclusiveness that they are unable to actually become engaged in art or, in the case above, political and social satire. A force for good – political awareness and a willingness to combat apathy – has become a disastrous tar pit, miring minds that might do great things into endless circular loops of "yeah, but" histrionics over minutiae (as in not seeing forests for toothpicks). Because no one has tempered the drive to make this world a better place with the understanding that change comes slowly, piecemeal, by hard work and bloodshed, and that the world will always be filled with inequities, and teh internets have not made it all better (and can't do so).
It does, of course, come back around to art. I'm about to do the GoH thing at Readercon 23, and, I will admit, I fear this mindset. I fear publicly telling people to fuck off, should they, say, tell me I'm homophobic for writing so many queer characters who come to nasty ends (even though most of my characters are queer), or that I don't have enough characters of color, or that India Morgan Phelps is a caricature of a schizophrenic. Because if I do hear that sort of shit, odds are I will forget to be politic. And I want to play nice.
It comes back to art. To nauseating irony. To people who level charges of racism against The Book Thief because we're watching the events surrounding the Holocaust through the eyes of a young German girl who isn't a Jew. To people who whine that Prometheus was (pick a complaint at random) sexist...even though, arguably, the three most powerful characters in the film are two women, plus an android that, being an android, is biologically sexless**. People who won't shut up about "haters," but who hate everything they lay eyes on. And, I'm sorry, but for a lot of these folks – people I know are intelligent – there is the distinct impression they always intended to disapprove.
Something has short circuited. America is a nation polarized between violent spite towards minorities, on the one hand, and, on the other, sensitivity that is not being tempered by sanity. Do the math.
Something My Soul Needs,
* This is my observation. Likely, this generalization will rain shit down upon my head, and I'll be accused of...whatever. But it is my long and considered observation, and makes me suspect that one factor at play is white guilt run amuck.
** Oh, and the fact that it's a black man who essentially saves Earth!
Postscript (4:58 p.m.): I am incapable of agreeing to disagree. That's called a cop out.