The Better Angels of Our Nature

Some weeks ago I had a conversation with some friends about the nature of people. The sad long history of war and famine and poverty throughout our civilizations that constantly look for other civilizations to war with or slowly consume themselves.

There’s a school of thought in popular culture, propagated by the media in all its many forms, as well as many politicians on both sides of the spectrum. This school of thought say things are worse now than ever before. It’s easy to point to drone strikes, it’s easy to point to the complete neglect of African Nations and the Middle East–it’s easy to look at the ISIS crisis and feel as though more things are going wrong now than ever before. In the United States the mass shooting epidemic has reached historic levels with the Orlando incident.

But the problem with this belief that things are worse now than ever before is that’t not true. Do bad things still happen? Yes. Of course. And they will likely continue to happen. But these bad things are much less bad than past happenings.

Nobody is a fan of drones these days, yet drones have played a significant role in the halting the advance of ISIS. Are drones used in dubious ways and are innocent people killed? Certainly. But the carpet bombings of Hanover and fire bombings of Tokyo would be considered war crimes now. Those attacks were deliberately carried out to kill large civilian populations, as much as manufacturing plants. Now, at least we have an educated guess and try to discriminate where bombs land. It hasn’t always been this way. Nor did we care.

This is not an advocate for more drone use. It’s an example that drones are better than carpet bombings.

Steven Pinker, a linguist, has written a book that addresses the fact that things are not worse now than ever before. He argues that things are getting better, and he lays out his case with specifics through human history. This book is called The Better Angels of Our Nature.¬†While this topic seems depressing, it doesn’t have to be. This book certainly isn’t and will have you looking at the world in more uplifting terms.

Rebuilt Identity: In Progress

I’ve been reading this book by Chris Abani. Abani is a Nigerian-American writer. His mother was very English. But His father, Nigerian, so where is the American in him? Well–he lives in the United States. And he has done for years. He is American now.

The book I’m reading is called The Secret History of Las Vegas. It’s brilliantly written, though one of the creepier books I’ve ever picked up. It’s a novel about a man who does studies on psychopathy. A scary topic, to say the least.

Chris Abani has a TED Talk he did some years ago. 2008, actually. It is about humanity. But it’s also about how Africa is constantly in a state of rebuilding itself and it’s identity. in this TED Talk for instance, he explained that, until the genocide in Rwanda, the word for rape and marriage were actually the same. There may have been a difference in the context the word was used that changed it’s meaning, but this reflects a culture that accepted rape on a scale not seen for many hundred years in the western world. However, after the genocide, a word was created for this act in Rwanda. And this thing was rebuilt not as marriage, but as a crime and atrocity, and it was done so by women.

Abani speaks of apartheid a lot. And to think partied only ended in 1991, and even then, all the laws were only abolished in 1994. And it hasn’t been so long. What identity does South Africa have? What must it rebuild for it’s citizens and those who call it home. Apartheid was an era that rivals the monstrosities of the Third Reich, yet most people ignore it, or do not know about it. It feels like ancient history for many.

But in South Africa, in Africa at large, the repercussions of apartheid are still being felt. It is still a dangerous country, a dangerous continent, rife with civil unrest.

Abani brings these issues to his novels. He reminds readers that the struggles of Africa are the same struggles of the western and eastern worlds. They are human rights. They are constantly being rebuilt.

I Take Myself Too Seriously

I’ve sometimes thought that I take myself too seriously as a writer. Then I realize I definitely do. When did writing become a chore, a line on my “to-do” list. When did it stop being my exploration into the human nature we all exhibit and start being the long hard slog of artistic endeavor? I’ll tell you when.

Revision.

Of course, revision isn’t typically thought of as a “when” but let me assure you it is. Revision is time that spans months and even years. And it’s not fun. Not for me anyway. For me it’s something else to check off. So that’s when writing stopped being fun. This isn’t to say it’s not fulfilling, or course.

But now, with my thesis approved and graduation nearly innevitable, writing can be fun again. I have so many ideas for stories I just haven’t had time for, as well as some revisions I can do–if I so feel like getting something up to publication standards.

But back to the fact that I take myself too seriously. I do. And one way I do this is by saving all my work for some unknowable publication in the far distant future instead of writing for writing’s sake. I think it’s part of a writer’s evolution to want readers, but why must I publish through the traditional channels to feel accomplished? Why not publish it online. Why not put work out there, into the ether and see what comes back. I believe (though I have no way to know) that I’m an above average writer of fiction (ego ego ego)–so why can’t I have an online following? I mean, that’s what this here blog is for, and it doesn’t get a thousand views each day, but it gets some and that’s enough for me.

I know you know my novella The Night Sputnik Flew is being serialized up on Jukepop, but now I’ve decided to put a work in progress up there as well. It’s called MODED, and it’s a science-fantasy-cyberpunk thriller. I call it science fantasy because it’s more fantastical than it is scientific, but there is a lot of unexplained technology in it which could make it fall into the science fiction realm.

With this piece I’m just aiming to please myself. I’m not writing for a deeper purpose. I’m writing characters I think are exciting and intersting and putting them through a ringer of a plot that I think is exciting and interesting. Maybe the piece raises questions about technology, but it’s much more of an adventure piece than it is a thought piece, like much sci-fi is.

check me out on Jukepop if you have a chance: Click here