Friday, August 6, 2010

A Brief Response to Recent Insensitivities

I already said my piece over in the offending LJ but I can't let this go. This bothers me so much. For the longest while, I was just all ":O IDE" but I've been sitting on this, just getting more and more angry, so if I don't get it out, I think I might burst.

Writing a book is in no way anything like a deathmarch. If you think writing a book is anything like a horrible event in which actual people have been forced to suffer and still feel the historical ramifications of, you may want to check your ego.

And if someone tells you that the term is deeply loaded with haunting histories and shouldn't be trivialized to describe something like writing a book of fiction, maybe you should just say sorry and never use the word ever again, instead of defending the use with ridiculous excuses like "mythologizing language".

I know it is incredibly difficult to drop certain words entrenched in our vocabularies (I still sometimes substitute Judeo-Christian exclamations as expletives, but I try hard to find other ways of expressing myself) but seriously it is not that fucking impossible. Especially if you claim to be a writer. Whose job kind of entails looking for new ways to express yourself.

Oh, and while we are talking about "mythologizing language" let's have a look at what we're talking about. We're talking about the use of the word "deathmarch", which calls up memories of persecution and pain and anguish and death. Of real people.

I do not understand why this, or any other terrible event, should be allowed to become "banal and mundane". Or how, if we don't trivialize them, we allow the people who perpetrated them to win (I don't even understand how anybody, particularly a writer who identifies with a minority group with training as an anthropologist, can even say this with no hint of irony). It seems to me that these events were perpetrated in the first place because the death of and murdering other people was seen as banal and mundane. So if we rendered these horrifying events as banal and mundane, we'd be no better than the people who killed and murdered.

Let's also talk about mythologizing, okay? Mythologizing generally means "to render something into myth". This is not a dictionary definition, but I think most of us will agree that's what the term means. Myths are stories of folks of dubious historical status to provide us with narratives that help us make sense of the world. Like Greek gods. Or the Monkey King. Or comicbook superheroes. Myths, from my own limited understanding, help us reconcile to the world - that the world is like this, and not that, for a reason.

If we refuse to allow historical tragedies that destroyed real people to lose the meaning and power that they have - if we refuse to forget them - if we refuse to allow their erasure - this is not rendering them into myth: this is giving power to remembering the history that shapes identities today. To disallow us from remembrance because it weighs us down is to belittle what little freedom we have. Dominant powers already enforce and encourage a cultural amnesia on formerly colonized spaces to maintain an illusion of independence and peace. So many of us pretend that a history free of bloodshed will produce futures without bloodshed, when in fact, these histories reverberate in our bones and the bloodshed manifests in the little cruelties we inflict on each other on a daily basis.

It strikes me as ridiculous, sickening, privileged and dismissive when anyone would want to conflate historical tragedies that destroyed real people with writing a book. I understand the fiction writers are given to over-exaggeration and fanciful imagination, but after discussion on discussion on discussion last year about erasure, history, patterns of privilege, and harm reduction, it isn't fucking disingenuous anymore to claim that intention matters. It's downright willful ignorance.

If you are interested in context, check my LJ.

1 comment:

  1. The process of writing as "deathmarch" = poorly chosen words, poorly defended. That's pretty much it.

    Hell, rape as a metaphor is pretty fucked up, too.

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