To speak or not to speak?
Imagine that you are in a situation where everything you hear around you, all the points of accepted truth are carefully manufactured from above. From your own experience, from the things you’ve seen yourself, you know that they’re not true.
Can you say anything?
Of course you can’t. People will think you’re crazy. In fact, you might start thinking you’re crazy yourself.
For years I seesawed on this point. I knew that there were things I’d seen, things I’d lived through that no one in the US would believe if told (I imagine it’s much like someone who is for a democratic government in the Arab world now trying to tell the truth in the US about the Arab Spring. Even with blogs, unless he’s very lucky, people will think he’s crazy or a supporter of a repressive regime. Because everyone they hear about the Arab Spring tells them how chocolatesprinklesawesome it was. And how it was populist and pro-democracy.) Heck, most people in Portugal, save the few who’d been there with me would believe it. And even SOME of those had gone into believing in the official version. Because it’s easier. Because then you don’t feel crazy. And even if you can’t bring yourself to believe in it, you talk as if you do, in public, because you don’t want anyone to think you’re crazy.
This subtle disconnect followed me to the US, where I found that to get ahead in life you needed to be as far left as you could be, or at least make noises like you were, and yet where every single TV show and TV report and book and magazine shouted that the left was downtrodden and the right firmly in control of government and everything else. Oh, and the rich were all right wing. (Guys, for those people who are my age, this was never the truth. Not even in Europe. The rich are more likely to be extreme left. And it’s not guilt. It’s that they know what is the end result of communism: a sort of techno feudalism. They want that. In its end stage, communism is a complete reversal of the anti-nobility revolutions of the eighteenth century. And that’s why the upper classes support it. By their fruits, etc, as a wise man once said.)
And then at some point I reached the Kit Marlowe point: To speak the truth, just once, would be worth it, even if one had to die for it.
I won’t claim any great bravery. I came out of the political closet when indie became available. That’s because I have obligations. To my family, to my kids.
I keep hearing that writers should still keep their politics quiet, because we’ll alienate readers. Is this true? I don’t know.
At this point, the way the left is, if you don’t vocally endorse their pet causes, they’re not going to read you anyway.
I know my coming out of the political closet has cost me maybe ten readers that I knew and that I liked as people (despite their vile prog politics) but I don’t know how much that propagated to the “real world” readers.
Does it matter?
Sigh. I don’t know. I have obligations to my kids. I have obligations to my husband. Maybe coming out as libertarian/conservative means I’ll NEVER achieve more than the audience I have just about. Who knows?
Even if I knew that – even if I IRREVOCABLY knew that, would I have stayed in the closet? No. No, I wouldn’t. Even if I knew it meant the end of my career (and, hell, it might. What do I know? I’ve seen the job of demonization they did on Heinlein.)
Partly because I couldn’t stay in the closet any longer. Partly because… every time you stay quiet, particularly as the lies grow more deranged (I swear I saw someone defending the loss of full time jobs as “people worked less hours before the industrial revolution. We don’t need to work that much.” What work might mean in self-respect and in habits passed on to the next generation means nothing. And what work might mean in terms of society subsisting means still less. Do they really think that if no one works and everyone gets money from Uncle Sugar the country will stay prosperous? No, don’t answer that. I want to sleep nights) you’re forcing other people into that thought closet where I lived so long – the place where you double think, and guess yourself and wonder if you’ve gone nuts.
And the time came I couldn’t stay quiet any longer.
I imagine at some point people around 1773 made the same choice. They didn’t want to. They wanted to go on being loyal British subjects and bless the king in public and drink to him in taverns. But after a while you have to choose. Your silence contributes to the destruction of everything you hold dear. Can you stay quiet?
I’ll add I still stay quiet sometimes. If you erupt in every social occasion, at every minute, people will discount you. It becomes a form of Tourette’s. So I choose my times, but I do talk. I do provide something people can read and say “I’m not alone.” (And sometimes I do talk at the grocery store, and the park, when I hear something egregious. The first time I had an attack of this was in a bookstore in Portugal in the seventies, where employees were talking about… well, their summer of recovery. And I came back at them with not only figures carefully gleaned but with how those same figures were viewed by the same paper when the other guys were in power. And I asked them “Do you have short term memory loss or are you a party parrot, willing to repeat whatever the socialists say, no matter how egregious?” Then I walked out, shaking. None of them detained me to explain.)
But in the end, you have to pick your place to stand and this is mine. Does it cost me readers? Who the frack knows?
If someone takes offense to my views – which aren’t standard conservative, or even (and this takes effort) Libertarian enough for the party, mostly because I arrived at each of them individually and painfuly and on my own – then they probably have a much greater choice of glittery hoo has to read. But it is possible a demonization campaign means I never grow beyond the Huns, which are not QUITE enough to make a living from.
If that is it, well… I can cut back. Or write monster porn under a deep secret pen name. (I swear I’m not. Because ew… But I’d rather do that than stay quiet.)
Perhaps I’m expressing it all very badly. I read Live Not By Lies in the journal of Law and Liberty.
And I thought “Yes, that’s it. That’s why I came out of the political closet. That’s why I must remain out. That’s why I must continue talking even when the other side claims I offend them deeply.”
Because they need to hear this. They need to know that opinion isn’t uniform nor uniformly in accord to them. It might not change their minds, but at some point, they’ll have to start explaining their philosophy to us and to themselves, and maybe that will clear away some of the oddest contradictions. And maybe they’ll have to learn more about the history of their beliefs.
Because people who believe like me need to hear this. Sometimes I feel I’m preaching to the choir, but by all that’s holy, you need that too. There is a reason for weekly church services in a world hostile to religion (as it was at the beginning and in many places again.)
Because men (and women) are social. We want to fit in. We need a group. And we’ll sell our souls to belong to the consensus, if that’s all we see. (And if you want to know how close I came to it, read Magical British Empire.)
And because, even if my voice is small and weak, it shatters the consensus. There’s only one of me, but there are a hundred other small and weak voices.
They might, maybe, dismiss us as crackpots (someone called Larry that. Never mind.) But in the process of doing that, they mention us. And one or two of their sheep come over, and remember that they once thought the same. And one by one, we pick at the unthinking flock.
Is it enough? Is it possible to save our country and our world, one by one?
How else would you do it? This is the only way it’s ever been done. Speak out. Live or die free. Live or die on two, like a human being.
Don’t let them get in your head and change your thoughts from what you know is true, just because you want to fit in, to be feted, to be accepted, to be loved. Don’t let them enslave you.
I speak out because: “You can’t enslave a free man. The only person who can do that is himself. The most you can do to a free man is to kill him.”Robert A Heinlein