Years ago, in a science fiction short story, I came across this expression that just fit my feelings. “Born owing money.”
I think from the way it was employed in the story that it was supposed to mean “from a poor family” but that’s not how I felt it. For me, from as far back as I can remember, I had this feeling I must justify my existence.
As the half (one half the family) unwanted child who then proceeded to near-bankrupt her family because she had every-possible-illness and some that technically, logically, should be impossible, this is perhaps understandable.
I was if not born broken, born to be broken. From the moment I remember I’ve been running so hard because I know what’s behind me: me. I know all my tendency to sloth and to malingering. I know the crazy depressive spins. And I know the malice and spitefulness of the cornered small creature.
My mission in life is to keep those down as much as possible and to do as well as I can. To be as good as I can be. I can never be perfect. And the struggle resumes every day. But most of the time I do pretty well at keeping me under control.
Is that where the broad streak of darkness comes? I don’t know. I know that Kate Paulk and I have discussed it. For women from – relatively – pampered backgrounds (hey, I won’t say I never went a day hungry in my life, but they weren’t many. And I always had adequate, if not always slightly, clothes to cover my body. By historical standards, I’m rich.) we manage to imagine and to feel the full panoply of dark.
Wherever it comes from – there is an evolutionary value to it. People who have too little darkness (husband is one of them) don’t imagine it in others. They are the people who believe always and only in the goodness of others. In another time and place they would go to their doom thinking “If only Stalin knew” – I also have that. And I also watch for that. A certain amount of darkness can be exorcised (exercised) in the books, and I fight to remember, every day, that real people are real and not character in books for me to play with.
What is the point of this exercise in true confessions?
Here it goes: I think most people have less of the darkness and much less of the sense of obligation, and almost no sense of watching themselves ALL THE TIME.
They have to, because otherwise the left would never have managed to sell their favorite lie: that goodness is somehow innate and trouble free. That people who achieve things, people who work and run like crazy to make, to build, to create, are somehow “privileged.”
This only makes sense if you think everyone is innately not just good but industrious and gifted in every art/craft/habits of diligence.
I said most people don’t have the broad streak of darkness I had – this is probably true, or at least it’s true from my interaction with them – but let me put this way: I know remarkably few Disney heros/princesses. As in, I don’t know any of them.
Most people have something they have to fight against to achieve even a modicum of good or of decency. It might be something that even they know it’s not their fault, like an illness, or it might be some tendency – say sloth – they were born with.
The book that shall not be mentioned (well, not in the text, though you can answer questions in the comments) is distinguished by its author repeating over and over his character is special because she is a “good girl” — she doesn’t have any of the flaws that these strange authors give their characters.
I don’t know if that is what makes the book that shall not be mentioned unreadable, because the lack of basic narrative techniques means I can’t go that far into it.
What I’m going to say if that if he’d succeed in creating a character without flaw, she would be absolutely unbearable.
The problem with the left in the arts is the problem with the left in so many things. They suffer from a sort of aspergers of the soul that demands they view the world in stark black and white (which is hilarious, since they accuse US of seeing the world in black and white.) In their case, because they imagine that goodness is a privilege that you’re given at birth: they imagine those who achieve are not made of common clay.
And then they imagine they don’t exist.
It starts like this: they believe, in this as in sexual identity and in so many other things that the label MUST perfectly match the contents (maybe that’s their obsession with labeling laws?)
So if you’re the good guy and the guy who achieved something, then you must be GOOD all through, right? If you’re not that way, then you’re doomed.
And then they notice the people who achieve things are not, in fact, perfect good. Even those on their side. Al Gore might be their environmental champion, but he also wants his chakras played with by anonymous women in hotels.
This brings with it a bizarre dissonance, in which they accuse any religious person, anyone who claims a moral code, for that matter, of “hypocrisy.” Note that no religious person nor even my atheist and rigidly moral friends ever claimed to be perfect. They just claim to be trying to be good.
But if the label must match the contents, then if you say you’re trying to be good you should have no flaws. Any flaw – lust, anger, even lack of taste – then becomes “hypocrisy.”
And if the successful person is on their side, this results in a frantic sweeping of flaws under the rug.
But for most of them, the mass of the left who buy into this curious myopia, it results in their thinking they’re “fated” not to succeed and in their hating everyone who does, because clearly they were “given more.”
This reflects itself in the people they create in books, too. And this is why they create flawed heroes who then CAN’T be allowed to win. (Note not all leftists do this. The really good ones are good despite believing this. Meaning they’re artists and the art is larger than them. Which is what art is.) And therefore we end up with the books where everyone, hero and villain is flawed and where the action is just a playing out “flawed people can’t win.” They create anti-heroes because they imagine heroes get everything “handed” to them, and then they destroy the world because in their minds unless you’re good all through good can’t triumph.
Jagi Lamplighter talked about superversive here yesterday and some people – most not regulars – made comments about how heroes without flaws aren’t interesting.
Yeah, they wouldn’t be. But if you are a real writer – if you understand people even enough to write books someone might want to read – then you won’t write anyone without flaws.
Because you will know from yourself that the only way to achieve anything is to control your baser self, to superglue the places you’re broken, and to lurch forward on broken and bleeding feet.
In small things and large, I watch myself all the time. You wouldn’t want to know me if I didn’t.
It’s like one of the hardest things to explain to beginning writers is that you can’t have characters without the plot. Telling me “my strength is characters” is great. But unless you can show me the characters in action and pitted against circumstances that bring them forth, you don’t have anything. And sometimes it is throwing the most inadequate character up against the biggest challenge and SOMEHOW finding a way for him to push himself to victory that makes a book great. Just because you write the underdog, it doesn’t mean he has to bleed and die. In fact, he shouldn’t, because that denies every inadequate person out there still fighting to win. (me! Me!)
I know the depths of darkness in my own soul – but weirdly, that’s the places against which the light shines brightest. I know my flaws in ability – and those are the ones I work at the hardest.
We’re all walking wounded. That doesn’t mean we can’t win.
And a well done hero is flawed and has a broad streak of darkness. It is that which allows him to see the darkness in the enemy.
And it is bleeding and broken, walking long after we wore through our feet, standing when we’d rather lie down, shouting when we’d rather whisper, that we can have any hope of winning this culture war.
And we must, because the alternative is for everyone to be told if they’re flawed there’s not hope for them, and it’s nothing but grey goo everlasting and life has no meaning.
No culture, no civilization can survive having all its stories say that.
Which is why we must make sure there are other narratives, other stories, other inspirations. That we are so inadequate to the task only makes our glory greater when we achieve.