Has anyone ever asked your opinion about a toothpaste to get your endorsement of it? Perhaps it was about a tech gadget, maybe even a certain kind of shoe? I think we all have been asked at some point.
Well, unless you were being paid by that brand, you probably thought to yourself, well, I should endorse this if I actually would use it, if I actually believe in it.
Pretty simple logic, if you ask me.
Well, we live in a world with very high sheen, a world of glossy surfaces and marketing messages crafted so tightly that you can’t even find a single seam. We live in a world where it’s easy to click to “Like” and show your support.
We live in troubled times. Our population won’t stop growing, our oceans are going to shit, resources are diminishing, and our democratic institutions are questionable as ever.
It is during times like these that organizations and products, at all levels and sizes, begin to pop up to solve these problems with more intensity than before. We are here to help out! We are here to fix the problem. We are here to create solutions! are familiar lines that come from these places.
It’s hard to distill what is an honest sentiment from a need to turn a profit. Perhaps this is nothing new, perhaps I am simply showing my age as I near the mark of forty, and perhaps, if you had known me at 25 years of age, you might have said, “Cesar, don’t be naive. You should know better.”
Well, I consider myself lucky to live in a country that is responsible for so much global change. I do not think America is bringing down the world or ruining democracy, though certain people in America certainly are.
What I really have a problem with are the snake-oil salesmen of this world, especially the ones wearing the shiny do-gooder badge. This permeates through the corporate and non-profit world, but also through the arts. If you look deep down inside the murky corners of a human heart, can we determine if that heart actually intends to do good? It’s hard to know nowadays. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and call something “green” or “democratic” or “fair trade.” But do any of us actually try to find out the story beneath it, to see if these words are actually supported by actions and thoughts? Are any of us willing to completely challenge our frameworks to live differently and actually change injustices?
I certainly think we should try. It’s not easy. And my suspicion is that the answers are not found in a board room, in an executive summary or the latest buzzword of hope for yuppies.
I have a feeling that real change is found in daily actions, in daily thought and deed. Coming out of the closet is no easy feat, and yes, I do think it gets better. But the real action is found when someone prevents bullying, when someone comes out to their workplace. Real change happens when we kick start the status quo and perform acts of civil disobedience. Real change comes from not relying on a model and philosophy of accelerated growth and endless profit.
Why would I be writing about this in my blog, you ask? Well, because I do think it’s the responsibility of novelists to challenge the world through ideas. Lately I find myself thinking about the manuscripts I have written, and I want my novels to be truthful. I want my fiction to be truthful, and in turn, I want my real-life actions to be truthful. As I look at ideas I have tried to express in my stories, and I also look at choices I have made in years past, I believe that there is a long way for me to go. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been pursuing a place of truth, but I think I could have gone further with my ideas.
I have met many charlatans in my time, and I wish them well, but I also hope that truth wins out. However, I will not let my words misrepresent me. If I believe in you, I will say it. If I don’t, I will not lie.
The core of good books is in this truthful sort of spirit. Some of the most transgressive novels I read as a kid still resound with me thanks to their keen eye on the world. Thank you Gore Vidal, John Updike, Clive Barker, Elena Poniatowska, Harlan Ellison and many more. Even if I just write silly stories about monsters, dragons and killer robots, I want to know that I pursued a truth in my writing. Using words to communicate with the world is powerful, and those of use who do it should wield this power without deceit. This post is a follow up about courage, and as I move further into “The Ocean Hunters,” I want to strike truth like a pick axe striking ore, or a machete hitting bone.
And for those of you who have come into contact with me over time, if you have been deceitful about your true intentions, now you know why I am not at your side.