So... this is going to be kind of a different post for me. Only kind of, though. My wife thinks I should leave the topic alone since this really isn't what my blog is about, but I will relate it to what my blog is about at the end so as to take care of that issue as much as I can. I want to state that I am not making a statement about any group in particular, so this is not a religious attack or a political attack or anything like that. It's about certain kinds of people, and they cover the spectrum of groups. This is a behavior, though, that infuriates me wherever I see it, and, since I see a lot of it in the publishing industry, I'm going to go ahead and talk about it.
A couple of months ago, I was listening to the radio. I'll point out here that I generally listen to the local Christian radio station; I just can't deal with secular radio in large doses, because it's all the same superficial crap, and, even though I like songs here and there, overall, it kind of turns my stomach. I just don't need that many songs about sex. At least not in the way pop music talks about it. Sure, some of the Christian stuff is superficial, too, but at least it's superficial in a way that's trying to say something more than "I want your sex."
It was a Sunday night, and I was heading to the grocery store. Sunday night is a non-music time on the station, but the grocery store isn't very far, so I didn't feel like trying to find something else to listen to or digging out a CD because I'd be there by the time I found something else. They were having a special broadcast about the growing issue of human trafficking. Don't get me wrong, I'm against human trafficking. Owning people is not okay, and requiring of people to do things against their will is even worse (no, I'm not talking about your job, because you do have your job because you are choosing to have your job). But the guy said two things that really pissed me off:
1. The number of people in slavery today is the highest it's ever been in history.
Okay, this may be true, and I haven't tried to look this up, but I would bet the percentage of people in slavery is, if not the lowest, close to the lowest it's ever been. This is taking a fact and twisting it to say something that doesn't really reflect the truth, and that always bothers me. It's just not okay to misrepresent facts to make your point. I don't care who you are or how worthy your cause. Just don't do it!
2. "Jesus wouldn't stand for this" (if he was here today).
I don't care how bad human trafficking is, this is just a false statement, and it's this guy projecting what he believes into some inaccurate view of who Jesus was and is. Historically, whether you accept the Bible as historical fact or not, you can see that Jesus did, in fact, stand for human trafficking. Slavery was a norm in his day, and he never took a stance against it. In fact, he said of the slave "obey your master." If Jesus didn't take a stance against human trafficking while he was on the Earth previously, why would he take a stance against it today? The statement this guy made is blatantly false and meant to cause an emotional reaction in his audience to achieve his own goals. And I don't care, at that point, if his goals are good because what he's doing is wrong.
And this kind of crap is all over the place these days in all kinds of forms, and it just makes me sick.
First of all, although I believe all people should be free, not all people believe that all people should be free including some people who are slaves. It is still common practice in many parts of the world for people to sell themselves into slavery of their own free will. How can I come in and tell a guy, just because I believe it's wrong, that he shouldn't sell himself into slavery. He shouldn't sell someone else into slavery (unless that person is voluntarily submitting), but me trying to tell him he's wrong in his own choice is as bad as selling someone into slavery against his will. My job is not be the morality policeman.
In fact, it is no one's job to be the morality police, and I'm tired of people trying to take that upon themselves. I'm tired of it from politicians, and I'm especially tired of it from various religious quarters (not just in the USA) but most especially from people that call themselves Christians. To Christians, I can only say go read your Bible and show me where Jesus said for his followers to be the Morality Police for the world. Really, if you think it's your job to tell me how I should be living my life, go look. Do it now. While you're doing it, I'll go about living my life, because you're going to be gone a long, long time, because it's NOT in there!
Jesus said three things that are important. Okay, wait, he said a lot more than three things that are important, but he said three things that have direct bearing on this and are probably the most important things he said. First, when asked by the Pharisees (the religious legalists of the day) what was the most important of the commandments, He answered with something that's not quite one of the commandments (not that it's not, but it's not stated as explicitly anywhere else as the way Jesus states it):
1. Love God with your whole being. [This is not the quote. This is a simpler paraphrase of the quote.]
This is thing that Jesus is saying is the most important thing that we humans can do. Nowhere in that statement does it say to go out and tell other people how they ought to be behaving and what they should be doing or how they ought to be loving God.
Then he said the second thing following right on the heels of the first thing:
2. Love your neighbor [love your fellow man] as yourself.
And here is where the Golden Rule comes from: treat other people the way you yourself want to be treated. Now, I'm just saying here, but most people don't like to be beaten over the head all the time and told how they should act. That means don't try to make it illegal for me to eat yams just because you don't like them. Also, don't try to legislate that I need to eat lobster just because you do like it. Leave me to not eat any lobster. More for you.
The third thing he said later:
3. People will know who my followers (Christians, hypothetically) are by their love.
By their LOVE. And I just don't see a whole lot of love coming from the Right these days. Or from the Left for that matter. Treating people with love does not include calling them names on television or taking them out back and beating them near to death or any number of other things that happen on a regular basis these days. STOP doing that crap!
I want to be clear, here, that I am not aiming what I'm saying here just at Christians (I am one); these problems are fairly endemic; however, I hold Christians to a higher standard because, supposedly, they have someone that left them pretty explicit instructions on how to live and how to behave, and if they would just read the book they say they follow they might learn a few things. People who are not Christians did not have someone leave them a book of instructions on how to behave, and, yet, somehow, they often behave better than Christians do. What was it Gandhi said, "I would be a Christian except for Christians"? That is one of the saddest things I've ever heard in my life. I bet he'd read the book!
Jesus set us to be EXAMPLES, not enforcers. It's not our job, it's not anyone's job, to make people behave in a certain way. It is only our job to live in such a way as to be an example to other people as to what might be a better way to live. The government and the law have the responsibility to enforce behavior, and that should be limited to keeping us from doing things to other people against their will. Things like:
Don't speed, because you might have an accident and kill someone.
Don't kill someone.
Don't take other people's stuff.
Really, the law is here to reinforce that whole "treat other people the way you want to be treated."
Yes, I know I said "Jesus" set us to be examples, because that part was aimed at Christians that think they should be out enforcing their own personal version of the truth, but, really, that's how we should all live. Set an example by living a life that other people can admire, not going around whacking people with sticks when we think they've crossed some line they don't see or believe exists.
The only time we have the right to get involved in how someone else is living their life is if that person is inflicting his/her will on someone else against that person's will. In those cases, it's not even that we have the right to get involved, but we should get involved. So, if you see someone beating the crap out of someone else, you should have the moral imperative to get involved. Then you have the right to tell someone to stop behaving in a particular manner. If there's a question as to whether whatever is happening is happening voluntarily, find out, but, generally speaking, I think it's pretty easy to tell when someone needs to be stopped from doing something to someone else. Don't stand by and let the old pervert take the little boy into the shower (I'm sorry, but the more that comes out about that man and how many people didn't say anything...).
But I said all of this relates to publishing, and you're probably wondering, at this point, how in the world could any of this relate to publishing and writing and, yes, even reading, but it does! Because traditional publishers and agents and all of those people spend their time treating writers just like all of these religious people and politicians trying to force us to live by some code that we don't necessarily buy into.
1. Don't use adverbs.
2. Don't use prologues.
3. Don't write more than 80,000 words.
4. Don't self-publish!
5. E-books are bad! (Unless they're from us and we're charging you more for them than physical books. And, while you're at it, why don't you just give us some more free money.)
They, the traditional publishers, are the same kind of bullies as all these politicians on TV calling people names for believing something that doesn't feed into what they want you to believe. For believing something that gives you the power instead of them. Because, yes, telling me, as a writer, that I shouldn't have the freedom to self-publish my book or that I am "bad" for doing so is just like telling a woman that she is wrong for wanting to use birth control. I don't need some rich publisher somewhere telling me that I shouldn't have the freedom to make my own choices, especially when what they want is to make me a slave against my will.
But, you know, for those of you out there that want and are choosing to sell yourself and your book into slavery to a big publisher, that is your right and choice to do so. I hope it works out for you.
All of this comes down to freedom. People in power don't really like "regular" people to be free. Politicians don't like it. Religious leaders don't like it. Big publishing houses don't like it. They want us all lined up submitting to slavery, and they most often don't really care if it's voluntary or not. But, you know, the Declaration of Independence has that great statement in it that liberty, that freedom, is a Right. Within that, I suppose, is the freedom to submit to chains from other people or to elect people that will bring out more and more chains for all of us, but, really, growing up in a land where freedom is held in such esteem, I can't understand why anyone would want to go back to being a slave. Be free! And, what's more, allow other people to be free, too!
No more Morality Police.