career, writing

Using your words

When you know you’re in the right, but claiming the ability to act as a full person still takes bravery.

Over…likely, the past month, my efforts have shifted from honing my writing skills, to craft and design. I have realized that becoming a freelance writer is more than within my grasp. I am more than capable. The question has been whether I want to take the repercussions of speaking my mind. The problem is, whenever anyone says something that’s important to anybody, someone else has a problem with it — because knowledge is power, and the denial of accurate, clear, usable, validating information is the denial of power, and denial of agency, to that person who finds it important.

And I know I can help the people who find what I say, important. I know, that is, that I’m on a side I can live in peace with. I didn’t always know that, but my view has gotten much clearer, recently.

I can see that when I was younger, I had a much more simplistic idea of potential anonymity as an author. These days, it’s very apparent to me that anonymity doesn’t necessarily exist, when writing for publication. Perhaps before the Internet existed, that was possible…it isn’t, now. Not without some type of global privacy regulations that could be applied to the owners of sites which distribute other peoples’ private information…and not without in some way disabling the tracking of aliases of authors who have not committed crimes.

(Of course, to some, the “wrong people” writing and speaking, might as well be considered a crime…and the Library of Congress is not exempt from politics. It is the Library of Congress. Not a national library. Not the people’s library.)

The obvious issue is that elements protecting the privacy of authors can be circumvented, and we trust strangers on the Internet, far too much. Tim Berners-Lee’s original Internet, that is…doesn’t seem to have included protections for information that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Perhaps it wasn’t intended to have grown as large as it has, or to include the people it does. As far as I can see, it involved utopian ideals, but…utopias can fail. Especially where failure was never expected; where the ideal was implicit that people would be decent and responsible, not malicious.

In other words…we do not live in a utopia, even given the chance to live in a utopia. The most brilliant and insightful ideas can still be bent towards destroying our own kind and utilized by the most inept, ignorant and callous among us — because of how our societies are set up.

What I’m taking as my provisional reality is the assumption that if someone wants to know who I am, that information is not impossible to obtain. There is also the question of whether I actually do want to be known for my ideas; if “good trouble” is not a bad thing to get into.

I am aware of the First Amendment. I am also aware that a portion of this society is biased against me because of what I am, and that laws are not applied even-handedly. They’re applied by people with biases, assisted by computers which have likewise been programmed by people with biases. Both those factors — and others, like poor school funding sourced from low property taxes which relate to intergenerational poverty and a history of segregation (among other skewed variables), reinforce systematic outcomes of inequity which are then blamed on factors such as race and essentialism: that what people look like defines who they are and what they can be and become.

The issue I have been dealing with is the relative peace of my life since I got out of the main fray that I was dealing with as a young adult. I’m moving out of the phase of being a student, into the phase of being a working adult, hoping to eventually become an independent working adult…which has other attendant, “issues.” Like the rewards (and penalties) of conformity, and silence.

But writing implies communication. Communication infers saying things that not everyone may agree with — at least, at first.

In essence, it ensures conflict. I’m not a person who seeks conflict. But I can see that there are some things worth fighting for, that the world can be better than it is; that we can be better than we are. In this world, change is preceded by conflict; and not everyone right now is living in a state which guarantees a sustainable, hopeful future.

I guess part of that is my utopian idealization. But if you’re going to have to fight, it’s good to know your ultimate goal. What you’re fighting for is one of those questions that can’t be avoided if you want to keep up your pace and your work. Even when a life of quiet, dull, closeted obscurity beckons.

DISCLAIMER: This entry is not meant to represent the views of any organization, professional or otherwise; I am representing myself, and myself alone.

creative writing, culture, politics, writing

Priorities, Version 3

In beginning to write this post, I took it upon myself to dig up past versions of my priorities. There are at least three other versions in this series. I seem to have circled back around to the first one. In the second, I began to consider doing what was easy (refreshing Spanish language) instead of what I was motivated to do (learning Japanese language). That…hasn’t lasted. All it took was trying to read a few kids’ books and seeing references to, specifically, “black slavery,” that pushed me over. Before I go on too long, I’ll leave a link to the third post in the series (ironically titled, “Version 2”).

I have had so many political and social and religious issues with Spanish language, and U.S. missionary and imperial politics in relation to Latin America, and exploitation of immigrant workers here — I’m not even kidding. It triggers me. I know that Japanese isn’t the same way with me, though it could easily be different if I were, say, Okinawan or Manchurian or Korean. I’m not blind to that. But Japanese language is marginally psychologically safer for me at this point, even though I’m aware that it’s still not a great thing to be of African descent, in the area.

The latter, combined with the lack of legal protection specifically against male sexual violence, has caused me to consider not ever visiting; though there are some people who aren’t racist who are (or have been) here — issei (first-generation immigrants) — who have encouraged me to go. Of course, though, they haven’t been marginalized for doing nothing except looking different. After a while one gets used to the listless, hollow stares that plagued me as a youth. That, though, is different than being actively characterized and fetishized as subjugated and inferior (or a possession) and made into a spectacle.

Of course, I do know how often people of Asian descent have to deal with that, here. I am still a part of my family, after all. I’ve also had to deal with it in my life, because no one thought to introduce me to the idea of racism (other than the knowledge that I would have to work twice as hard to be seen as equal), as a child. (Of course, neither did they introduce me to the idea that I could, and likely would, intimidate others by being underemployed.)

This is a reason why I left off of my last major writing project, when I did. I’m repairing it, though. All I have to do is address it, and complicate it, and humanize it; and possibly, I can get around just perpetuating my erroneous youthful thought.

That last paragraph may be for insiders. I’m not sure I should get into it openly, right now. It has to do with racial dynamics combined with age dynamics and gender dynamics (sometimes also with economic dynamics). If you still don’t get it…I might get into it, later. Or you might see it in a book. One or the other. Actually, probably a lot has been written about this, though I’m not sure if it’s been written from my angle.

Though I do seem to have hit a useful vein of content, here…I never intended to be a feminist writer, or, “that nonbinary author;” there’s more to me than just how my gender and sex and race and ethnicity and mental state have combined to produce conflict in this life. But hey, a lot of it is connected. And writing is a great medium to work out conflict, which…due to the complexity of the situation, I may need help with.

Also, if I take all that stuff away, what’s left visible is not even the tip of the iceberg.

I had wanted to try for Spanish to, I don’t know, not be trapped in my own cultural bubble, or not be another person who wants to become a manga superstar. (So far as I know, the sentiment is — or was — common among youth in Japan.) But. It’s pretty apparent that I grew up being influenced by Japanese anime and manga. As far as I can remember, it’s what first exposed me to the language, both in spoken and written form. Of course…there are some weird politics around learning Japanese. Maybe it wouldn’t have affected me so much after the people who just wanted to understand their J-Pop had left, which should have happened after I’d passed my introductory classes.

I didn’t keep on, to that point. Nor did I foresee a desirable future in tolerating the same environment — or dealing with what had been my world of, “Japanese culture,” (i.e. hostile nikkeijin “family” and “friends”) for the rest of my life. (I believe I’ve been told more than once by others, that they, “wanted to be Japanese,” which makes me wonder what they meant by that — and how it was that they felt their culture was inferior.) But those dynamics could have been the reason I would have been required to wake at 5:30 AM if I wanted to major in this stuff. Anime and J-Pop were trendy at the time I was trying to learn, and the Internet had just opened attention to international music that otherwise wasn’t available. However, there’s a lot more to Japan and Japanese culture, than pop culture.

I don’t want to get into race politics right now, but having to deal with unaddressed discomfort based on the makeup of the language class, the students’ seriousness, and their reasons for being there, were largely the reason I stopped taking foreign language classes. Cultural isolation was also part of the reason I left my first University. (Little did I know that cultural isolation would also be the reason I would have trouble in English classes, and also later in my Master’s program.) Then there’s the complex nature of manga-styled art online, which I don’t even feel I can address, here.

I’m thinking that it’s apparent I have a lot to draw off of — and a lot of conflicts that I’ve avoided at the cost of creative growth. The issue I’ve had is, basically, not wanting to deal with this, as I have suspected others don’t have to. Of course, you avoid conflict too far, and soon you don’t have a life worth living. And the people who will drive you out, don’t know; probably wouldn’t understand if they did know; and likely, it wouldn’t make a dent in their lives.

But like I said, writing is an excellent medium with which to work out conflict. Moreso for me, than my other arts. The key is to avoid getting bogged down in the work and so myopic and single-minded about the only possible consequences, that the issues you’re working on drown you.

Another reason I stopped. However, I’m in a much better place, this time around. I’m also thinking that my priorities have again shifted to this:

  • Work
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Japanese language acquisition

…with the subtle switch that puts my writing over my reading, in importance. I still haven’t decided whether to work out the story I’ve started in literary or comic format. I’m leaning towards literary, just because I’m a surer author than illustrator.

Some tougher stuff has happened at work, but it hasn’t developed into anything major, yet. I don’t know that it will, and I don’t know that it’s worth thinking about at this moment. However — it would be good not to push aside my writing. The writing requires the reading. The reading is helped by my work. And…Japanese is just something I want to do, which will enrich my life.

I think I’ve just realized, that is, how central writing is to my life, the calming effect that reading entails with me (when it isn’t offensive), and I’m re-centering Japanese where it comes to acquiring a second language.

Outside of this…I have my watercolors (including ink work), and my quilting, now (including origami-based design). Neither of them is really important, but both of them work with color and can get my mind off of the heavy thought that comes from reading and writing. I also have my beads, but I am not feeling this is the time to schedule overt time for them…