February 10, 2020

A Few More Thoughts on Getting It Wrong

        The situation in which Cancel Culture is the most appropriate and potentially positive is in boycotting work that is actively promoting a hurtful agenda.  It’s least appropriate and most counterproductive when it’s in reaction to someone with good intentions.  Here are a few more thoughts on how we should handle our own mistakes made through ignorance or thoughtlessness but not malice.
        Unless you write nothing but autobiography, you will be writing about people who are other than yourself — and even in autobiography you’ll have to mention a few other characters in the background.  But of course some people are more different than others, and as you write you will inevitably get things wrong.  When this happens, apologize, and keep going, because everything you write is a rough draft for everything you’ll write after.  (I cannot take credit for this brilliant observation, but alas I cannot give credit, either, because I can’t remember who said it!)  In that spirit, therefore, I am apologizing for making the character Tij in Ruin of Ancient Powers in the stereotype of the Blind Seer.
        I start with the question of whether stereotypical Blind Seers are better or worse than having blind characters represented as being useless, or not represented at all.  I would think that various people might have different responses to that question, depending on their own experiences and pet peeves.  It’s worth pointing out that not all [x] will share the same attitudes or the same judgement of any given portrayal of [x].  It’s also worth pointing out that a fair answer to my question would be, “How about a fourth option?”
        In my defense, I think Tij bucks the Blind Seer stereotype (thus edging at least slightly toward that fourth option) in an important way: she isn’t passive.  She doesn’t give the protagonist wise advice and then stay home while he goes off to have adventures.  Sight or no sight, wisdom or no wisdom, she is a full participant in all the action.  That said, she is blind and Angduv says of her “She listens so intently she hears even what I leave unsaid.  She sees to the truth so clearly, so openly, that she has no need to see anything else.”  So, for perpetuating the stereotype of the Blind Seer and potentially irritating and frustrating blind people who are sick of blind characters being portrayed this way, I absolutely apologize.

[Picture: Amos, wood block print by Irving Amos (Image from IrvingAmen.com).]

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