Few things bother me more than the deluge of posts on every facet of social media that claim “faith in humanity: restored.” What a bleak outlook that must be, any way you slice it. Either you’re emotionally malleable to the point that your feelings about the world regularly swing 180 degrees, which doesn’t say a lot about the quality of those feelings, or you see so little good in the world that an online video of a stranger doing something kind (read: something we should all be doing anyway) makes you abandon your position and proclaim that all is right with humanity. Or you’re just a poor chooser of words and have gotten sucked into the clickbait word vortex and know of no other way to voice your happiness.
I’m reminded of Dickens: “Men who look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real hues are delicate, and need a clearer vision.” One uplifting video on the internet should not restore your faith in humanity any more than one heinous act of terrorism or violence should take it away. Humanity is an enormous, complicated sum of parts that completely defies all of our reductive pigeonholing. School shootings, discrimination, wanton violence—these things are terrible, almost namelessly so. But they are far from the sum of our collective hopes and dreams. They are far from the total of our ambitions and achievements.
I realize how callous it might seem that I presume to talk about things like this. By most standards, I have led an enormously untroubled life. And as a white, cisgender, heterosexual male, I am the farthest thing from a target demographic for the world’s hatred and persecution.
But I still feel qualified to talk about hurt, if not on a macro level. I hurt plenty, and I have hurt plenty, and I think part of being alive is that that never goes away. You do learn from it, though. You learn to compartmentalize, to self-criticize and self-critique. You learn that there is no love like first love and that you will never again be as happy, or as sad, as you were at sixteen. You learn that scar tissue, by whichever nefarious means it has been created, is tougher than skin.
Don’t let your faith in humanity be restored by simple acts of kindness. To do so means that you have let your faith in humanity be taken away by simple acts of violence, of evil or anger or revenge. We are better than that, and worse, and we would do well to remember it. Words and phrases ring hollow when they become so overused. Try a new way of saying things—You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next.
from Your Local Brick & Mortar Bookstore Is A Privilege by Kelly Jensen (via bookriot)
Of course. And those people should use Amazon if that’s the option. I don’t care, and wouldn’t judge them if they did. I’m one of those Hachette authors affected by the Amazon/Hachette dispute and I’ve encouraged people to get my books and books in general from some other place. If they can. If they can’t, obviously they should do what works. (Why am I even using the word “should”? Could. Might. As free human beings.) I use Amazon myself for quite a lot of things, including sometimes books.
But when I encourage people to get my books through some other means, I’m talking to people like me who have a great store 3 miles away but still like to click the “buy now” button for whatever reasons and don’t give it much thought. I’ve met all kinds of book lovers and people in publishing over the last five years, and I’ve never heard anyone judge someone for buying from Amazon, with the exception of indie booksellers who started their businesses more than twenty years ago.
I’ve had people come up to me at signings and apologize for getting their books from the library. I say, that’s awesome! I love libraries! I’ve had people make a face when they say they got something from Amazon. I laugh and say I understand. Whatever. We exist in a market with tons of options. There are options for people like me, in towns with great book stores, and there are options for people in the middle of nowhere if they have a credit card and an address. Not all options are right for all people, and not all options benefit all people. We all know this.
We live in this weird time when “purity” has become a major value. By that I mean, we go around with these absolutes… “I NEVER use plastic bags.” “I ONLY eat pastured eggs.” “I ALWAYS shop local” “oh I never eat ________” / “I don’t watch TV”/ I don’t buy things made in China” / “I DO NOT give my kids anything from a container made of #7 recycled plastics, over my dead body” / etc. Having gone through a phase when I had somehow reduced my acceptable foods to organic fair-trade avocados, grass-fed free-range beef, and artisanal arugula, I speak from experience so I get how this happens, I do.
But whatever happened to the value of “generally trying to do something most of the time”? It’s affected our ability to be hospitable to one another. People don’t have people over for dinner as much as they used to. “Bob is gluten-free and Carol is vegan and Ted is dairy-free and Alice eats fish but not chicken though she will make exceptions for local lamb…oh fuck it.” I mean jeez, I’d say “of course it’s better to be with friends and connect with people and risk ingesting a factory egg than being all alone with your pure food” but I’m afraid there are people who would strongly disagree with me.
Does it need saying? Better to buy books where you can than not buy them at all, and better to get them free at the library than to not read them. And better to teach a generation to read than to sell books at all.
So this is a post about a lot more than this I guess. I have outrage-fatigue. Outrage is on a hair trigger these days. Every outrage has a counter-outrage. No sooner are you retweeting someone’s link about how terrible Amazon is than you notice someone else’s link about the ability to shop local being privilege. Information gets put out into the ether, and more and more it is met with either OH MY GOD YES RALLY THE TROOPS or WTF ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT YOU ARE EVIL. Then there are backlashes, and backlashes against the backlashes, and backlashes against the….well, you see. We’ve always got our boiled oil simmering on the back burner. (I actually laughed when I saw how quickly someone started an IbuyHachette hashtag because it happened so oddly fast! And was expressed with the same passion as tweets with hashtags about serious global conflicts.)
Anyway, back to the Amazon issue. Information about Amazon’s business practices is information. Do what you want or can with it. If people are taking what they see on twitter as commands and rules, that’s their deal. Look, it would be great if people try to patronize local bookstores if they can! And if you’re a person who sits at her computer all day—which, clearly a lot of us on twitter and tumblr are—we are saying here are some links so you can read up on what’s happening in bookselling. Read them, or don’t, or whatever, and think about maybe shopping local if you are interested. That’s all we’re saying! If you can’t, no one thinks you’re some kind of traitor, and if they do, who cares. And authors are not sitting around judging you, trust me. If they are, they’ve got bigger problems than what Amazon is up to.
Also goes without saying that if you have the ability to order from Amazon, you also have the ability to order from BN.com, Indiebound, Powella.com, Etc. “If it’s not Amazon, it has to be brick-and-mortar” is a false argument.(via barrylyga)
Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I love this.