Sunday, June 2, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: Tweeting the Revolution

So I'm looking at my tumbler dashboard, which is a pretty steady diet of YA lit and sim stuff, with occasional LGBT matters thrown in as it relates to those things (and a baby falcon cam because BABY FALCONS), and one friend of mine who got tired of maintaining separate venues for all her interests has informed me on fandoms I didn't even know existed and various causes in which she is actively engaged and to which I am sympathetic, by putting it all on her tumbler. And suddenly yesterday in the middle of updates on sim families and baby falcons and sharing of creations and stuff about literary scouts and book launches, there's this string of bloody pictures about what's happening in Turkey, with urgent requests to reblog and get it all out on as many social media outlets as possible, so as many people as possible who, like me, are going along not thinking about governments making war on their own citizens (over a shopping mall?!) under the cover of a news blackout, will nevertheless find out about it.

And I don't reblog it because of my policy to go very, very lightly on the political causes in public fora. I've seen too many people in whom I am interested for their creative work go completely off the rails over causes they feel strongly about; not that I don't think they should feel strongly, but that there's a time and a place and a right way. The very few people who come to my tumbler aren't coming there to find out about world events.

At the same time, I felt bad about it; because this is truly terrible and the ability of the people in Turkey to punch through the news blackout (and call for help when gassed on the subway) by using their social media and portable electronic devices is transcendent. It's certainly a lot more important than what happened in my game yesterday.

And at the same time, because I am who I am, I'm wondering where the story hook is.

Okay, obviously these events deserve documentary and fictional treatment - documentary to record the facts and fictional to help people who weren't there process them at an emotional level. But it's too early for that. Events are still ongoing, too volatile to impose narrative structure on them. Journalists (those who still practice true journalism) can cover the story as it develops, but producers of fiction and the sort of non-fiction that enables us to get a handle on what happened will have to wait their turn. And possibly get involved directly first.

But the elements of what's going on in Turkey - the peaceful protest treated as a terrorist threat, the top-down violence, the social media amateur journalism, the activist response, the nearly-passive response of people like me who did in fact reblog (did they stop there, feeling they'd done their part? Did they become galvanized into new activists? Will they start promoting hamhanded and unfeasible solutions that will only make things worse in the long run, like US military interference?) - all those things can be broken down, separated out, embodied in characters, and placed into an analogous fictional framework. Into an oppressive regime on a colony planet. Into the Dark Lord's Realm in a fantasy novel - how would we feel about the orcs if we got tweets from protestors in the depths of the breeding pits of Mordor and Isengard? Scaled down to fit into a high school, or even a family. Turned upside down as the offspring of the powers in charge learn how corrupt the places they're supposed to fill are.

Is it shallow of me, that this is where my brain goes, automatically?


  1. Hi there,

    and first off: Not sorry for the political/LGBT+ stuff I feel I must post sometimes even if it isn't the right time and place. ;) On that blogging platform I'm often dealing with very young people who spend a lot of time there and thus get a lot of their information right there. I just hope some of the issues will sink in over time so whatever my generation messed up and can't set right (too little time! A lot of people are doing their best to clean the mess but we're only human...) might finally get better once the new kids are in charge. The best "message" that I hope to have sinking in is that the people of Turkey are like you and me. They're good, they're just and they want what everybody wants: Freedom (of speech to start with) and peace and after taking the oppressive behaviour of their government for so long they are right now fighting for it.

    The Turkey-issue is very close to me since I am citizen of a country with many, many turkish immigrants (some in the third generation now) who are my friends, neighbors, my children's friends etc. so my friends and people I meet in the street every single day are hungry for news on what is happening in their home country. Of course the "story arc" is not completed (and I don't think you are shallow for thinking along the roads that are most important to your journey through life! It's...normal. ;)) but it has taken an important turn. And like it was in 1989, when the Berlin wall finally fell, the seemingly unaffected people try to help those who ARE. It's a lot of "phone work" to find out if your relatives are ok, if they need anything (and if they do, get it and somehow send it), what exactly is going on and if you can't actually do anything useful at least offer moral support. It's history, either way it may go. Maybe it's the first of a series of tries to change things, maybe it's a breakthrough...we don't know yet but that doesn't make it any less important. ;)

    So, I am busy with my own small mission to make the world at least a bit better than I found it at arrival and I can't focus on every issue out there...but I gave my neighbor, whose parents live in Istanbul, some money to send them. It's not much but it'll help. Also, while she was busy trying to get through to her family on the phone, making sure everyone is ok (and they're not. A younger uncle was still missing yesterday evening, it's horrible!) I looked after two of her children, made them food, prayed with them (I'm not even muslim but they wanted to do it, so...whatever) and had them watch a movie with my younger kids...the least one can do. :/

    But to (finally! ;)) get back to your topic: While reading The Lord of the Rings the reader is able to catch glimpses of protest in Mordor. I remember two orcs talking about leaving and taking their own matters in their own hands once again when they realized the war was not working out as intended by the higher ups. They just wanted to go back to living like they did before the war. Others were too afraid to help a fellow orc in need when he hung upside down in Shelob's lair for fear of the consequences...and just as the power of the one ring was finally broken they threw down their weapons and tried to get back their freedom. Most of them didn't. They were hunted down by "the free people" of middle earth because their master was bad.

    Maybe, just maybe, the power of the one ring is finally broken in Turkey now, too. Maybe Saruman's staff is broken. Maybe the people of Turkey can get to their own scoring of their Shire now...and maybe, maybe those who reblogged the event are helping some orc or hobbit or whatever to get their notes together and compile their own red book somewhere along the lines.

    Thank you for making me think (a lot and before my first coffee for today! ;)).


  2. No need to apologize for keeping it all on the same tumblr, Raben - I think it does me good to see these serious things pop up in the midst of the playtime and professional stuff. Just because I've decided it would be bad policy for me doesn't mean I think it's bad policy for you. (Or that I'm right, either. It feels strange to me to be managing a public persona when I'm so far from being a public figure; but if you don't keep control when you're small, if you suddenly get big - and that sort of thing does happen and is what we all hope for when we seek publication - it'll be too late to do damage control.) And as you see I did sort of reblog it, jumping platforms - though I have more simmers following me on tumbler than I have anybody following me (visibly) here, so I doubt it's much good.

    But triggering somebody to think, and think creatively, about almost anything is the basic concept here so any time I do it to anybody, mission accomplished, right?

    And by the way - it never feels like anything we do is any good, but look around you. A lot of stuff is very bad, yes. But - slavery is no longer an institution protected by law almost anywhere. When a lynching occurs anywhere in America it is condemned everywhere in America. The Berlin Wall is down. Gay marriage is legal in some surprising places, and rape of a wife by a husband is illegal in places where it was legal fifty years ago. People just like you, all of whom felt they were pushing rocks uphill and seeing them roll back downhill again, have made differences. Not enough, they feel, but - enough for what? There's a reason the most common tag on this blog is that All you can do is the best you can do.

  3. Is Johnny Tremain shallow? Is The Devil's Arithmetic shallow?
    I think not. Neither are those who wrote those books. And if the subject is best addressed at another remove, so be it. Surely some of us learned as much about freedom and what it can cost from Moon is a Harsh Mistress as did from Johnny Tremain. Mike's death is no less a tragedy than Rab's.