The Right to Write

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Empathy hurts. It is – or should be – a natural human emotion, but sometimes I think it can take the front and centre seat for too long, and then you are going to have problems. Just like any other feeling, if it hangs around all the time it’s going to make you a very unhappy bunny indeed. And I think that all the growing problems and evil things going on in the world right now are making for quite a little colony of unhappy bunnies on this rock we call home.

There’s no doubt that we have made a serious mess of things all over the world, and that if we haven’t already crossed the point of no return we can’t be too far away. Some people are very good at not seeing cruelty, and avoiding the thought of it to save themselves such empathetic pain, or feelings of guilt. I always look though. These days with the wonders of the internet, those of us who might get a little carried away with the empathy, and who choose to eyeball all of these terrible things can end up in states of really rotten helpless pain and futile fury. And then you’ve seen what you’ve seen, and you know what you know, and you can’t ever un-see or un-know. After you do whatever little thing you can to help, you really have to take a step back and do something totally different for a while. Something happier, and without feeling any guilt at not being able to cross the globe like Superman and rip whatever cruel sod’s doing whatever cruel things arms off and feed them to him with a teaspoon.

I wonder sometimes about this old free will thing that we humans are entitled to. I especially wonder about why anyone would want to get up to a tiny portion of all the things we get up to, and then I think that maybe as a species we are collectively off our rockers. It stands to reason. Most of us KNOW when we’re doing or about to do something wrong. We’re born with that ability, but as we grow, and learn the things that we do from our family and environment, we also learn how to squish those twinges of guilt when we’re doing something that we know is wrong, because we like doing it, or because it makes our life easier, or it tastes better than celery.

The world that we live in becomes more and more chaotic, and everywhere you look there is pain. The pain we inflict on each other, and the pain we inflict on every single other species on the planet. If we all used our free will to stand up at the same time and exercise whatever large or small power we do have, we probably would make an impact, but instead we lean much more towards hiding our heads in the sand. We have no control of the family we’re born into, or the way we’re treated by them. We have very little control of where and how we choose to live – finances and society dictates that. We have no choice but to work in order to remain part of this society, and our lives are so full of activities and thoughts that sometimes we never see our actual lives happening as they do. It’s no wonder that we have no more room in our noisy minds to really, really take note of the things that we do, and the impact of these things on others. Empathy tends to get pushed aside, because when we do see something as wrong, we keep it to ourselves, in the knowledge that a very common side-effect of guilt is anger.

That’s where a lot of deeply empathetic people can find themselves in trouble. Everyone has their own opinion and set of beliefs, and they aren’t going to like being told that what they’re doing is bad – especially if they have a little niggling feeling deep down that it’s true. Heels get dug in, battles are waged and enemies are made that way. Love it or hate it, each and every person on this planet gets to figure out how they choose to live and behave on their own. Personally – mostly – I choose subtle ways to share what I believe. If I come physically face to face with actual abuse, especially of the animal variety, I have absolutely no qualms about inflicting a little abuse of my own on the abuser. But I truly believe that most of us are more good than bad, and that with a bit of luck we’ll stop doing the evil things that we do because we want to – in time – not overnight. Even if stopping these things is inconvenient or causes new challenges.

When I write some of the things that I do, I get totally and absolutely immersed in them, and considering some of the things I’m writing right now I get myself tied up in knots sometimes of rage and empathy. The same thing happens when I see all the vicious cruelties happening to millions of beings all over the place. I know though that me shouting from the rooftops isn’t going to stop them, but I also know that there are many people out there that want things to change, so I choose the sideways route in the belief that the pen really can be mightier than the sword. So I don’t shout, and I quell my rage by doing something else – something that I can do.

What brought this on? Princess’ recipe. I stopped eating meat years ago. I still cook it, and I still mention meat dishes and recipes in the stories I write. I don’t lecture anyone that does eat it, and I never will. I’ll give them a recipe. I’ve been pondering this a lot just lately though, and wondering if I’m somehow being dishonest with myself, or encouraging people to eat more meat. Promoting the suffering of animals. After quite a lot of mulling over this these last few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not. I’m a writer. I spent much of my adult life eating meat without any remorse whatsoever. I catered for quite a few years, and I’m a BRILLIANT cook. Also very humble as you see. At the end of it all I keep coming back to free will. For me I think, living in Zimbabwe where you didn’t get neatly packaged bits of meat that didn’t put you in mind of anything warm and alive, but instead were presented with whole carcasses that you had to cut up, made the reality of what I was doing put me off doing it. I personally don’t like anything about animal husbandry and slaughter. But that’s my belief, and I will not impose it on anyone else. Personal choice. We can all do only what we can, in ways that we choose, and whether those ways are loud or subtle, is all down to choice and the free will to do it.

So yes – I’ll carry on writing about anything at all. I write about abuse and psychotics, murder and the inflicting of pain, but that doesn’t mean that I’m encouraging anyone to do these things. Free will. Just as well I get to escape to Lapillus and its dragons now and then, or I sometimes think I might just explode my own cranium.

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17 thoughts on “The Right to Write

    Bruce Thiesen said:
    August 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Nice blog post. I enjoyed reading it. And I agree that the front and center seat of empathy can upset the bunny den. Things get out of balance.

    Like

    Cynthia Reyes said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Hm, hmm. I hear you, Jo.
    When the pain of the world gets too much, I try to do something for someone else. That reminds me that I have a bit of power of my own. I may not be able to solve the problems of the world, but I can help one person.
    And I can write again, so often I use my writing as an antidote. The worst times are when I have to shut empathy off and go to ground – for my own sake – knowing that’s the only way I will have the strength to do my little part once more.
    Thanks for this post, Jo.

    Like

    teagan geneviene said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    “…and then I think that maybe as a species we are collectively off our rockers.” LOL… Jo, personally i’ve begun to think there was never even a rocker! 🙂 Huge hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    Jack Eason said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Well said Jo. 😉

    Like

    Jack Eason said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Watch out, Jo is about LOL. 😀

    Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    A thought provoking post from Jo Robinson about Free Will – I put in capitals as it is not bestowed upon everyone and was usually hard fought for and many gave their lives for it. But Free Will is nothing with a moral compass attached to it. Read Jo’s post – it raises very interesting points

    Like

    Green Embers said:
    August 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, really like this post. It is so true, from my experience in life. Really like this post. 🙂

    Like

    First Night Design said:
    August 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Beautifully expressed, Jo. I nearly exploded my own cranium on 4th August! We had all the news about what was going on to commemorate 100 years since the Great War, interspersed with the horrors happening now around the globe and I burst into tears of rage. I was so angry that our forbears died to preserve a world that is falling apart. For what did they die? They died for nothing, believing the lies of politicians and dictators. They died again to stop Hitler. And has it stopped other dictators from taking his place? Of course not. All it has done is affect succeeding generations whose anger perpetuates the cycle. What did I do? I turned off the TV, stopped tweeting about the horrors and started reading a YA book about WWI that renewed my faith in the human race!

    Like

    drewdog2060drewdog2060 said:
    August 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    This is an excellent post. You are right, empathy is good but there comes a point when having done what we can to aleviate suffering we should go away and do something else. Suffering ourselves helps no one accept in exceptional circumstances, for example when a parent takes the force of an oncoming vehicle in order to save their child. I agree that suffering can appear to be getting worse. However the proliferation of technology (the internet, mobile phones etc) means that abuses are far harder to hide in the modern world than they where prior to the invention of the world wide web and other modern communication methods. One thinks of slavery in the American south, of serfdom in Russia and of the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire in Bulgaria as examples of great suffering which existed but no longer exist. Pamphlets and the press highlighted such abuses but they where, perhaps not so “in our faces” given the absence of the internet. On animal suffering there is a philosopher, David Pearce who believes that not only human but animal suffering can (and should) be abolished. He would like to see those traits which predispose animals to kill one another eliminated so the cat would no longer hunt the mouse. I think his ideas on animals are somewhat whacky to put it mildly. The cat, unlike the human doesn’t kill for the pleasure of it, it kills for food. It may not always eat the whole rodent but this is down to most domestic cats being well fed and not requiring rodents to supplement their diet. I think that we should be wary of imposing our own “morality” on animals, something which Pearce is in danger of doing. If you are interested you can find out more about Pearce’s ideas here http://david-pearce.com/

    Like

    davidprosser said:
    August 6, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    You’re quite right Jo, too many heads in the sand or up somewhere else. There are enough people to make major changes in the world to benefit it but they prefer the status quo and nil effort. We need peace before the planet is beyond recovery. People need to be reminded we want to leave a livable world behind us for our children and future generations.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Like

    The Story Reading Ape said:
    August 6, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Don’t get me started about cruelty to ALL creatures or the rant could become incitement…..

    Like

    Carol Balawyder said:
    August 7, 2014 at 12:48 am

    With our positive thoughts we can balance out the negative energy that is invading our planet. The more positive energy, the stronger the force. Posts like this one, help in overcome the wrongs going on in this world. We have to believe that good overcomes evil.

    Like

    theowllady said:
    August 7, 2014 at 3:20 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Like

    Kev said:
    August 7, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    I can completely relate to that immersion, Jo. Especially when so much conflict is going on inside and every part of you wants to explode, heart, mind, body and soul. It’s who we truly are and that’s why it’s so painful sometimes.

    Like

    Michael Lane said:
    August 9, 2014 at 4:59 am

    Really amazing post. I never even considered how “too much” empathy would make one unhappy… even though it’s right in front of me, and as a matter of fact, especially in regard to animals, it does cause me a lot of pain… and leads me to judgement of others, and all of the other painful things you wrote about… I strive for your level of humility, and sometimes I get there, but it’s hard… Anyway… you wrote so beautifully about all this, I every much enjoyed it and it has stirred up a lot for me…

    Like

    mihrank said:
    August 13, 2014 at 3:29 am

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    The Right to Write

    Like

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