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Authentic voices July 13, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I like this piece here in the Guardian written by Australian writer Malla Nunn whose heritage is mixed-race South African. She pushes back against the idea that only those who are of a culture can write (or indeed, and this is more pernicious, should write) about that culture or race.

It seems to me that there’s a contemporary confusion between the absolute necessity for more voices from those who were dispossessed and marginalised and/or continue to be, and stopping those who are not of or from a specific group writing about it.

And I worry that there’s a view that somehow fiction is a limited resource, that if one person writes about something they are preventing someone else from doing so.

As Nunn notes:

The search for authentic and diverse fiction is helping to address a centuries-old lack of outside voices, and for that, I am grateful.

But to insist that stories be told only by those with “lived experience” goes against my belief in imagination, empathy, research and the shared experience of being human.

I understand the essentialism of these approaches she describes – because it is understandable as a response to oppression. But there are contradictions in essentialism. Is the idea that we break down or reinforce ideas of ‘otherness’? My own inclination is the former while accepting that there are distinctions of place and time (though not of humanity). But I think that while there should be regard for specific voices that doesn’t mean they are the only voices that can or should be heard.

And it is the proscriptive nature of the second that is troubling – because it engenders problems given the sheer cultural weight of those who have greater access to the levers of power.

And she makes a very interesting concluding point:

I leave you with an example of the power of story to transcend an author’s “lived experience”: The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, a white, Zimbabwean-born author. The books lack the grit and authenticity I wanted in southern African crime fiction. My mother, on the other hand, adored the series. When she sat down to read those books, she wasn’t looking for hard-edged reality. She’d lived through poverty, shame and racism in real time. She wanted humour, hope and a black woman in control. Alexander McCall Smith’s work gives her that. I’ll let her and all the other readers decide where they stand in relation to the character and the story.

Two readers, both with similar backgrounds, approaching a work of fiction in two very different ways – and yet no call for the fiction to be excised.


1. Dermot M O Connor - July 14, 2019

The condemnation of writers who write characters from other groups is a form of ‘woke segregationism’. A phenomenon of the so-called social justice warriors (I prefer to think of SJW as ‘symbolic justice warriors’) – because that’s the only justice that these pomo cretins are interested in.

A good example of this is the shitstorm over YA fiction a few years ago:


So authors are put in a double bind. Fail to write about “people of color” and you’re a racist. Write about “people of color” and you’re a racist.

I fucking HATE america.


WorldbyStorm - July 14, 2019

I really hate the double bind thing. It’s a sort of ‘we know better than you’ approach. And the odd thing is that in a way post-modernism would (on my reading) argue that any text is valid. So they’re getting that wrong too!

Which isn’t to say that people should not be encouraged to write from their own experiences, cultural, politcial and otherwise, but there’s a reason we call fiction fiction.


dermot - July 14, 2019

What gets me is their automatic accusations of bad faith. You got it wrong, you’re a racist, NOT you got it wrong, here’s why I think, better luck next time.

One of these destroys careers, the other is a valid crit. This upcoming generation are set to callout mode by default, even when the person being attacked is clearly on the liberal/left end of the spectrum. There’s something puritanical and protestant and just plain vicious about them that’s really shocking.

Than again, most americans emerged from a vile Calvinist/Presbyterian/Methodist low church sewer, and I think their ‘secular’ liberalism reflects that.

The activists fo the 70s/80s would have been shocked to see this state, where ‘the left’ ends up segregating itself for fear of being accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ or some other hogwash. As I’ve said to people here (to NO EFFECT), one can replace the term ‘cultural appropriation’ with the material left term “COMMODIFICATION’, which is an economic criticism rather than a moral / virtue one. But liberals, as it turns our, aren’t interested in economics, only in blame / personal virtue / vice. “Creating scarcity in an economy of virtue” in Angela Nagle’s words.


WorldbyStorm - July 14, 2019

In fairness it’s a fringe even if liberalism and I wonder if there’s a demographic aspect to it in terms of age profile? A lot if these fights take place amongst loud but tiny groups and impact v little on the world beyond them – you made an interesting point in that regard re toxic fandoms in your other post. So much of this is performative with little purchase on how to deal with v real oppressions and bigotry.


Dermot M O Connor - July 14, 2019

Demographics: younger they are the worse it seems.

Not that the baby boomers aren’t awful in their own way. Old people in Ireland are just sods or charming duffers or curmudgeons or whatnot, but old people here emit smugness the way the fukushima reactors emit radiation. I’ve taken my lifetime dose. Got to get home in the next 3 or 4 years, god help me. At least they’re all getting old and will croak soon, but they’re taking their bloody time about it. And mark my words: the Boomer generation (liberals and conservatives alike) will demand one final Blood Sacrifice before they shit the hospice bed. NPR or FOXnews viewer, will make no difference.

Following Neil Postman, I think it’s a function of technology (internet, and in particular, social media, which would be more accurately termed tribal media).


It’s bad everywhere but the worst instances (and prime movers of many of these ideas, e.g., “check your privilege”) are in America, for reasons of national culture (which compounds the tech driver):

radical individualism (they’re all Randroids)
protestant determinism
work ethic
no sense of national identity
no sense of personal self
horatio alger bootstrap baloney
manichean worldview
negative identity (identify yourself by your enemies)
siege mentality
professional victimhood
bully worship
etc etc etc ad infinitum

Any / some / all of these things exist around the world (many in the NI Orange community for example), but here they’re dialed up to 1000).

performative is right; like the pro-war people sending me hatemail in 2003 because of a CARTOON, not a ONE of the warmongers was joining the army for the country they claimed to love so much. Put a ‘support the troops’ bumper sticker on your car and fly a flag on your antennae, that’ll suffice. Oh, and threaten violence to enemies.

Ditto this ‘liberal’ lot, not ONE of them is making a significant material sacrifice (money / work) into the causes they claim to love, just a lot of tappity tappity tap on keyboards, hashtag this, hashtag that.

Signs and symbols all the way down. POMO. FFS, they can’t even do fanart for the anodyne Steven Fucking Universe without exhorting other fans to kill themselves.


We had another bout of antifa vs. white-nationalist fights here in Portland a week or two ago. Just a bunch of street theater, basically it amounts to Cosplay (you dress up as nazis, we dress up like Weimar lefties, and it’ll fill the gaping void inside our chests for an afternoon). Save us the trouble of having to become an actual person.

It’s a sick surrogate for a life, but it’ll still get a lot of people fooled into thinking they’re seeing or doing something real.


My solution for the US (well, step 1) is to admit that it was a nice try, and they fucked up (“the scum of europe, jockeying for grace”).

step 2: regional secession. It’s gonna happen anyway, break the USA up into 5 or 6 regions loosely based on climate / geography. Midwesterners get their own statelet, ditto Cascadia (I’d naturalize in a heartbeat), SW, South, NE.

Now we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.

Screw it, let’s do it the hard way.


yourcousin - July 14, 2019

Well we LIKE you Dermot so we’re going to try to keep winning you over.


Dermot M O Connor - July 14, 2019

Appreciate it yourcousin!

I have a love hate relationship with everywhere / everything, in any case.

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