My first project, when I was 6 years old, was a series of “books” about a pony named Babby. Each book was a dozen pages or less, lovingly bound together in a construction paper cover and illustrated with crayon drawings. The principal put them in the school library for the other kids to enjoy and told my mom that I would surely be a famous author someday. That never happened. Not even close. But I kept on writing.As a child I mostly wrote about horses. I was completely obsessed with horses to the extent that some suspected it might be evidence of mental illness. But, my parents indulged me and bought me a horse for my 11th birthday. The obsession fulfilled, I then went on to write about other things.
Friday, July 18, 2014
I Give Up
I have been writing for 45 years. My mother taught me how to read when I was just a toddler, and at age 6 she taught me how to type on an ancient Underwood manual typewriter. I’m sure you kids today have never seen one of those, except perhaps in a museum. It did not even use electricity! You may understandably find this dubious and demand to know, “How did it work, then?!” Believe it or not, it was purely mechanical. You had to actually tap the keys with enough force to engage the little gear that caused the letter on the other end of the connecting rod to strike an ink-soaked ribbon against the paper. When you made a mistake you had to insert a little strip of paper coated with white chalk, retype the offending letter, backspace, and then type back over it. I know, it’s really hard to believe, but trust me, I am not making this up. That is how long I’ve been writing, ever since back in the dinosaur days.
In high school I was very involved with politics. I had the privilege of volunteering in the campaign, and later as an intern reading and summarizing legislative sessions for then-senator (now Governor) Neil Abercrombie while attending Punahou School in Honolulu, where Barry Obama was one of my schoolmates. Working for Senator Abercrombie taught me a lot about the political process and I was eager to use that knowledge. Having been born at the tail end of the baby boom generation and following in the footsteps of the hippies and activists who were slightly older than me, I wanted to change the world. I marched in protests, gave speeches and gathered signatures for petitions. My particular goals were world peace, personal liberty, equality and saving the environment. The local newspaper published many of my letters to the editor and I was even given a few (non-paying) guest editorials.
In college I majored in philosophy and wrote (using an electric typewriter!) about spirituality, consciousness and physics, as well as continuing with my political efforts. But, I gradually became disillusioned with politics and began to suspect that the only way to really change the world was by raising awareness, one by one. I focused more on my yoga practice and spent lots of time in meditation. I stepped back from the world for a while, although I continued to participate in consciousness-raising groups and events.
I went on to get my Master’s degree in psychology and wrote my thesis on the Bhagavad Gita, using an actual computer this time! (but still no internet). I became further disillusioned with The System when the State changed the rules and took away my school’s MFCC licensing right before I graduated, leaving me in student loan debt and unable to legally practice my profession. After that I was mostly occupied with trying to make a living and maintaining my own sanity while doing soul-sucking clerical jobs. Having studied pharmacology as a “hobby” since my teens, I went back to school again and then spent the next 22 years working in medicine until I retired from it earlier this year. It was largely as a result of my formal training and work experience in the medical field that my initial enthusiasm wore off and I became a “medical heretic,” leading me to write about that subject.
Over the last few years, in response to the alarming decline of our society, I have once again become very involved in the political process through my writing. I have blogged extensively about issues like reproductive rights (something which I never dreamed would still be controversial in 2014!), public health, the economy and corporate welfare. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have been able to reach and interact with more readers than I ever would have thought possible back in the days when all I had was an electric typewriter. Now, I can share my ideas with people across the country and even around the world. One of the greatest things has been the ability to network with like-minded people through the social media and various political websites, where we can rejoice in knowing that we’re not alone and cheer each other on in our efforts. I began to feel that there is hope after all, and that we really can change the world by sharing information and raising awareness.
I got mixed results when publishing my blog in the social media, where most people really aren’t there for political reasons and might not be educated or interested in the areas that I write about, especially medicine and public health. I had thought that carefully explaining an argument and presenting the facts, documented by links to reliable sources like the CDC and ACOG, would be enough, but it wasn’t. What I found was that no matter how many times I repeated the facts, or how carefully I tried to explain them in simple layman’s terms, or even provided links to sources that I was sure my readers could trust, it made no difference. People just didn’t “get it.” Some even told me flat out, “The facts don’t matter.” Their minds were already made up.
But, I was encouraged when I started sharing my writings on a popular liberal blog site where, to my surprise, the response was overwhelmingly positive! I couldn’t believe so many people not only read my writings, but recommended and even “hot listed” them. It was difficult to keep up with the huge volume of comments. All that supportive feedback gave me a sense of solidarity and the feeling that together we can accomplish anything. Of course, I was preaching to the choir, as these readers already shared my perspective due to the nature of the site. Emboldened by the positive response, I decided to reach out across ideological divisions within the movement, to open up dialogue and try to build bridges between separate factions among my comrades such as atheists and liberal/ progressive Christians, with the hope that we would be more effective working in harmony together to oppose the fundamentalist takeover of our society. I wanted to deconstruct the rigid doctrinal lines that divided us and try to find common ground.
What happened next was a huge learning experience which has led to the return of my former disillusionment. I quickly discovered that when I examined underlying presuppositions, questioned the status quo at all, or pushed the boundaries even a little bit, the backlash was immediate and fierce. People who had been my allies in the birth control battle were ready to stab me in the back once they learned I was a [liberal] Christian. Although I explained that we reject the fundie doctrines and oppose their political views, the label of “Christian” automatically rendered me ignorant and my words invalid. People who shared my love of science were appalled and angry when I wrote that pharmaceutical industry lobbying has sold us a bill of goods saying our for-profit medical system is “evidence-based,” when the evidence suggests that maybe it is actually marketing-based. This was absolute heresy! Never mind that I could back up my claim with facts from reliable sources until I was blue in the face; the facts don’t matter. Peoples’ minds are already made up. Period.
This surprising failure to find common ground, mutual understanding and open minds even among literate and well-educated people who are supposedly on the same side of the sociopolitical battle has been, to say the least, a rude awakening. It has led me to conclude that there is really no hope of changing minds or raising awareness among the general public due to very thorough indoctrination by the corporate media. All I can offer is reason, facts and friendship, which are no match for the billions of dollars spent on brainwashing and polarization to prevent us from uniting our forces against the corporate overlords. They’ve won. My writing cannot change the world. In a lifetime of trying I have not succeeded in changing even one mind. I give up.
I will probably still blog about the issues that concern me, only because I can’t help it. When I read about something that “gets” to me, the words accumulate in my mind and demand to be released, and like mental vomiting, I feel better after letting it out. But I won’t waste any more of my time and energy trying to reach people who don’t want to be reached, or to change a world that doesn’t want to be changed. I am going back to my cave now. I will continue to write my yoga blog and perhaps books that may benefit the people who are actually interested. As for the rest of the world, it can go to hell, where it seems intent on going anyway.