Sometimes, when you write a lot – as I seem to require myself to do – you are confronted by subjects you know nothing about. This presented “Visit to Ignorance” elicits three responsive possibilities. (I don’t really know if there are three. That was a personally challenging “Leap of Faith.”)
One available option: You can rethink writing about subjects you know nothing about, sticking instead to topics on which you are, at least minimally, conversant. Two, you can preemptively acknowledge your limitations, following that forthright disclaimer with thoughtful, although speculative, opinion. Or three, you can blithely ignore your demonstrable ignorance, forging aggressively ahead – Remind you of anyone? – as if you were factually knowledgeable.
(Note: Please forgive the excessive wordiness. I am currently listening to this erudite dual-biography entitled Churchill and Orwell and, like all the books I listen to, its literary approach seems to appropriate my patois. This cautioning alert will hopefully return me to “Me” writing.)
I’m a “Middle” kind of a guy. (There. I’m back.) So I shall select the middle solution:
With a perspective.
I am thinking about the burgeoning numbers – I read an estimated figure of 41,000 – of homeless people populating the streets of Los Angeles, one of the largest communities residing – if that is not too lofty a descriptive – half a mile from my house, in the square block around Gold’s Gym. (I have been told that’s because Gold’s Gym in not a personal residence, so there are no irate homeowners to vociferously complain.)
Anyway, it’s a problem.
I imagine there are many reasons people are homeless – economic displacement, debilitating addiction, untreated psychological difficulties and skyrocketing housing costs, to name four, although I am sure there are others.
Still, sometimes, you hear of people marching to their own liberated drummer who deliberately choose homelessness, so as to be unencumbered by personal possessions, conventional mores and burdening obligations, people determined to live, unconventionally, exactly the way that they want to.
It is tempting to generate commercial entertainment out of such street-dwelling individualists, partly because they sound more like cultural “rebels” than scary people you are afraid to pass on the sidewalk, partly because voluntary homelessness is less generically depressing, but most significantly because it’s a unique and interesting story, the mythical “Man Bites Dog” of the homeless milieu.
And therein lies the difficulty.
It is inherent in the unearthing of “good stories” to chronicle “the interesting exceptions.” Writers thrive on such provocative material; studios and producers bet on their hefty box-office possibilities.
A compelling narrative, deviating dramatically from the norm – catnip for “creatives”, and tempting “Cha-Ching” for the slavering “auspices.”
How “seductively irresistible” can you get?
The thing is,
You make “colorful exceptions” (virtually) the only stories audiences receive, and they appear – by literally “The Process of Elimination” – to be the only stories there are.
And therefore factually representative of “The Truth.”
Exceptions Mistakable As Prototypes:
– The independent homeless person demanding to live life on their own terms.
– The crusading deaf person refusing a possibly curative operation, fearing such actions might fuel the belief that hearing is generically “better” than not hearing.
– The SVU series, and their like, sending the message, through literally thousands of episodes, that no one – especially in big cities – ever returns home un-shot and unmonkeyed with.
The consequence of confusing “juicy” narratives with “The Truth”?
I pass a homeless person and I refrain from giving them a dollar,
Fearing I might possibly offend them.
They face enough insults already.
Who wants to, potentially, make things worse?