War OR Peace

Readers and writers each have their preferred genre and their own way of experiencing the world and two people with opposing personalities seldom take the same viewpoint. Consequently, readers and writers must be somewhat compatible to get a message across and to appreciate a book. Of course, the beauty of fiction is that by using different characters, the writer can represent more than one point of view.

Like in real life, so subliminal interactions between characters and interpersonal relationships tend to be very complex and multi-layered in my books, and I do not use stereotypes or ‘a bad guy’, but rather a multitude of well-intended people getting into conflict.

Like all my books, In the Real World is likely to anger or frustrate some people, especially those who tend to take their moral values from their environment, and who might not see the relationships presented or the behaviour of certain characters as appropriate. Others might accept the story, even if they do not agree with all the characters.

 

cover-RealWorld

Originally written in 2005 and first published in 2008 – second edit 2012 – the book is not meant for young readers only, despite the protagonists being 16 years old. It is written for any person above that age; any person who can think about ethical values, about parenting and about war, and it is not in any way simplistic.

Nor is it a ‘nice’ book with heroes and big win; it is not a fantasy story where the only danger comes from some evil overlord. This story is set in “the real world” and the conflicts are between people’s beliefs and the accepted norms that keep them apart. Through the eyes of the two protagonists, the reader is shown many other characters – grandparents, parents, teachers and students – of whom some agree and others disagree with these norms.

War is the main topic, but the story is not set in a time of war; it is set today, in an Australian high school. It begins during a family reunion on Anzac Day – the Australian memorial day – when a group of cousins are having a boy-girl prank ‘war’ that gets totally out of hand. It is the emotions that are evoked during that exchange that are responsible for all the actions that follow and it is those actions and emotions that reflect conflict on an international scale in the real world, and in the history lessons and family stories that relate what happens with the kids to the events of the two world wars.

Apart from that, there are complex and very real interpersonal relationships evolving between characters, some of which touch the line of what is considered decent in our western society. For example, the question of how friendly teachers and students are allowed to be with each other and whether parents should stand behind their kids or behind the school when conflict arises.

The book does not glance over those moral boundaries, but addresses them, with the characters being very aware, and, like the readers, some are more accepting of those than others. But the reader does not have to worry about In the Real World, for all interactions are between personalities and there is no implicit or explicit sex between students or between students and teachers, and no scenes that are not suitable for young adult readers. In short, showing the emotions of war in a time of peace, the issue is human nature and our ability to solve conflicts.

The book is currently on sale. The eBook is available from meBooks (both Epub and Kindle) and printed copies can be bought via The Copy Press or my website.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

The Happiness Inquisition

Before I publish a book, I usually do a Google search for the working title, to make sure mine is as original as possible. In the case of my novella, then titled The War on Parents, I came across an already existing non-fiction work with that exact title. The novella, only 20,000 words, contains a story within the story; a fairy tale one of the characters tells, and which was then called The Land of No Tears. I decided to change both the title of the novella and that of the fairy tale inside it to The Happiness Inquisition and it is according to that title that the cover illustration was designed – an image that has evoked quite different reactions over the years. But to understand the illustration and the title, one must understand the context and message of the book.

Happiness Inquisition - cover.jpg

It was 2009 when a New Zealand politician, following the example of big brother USA, decided to win herself some votes by pushing a bill that was to make smacking illegal. Before and after New Zealand, most western countries obediently did the same.

Having lived in the USA and aware of the psychological danger of such a one-sided law, I joined the protest, which included writing The Happiness Inquisition, to relate the emotional consequences of such a law to the readers and voters.

The protest, however, was predominantly led by people and groups with Christian values and within no time, those promoting the bill turned it into a science versus religion debate, while the real issue was ignored. Needless to say, apart from a few politicians, who were already against the bill, my book did not get much attention. Of all the publications and newspapers I did send a copy to, only one reviewer understood the message:

Nōnen Títi has written and published this book in light of the upcoming referendum on the “anti-smacking” law. It’s a relatively short narrative that could be read in under an hour, showing the disastrous effects of one anonymous telephone call.

It is set in a neighbourhood where everybody is afraid of the police and of each other, of being “dobbed in” and of having their children taken from them. While the story is written in third person, we see events through the eyes of several characters and each person’s perception of the incident that started the action.

This story is bleak. There is no happy ending although characters do come to realise that perceptions may have been wrong and conclusions jumped to that were not altogether correct.

If you’re against the “anti-smacking” law, this may be a book that you buy to distribute to those whose sensibilities are not so clear-cut. A terrifying and eye-opening read.
Naida Mulligen (The Southland Times)

The referendum was held, and despite efforts of those promoting the bill, most voters (many being parents) did not fall for the suggestion that the serious cases of abuse that were used as examples – like children being beaten to death and being put in the washing machine – had until then been legal. Nevertheless, the law was pushed despite this voice of the people, and, although it was recently declared a failure, it is still in effect.

As predicted, its consequences were destructive for decent parents, who now have to be afraid of the police, of neighbours, of school teachers and everybody else who’d been forced to report suspicion of parental discipline to the police, while the instigating politician fled the public scene, without taking responsibility for the countless destroyed homes, the massive increase in stress levels in parents and subsequent syndromes and insecurity in children, who today have to grow up without healthy limits – State Sanctioned Emotional Neglect.

Having recently reread the book, I still believe in its message, and I hope it will have a twofold role: to help efforts to reverse this destructive law and to help support those people who feel deserted and in emotional distress because of it to understand that it is not their fault and that they are not alone.

The only thing I might change for a second edition is the mention of the cost of a doctor’s visit, because in New Zealand a consultation for children is free of charge. However, the book was intended for all western countries, since this is not just a New Zealand problem. It is a short story with a very big message, and I hope that maybe a film maker somewhere will one day help bring it to a bigger audience.

The book is available as eBook (ePub and Kindle) from meBooks and as paperback from The Copy Press or via my own website.

Thank you for reading.

Rethinking International Media, Trade and Social Platforms

Millions of people use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media providers.

The film industry is still strongly dependent on Hollywood.

International authors depend on Smashwords and Create Space.

Most IT technology still operates from Silicon Valley.

In other words, the headquarters of most of our international information exchange is based in the USA.

But it is likely that information exchange from the USA will be censored more and more, that many opinions and expressions of free speech will become punishable, that books and films that criticize will be forbidden, that foreign entities will not be allowed to access these platforms.

Smart CEOs will diversify and move their headquarters elsewhere before it is too late, but not all of them have the financial means to do so and many may simply disappear.

It is up to the rest of the world to do something. It is not enough to use these channels to criticize Trump; we need to set up alternative international networks for social media and information exchange to support the existing ones and allow their vision to continue elsewhere.

IT geeks, moderators and organizers are needed as are companies who will take this on. Those of us who are the writers, filmmakers and users and have no technological skills need to support them. International libraries must start looking for their eBook listings in other places as well. Governments must support such exchange by making it as easy as possible for international opinions to be printed, screened and exchanged.

Just as with every other product that was conceived in one country and is now reproduced all over, so these media channels need to be based around the world, so that the voice of the people will not be silenced everywhere.

Freedom of speech depends on it.

 

 

 

 

To Vote or Not to Vote

In many countries there are elections looming and consequently articles and activities tend to be centred around the polishing up of candidates, who in turn try to blacken each other, while simultaneously trying to get the interest of all those people who have not yet shown much interest in voting – to encourage them.

And the social media are a popular way of doing so: There is currently a message going around Facebook that reads: “Not voting is not rebellion, it is surrender”.

I don’t know who coined that slogan, but they seem to imply that people who do not vote do so because they want to rebel against authority. That in turn makes me think that this message is probably intended for the young people who are generally believed to be rebellious and who in today’s climate are less politically active than those during the last decades of the twentieth century.

And who can blame them?

But I don’t want to discuss the hopeless future or details about specific political actions or countries; I want to talk about the sentiment behind this message.

By using terminology associated with wars, like “rebellion” and “surrender”, the message implies that voting equals fighting for democracy and if you do not do so, you are giving up your right to having a say – your voice – in the decision making.

The message appeals to moral duty – that you owe it to your country to participate – and exactly because of this choice of words, this message strongly resembles that with which governments ‘convince’ young people to join the military: they paint the picture of an enemy to which surrender means losing your freedom and equality and this message is usually accompanied by the idea that the alternative is tyranny, where people have no such rights.

But let us consider those ideas for a moment.

Rebellion is protest against authority, but in a true democracy the people are the authority and thus should have no cause to rebel.

And rights, like the right to life, freedom and equality are human rights – each human being acquires them by virtue of being born. So where do politicians get the idea that they can claim them as theirs to hand out as they see fit? Why should we be grateful to them? And where are those rights when a government resorts to conscription during a war or when they make voting compulsory?

The belief that a vote equals a voice is instilled in young children from the moment they set foot in school, so that, by the time they are at the age where they can vote, most have internalized that as a truism that is not open to consideration.

You have probably heard the question of whether a tree that falls in a forest when there is nobody there to hear it makes noise. Similarly, we can ask: If somebody shouts in the middle of a forest or a desert and there is absolutely nobody there to hear it, is it still a voice? Is there any use of expressing your freedom of opinion, if nobody can hear it?

And we can turn the question around and ask: If I shout in the middle of a cacophony of other noises, so that what I say gets drowned in the onslaught, is that having a voice? Is that having a say in the running of a country – which is what democracies claim: that of rule by the people for the people.

If I have an opinion and I express it, but nobody can hear my voice, am I really contributing to the rule of the people, or just to the general noise levels? Is a voice actually a voice in a deaf world?

Now, there are two manners in which democratic countries promote the idea that voting equals having a say. If you vote in a referendum you are allowed to say yes or no to one idea. The context, details and alternatives of that idea are not considered; you say yes or no, after which they count the votes and then decide whether or not to pay attention to this majority input: thus yes a vote, but not a voice.

If you vote for a politician, you vote for celebrity. They make all kinds of promises that are intended to win your vote – they openly admit that. After the elections, the votes are counted so the greatest celebrities get a seat in the government, which is composed of representatives of different political parties, so that all issues are reconsidered, regardless of any promises made, because the assembly as a whole has different priorities and will decide on new laws without consulting the people and there is no mechanism in place that allows the people to call the politicians on their promises or to remove them if they fail. Again yes vote, no voice.

To equate a vote with having a voice is buying into a deception.

To have a voice in an honest democracy, would mean being able to express your view, to be able to explain it and get a considered answer on it – to be treated as an equal instead of a number and take part in the discussion process. A voice without somebody to hear it is not having a say and such a vote is equal to putting a pebble in a jar.

Voting for candidates is equivalent to voting in a Miss World contest – they also get to say what they would do to make the world a better place in order to make the best impression.

And who, in reality, is this enemy we cannot “surrender” to by not voting?

Is it a foreign nation ready to invade? Is it a tyrant with grandiose ideas? Is this enemy we invite by not voting an enemy from outside?

Or is it coming from those who won the last popularity contest? Is it those who held a referendum about some important issues and then ignored the results? Is it those who sell the nation’s natural resources to multi-nationals that use dangerous methods of extracting them? Is it those who will gladly stick the nation’s money into buying military supplies instead of providing for the poor? Is it those who forcibly remove children from homes if the parental methods are not in line with the latest fashion? Is it those in power, who employ the police to force people to stop protesting against such measures?

In short, against whom are we defending our right to a voice, to equality and freedom if we vote in elections?

The enemy implied are the politicians – the same celebrities who need our vote to get more popular. Those who benefit by keeping a political system that relies on elections.

Politicians, of course, are ridiculed plenty. Douglas Adams called them lizards and asked why we keep voting for lizards. The answer is that we have the choice between lizards and lizards.

In the meanwhile, these lizards happily share in the ridicule, because the jokes only add to their celebrity and in the end they get to sell out the land, take away the children and send the police after those people who protest that. And if you call them on that, they turn around and say, “you had a voice, so shut up already”. In the end, when things start falling apart because of the consequences of their choices, they get to retire and write their memoirs, because they are celebrities. In the end only their voice was heard.

Now, as explained in other posts, I am not saying that politicians are by definition corrupt or liars or power mad – It isn’t that simple. Most politicians start with the best of intentions and that is exactly the problem, because it is very difficult to convince a person who is totally immersed in his faith that the system may not work. But we need more than intentions to save the Earth from pollution and the people from another war.

To start with, we should stop calling politicians “leaders” – they are not. A few years in university and a popularity contest don’t make a person capable of insightful decision making, of understanding the long-term consequences and of selflessness – the natural traits of leaders – on the contrary, a system that relies on popularity invites exactly those who look at the short-term future, who make decisions based on how popular an idea already is and withdraw from public life when things don’t work out.

Note that I am not and never will be in favour of tyrannies, where power hungry self-important people threaten and abuse their population. But to believe that it is the only alternative to a democracy is to believe in a fairy tale. Obviously, there is no system where every person will be completely free, but honest leaders admit this and don’t deceive their people.

So, is not voting surrender to the enemy? No, not if the enemy are those people who help your country to economic and natural disaster. Not if the enemy are those people who will take away your kids if they don’t like your parenting style. Not if they are the people who will not take any definitive actions to save the Earth, because it may make them unpopular. Not if they are the politicians that get their power through elections.

Voting is surrendering to the dictatorship of the mob. Not voting is a principled stance against a deceptive system and a call for honour: if we want to have a voice and freedom and if we really want to save the Earth, we need a change of political system. We need leaders who are in it for the long-run and who own their decisions instead of buying them. A captain doesn’t jump ship – a true leader does not retire.

If the majority of people would refuse to vote and make a stance to demonstrate that, would demand answers to their concerns and their voices to be acknowledged, and would demand the immediate dismissal of any politician who doesn’t come through on the promises made during the elections, then we could start talking about having a voice; until that time, the slogan is a deception.

Not voting, en masse, is the only way to change the system from party politics to true democracy and more equality and freedom. As long as we keep voting, we keep putting celebrities where leadership is required and no decisions will be made, because their only concern is for the amount of votes in the next election.

I must mention that the stakes in Scotland are different at the moment, since the people are actually voting in a referendum for freedom from an outside ruler and their referendum question is a closed question that can be answered by yes or no.

And the World Held its Breath

 On March 29th, 1936, the legitimate voters of one democratic nation were to decide the fate of the vast majority of the world’s citizens. I don’t know how many people that did not have a say in those elections held their breath until the result was known. And I don’t know how many of them stopped breathing altogether after it was over.

I do know that today millions of non-Americans held their breath, for once again the voters of one nation were to decide whether the entire world would be safe, at least for another four years.

Thankfully, this time the result allowed us to breathe out and let our blood pressures go down.

Natural leaders, people who have the right personality to lead, are rare and have been rare throughout history. They are certainly rare among monarchs and politicians for the simple reason that those do not get to power because of their leadership skills. They get there either because of an inherited title or because of a popularity contest.

It is even rarer to find a natural leader who is also a desirable leader for the people and for the circumstances at the time.

Plato is often accused of failing in his pursuit of providing proof for his belief in the philosopher-king because the prince he went to tutor did not become the ideal leader. But to me that only proves the theory: this prince was there by right of birth, not because he had the natural talents to rule.

Hitler was a natural leader, but not a desirable leader; Martin Luther King Junior was a natural leader and a desirable leader, but he was not in the position of leading a nation.

Pericles, leader of Athens, and Augustus, first emperor of Rome, were natural leaders and desirable leaders in view of the needs of their nation at that time  – yes, yes, I know Augustus used a certain amount of violence to get the power, but that is because most in his time had been brought up to believe that leaders were chosen and educated to be leaders.

There have been few since, but until four years ago no politician emerged from a democratic country who was actually also capable of leading: A person with the right personality traits to stand up and make decisions without having somebody else prompt him, who could answer questions without having been prepared, who was not afraid to show himself as a human being, who was willing to listen to the advice of those around him and who was not afraid to admit making mistakes.

As explained in my book Concerto for Mankind, I believe that the natural personality type to lead a nation is an ENTJ, for in that type come all the natural gifts that guarantee decisiveness, honesty, the ability to delegate, the ability to communicate, a willingness to prioritize the needs of the larger community, a genuine interest in human needs, a cool head under pressure and boundless energy in meeting people, but most of all, the strategic insight in the long term consequences of every decision made.

I am not saying there have not been other good leaders, but they were not politicians voted in by a majority of voters without such insight; they either came from a privileged background to allow them to be pre-selected or they came to power by other means than democratic elections.

And just for the record: I do not believe that philosophers should be kings, even if I am in agreement with Plato that leaders must be born to lead and not only taught to do so.

Thank you for reading.