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.

 

 

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Autonomous Individual

I am a writer for social progress and a positive future for all the people in the world. My books are based on a deep understanding of group psychology and what motivates individual people. This understanding includes the notion that not every reader will be able to accept my books.

To create a better world, change is needed; we need to change some things we are today taking for granted, even if we believe that those things are dear to us. Change cannot happen in a stagnant and dogmatic world. My job, as a writer, is to wake up the masses to the need for change.

It is well known that all innovative ideas get a lot of resistance, because most people will not accept something until it is confirmed by their environment. Novel ideas usually require a tipping point – a point at which enough people accept it for it to start spreading, sometimes aided by support from a celebrity or authority. Of course, soon after this acceptance, it tends to become dogma, because these same masses want everybody to believe what they do, so that the few who still resist the idea are dismissed as much as the originators of the idea were.

That is because, by their very nature, most people take things at face value and judge according to the current beliefs without putting them in context. Consequently, they’ll get indignant if you even suggest they might have believed differently only a decade ago. Good examples are ideas about ethnic and gender equality and, more recently, sexual orientation equality, as well as notions about beauty. And not only social ideas, but scientific ideas, like the environmental issues, need a tipping point.

Consequently, speaking out for innovative ideas or against the way the world functions today, tends to not be welcomed – especially not by those who are doing well in today’s world; those in power and those who naturally follow or are quite cosy not thinking about social change.

In short, if a writer for social change wants to have an impact, the reader needs to be ready to be woken up. They need to be able to reconsider the beliefs and truths they have grown up with, and to suspend judgment. People who are used to getting their opinions from their environment or from authority – even if they are not always aware of that – will feel an inner resistance to reading what opposes such notions.

My books are written to achieve a re-evaluation of our norms and values. Readers who are not, by nature, autonomous individuals, will feel uncomfortable reading my books. It makes no difference what age you are, because this is part of your personality. Some adults will not grasp the underlying message of my stories, while an 11-year-old of the right personality will get it instantly. I am therefore not hereby making accusations or dismissing the people who naturally follow or don’t like social change. I am only saying, you might not like my books:

In the Real World follows two 16-year-old cousins, who, when trying to make sense of real world issues like war and human rights, find themselves in conflict with their school about obedience and uniforms. Although it starts on Anzac Day, the story could be set in any location, as it deals not with the actions of war, but with the emotions of it – emotions that exist in all people.

The protagonist of Soup and Bread is Vonnie, a healthy 11-year-old, whose carefree life is disrupted when Mum decides she had enough of fussy eaters, and the new boy at school accuses her of being a bystander to the bullying. After a confrontation with serious health and food problems in other children, Vonnie learns that she can use her own “lucky” body and mind to speak out for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Lohland follows Kaie, who turns from an easy-going 13-year-old into an obnoxious teen when his parents decide to move to the independent city state of Lohland – which lies two hundred meters below sea level in a time when “global warming is real” – and which means he has to give up his comfortable home, his language, his calendar and the celebrations he is used to. But his boycott ends when he discovers the architecture and engineering works needed to keep his new home safe from global warming. Could he help make a positive difference for the future?

 The Happiness Inquisition is a novella, primarily written for adults, but suitable for age eleven and up. It begins with the victim of an act of child abuse being admitted to hospital and, through the eyes of five point of view characters, each of whom has a role to play in the events that lead to the tragedy, deals with the judgment of a society that thrives on guilt induction.

Of a Note in a Cosmic Song is the title of a five-part science fiction novel that spans eight years in the lives of a large group of space colonists. From the heartbreak of deciding to leave their planet, through the cabin fever of space travel and the desperation of the political and environmental unrest of their arrival upon their new home, the books take the reader with the colonists on a high-tech journey from the oppressive planet DJar to the mysterious and eerie Kun DJar. No matter how advanced, it takes more than technology to colonize a whole new world.

All eBooks are currently on sale and can be purchased directly through the links provided, both ePub and Kindle format. Print copies can be ordered directly via my website, but they are priced to include shipping costs from New Zealand.

Thank you for reading.

Lest We Forget

Recently, in Australia and New Zealand “Anzac Day” was celebrated in honour of those soldiers who went to Europe to fight in World War One – although, of course, the day also commemorates soldiers of later wars.  Usually, during the Anzac Day week (as for the November Remembrance) I do a special book offer for my book, In the Real World (http://tinyurl.com/98c78ve) , that despite being set in a modern suburb in peacetime, is a young adult fiction that deals with war.

The book begins on an Anzac Day weekend, but the reader can fill in any war memorial day, any remembrance and any war of their own history; it makes no difference. The story is not about the actions of war, but about the emotions of it; those emotions that cause people to forget their humanity.

The period around such memorial days is usually punctuated by TV shows about historical events and ex-soldiers recalling the time they served, usually stories about friendships and heroes, while the media reports on the ceremonies with the inevitable “Lest we forget” to be followed by “the Anzac Day spirit is still alive”, which they base on the turn-out of people attending the official service – many of those being young school boys wearing their great-grandfather’s medals.

But what does it really mean that so many people attend the ceremony? Do they do so to remember the horrors of war, so they won’t be forgotten? Don’t we see the same turn-out on any patriotic event like a football match or a royal coronation or wedding?

I can imagine that families have made a tradition of memorial and remembrance days. They dig up old photographs of ancient relatives, retell the war stories to the younger members of the family and make a day of it.

I can imagine that there are people who say that we have to remember the wars, so they won’t happen again.

I can even imagine some people thinking they need to instil a sense of patriotism in their youngsters.

And I do understand that governments need these kinds of ceremonies to guarantee them soldiers for the next time – those that parade in the medals of their ancestors dreaming of being heroes – but is that really what the people want or need; the people who will deliver those next soldiers, just so they can set up the next memorial for them?

“… If people are only told of the heroes and friendships of war it’s going to attract young people. They are going to war with the idea that they’ll come back heroes, but soldiers used to go to war with the expectation that they’d die there. Not too long ago that was the desired way to go – for the Romans, for example. Many young boys, some indeed not much older than you, signed on to fight in the Great War. As far as I know, in this country no person was conscripted who had not reached the age to vote, but it isn’t like that everywhere. Anyhow, they went because they believed they’d be on a great adventure and would have a chance to show off their bravery. That was the dream for most of them. Everything they encountered came as a shock to them. Many couldn’t cope and they did remember the horrors at first when they returned, disillusioned, often mutilated, wounded and shell-shocked. They remembered the fears, the lost friends, the dirt, the lice, the rats and the stink of decaying bodies. But when they came home they didn’t get asked how bad the smell was. At best they were asked how many bad guys they’d killed and after a few years of war people are no longer interested in the politics.

 “The situation at home after a war is often one of economic decline as the war industry collapses. For a while the old life has to be built back up, but soon the soldiers find themselves without a job, without benefits for their injuries and in relative poverty in comparison to those who stayed home. After having told their horror stories once they don’t get much sympathy anymore and what is a medal on the wall if you’re being derided in the street?

“So they start longing for the good old days, the days of close friendships in the trenches, the day general so-and-so inspected the troops, the days they were still convinced they were helping their country and those at home would be proud of them. It’s those times that are recalled for the younger generation because those stories are more eagerly listened to; those stories are what are accepted by publishers because those are what people will buy and slowly the horrors can be truly forgotten.

“Having a parade, a get-together, once a year to remember that they were once important is all that’s left for them. Therefore the dilemma is this: Do we rob them of this last ritual to deter young boys from dreaming of war or do we let them continue and instil in the population the belief that wars can be won and a country protected? Remember that rituals are the quickest way for people to feel safe; rituals and belief. Do you want to take that away from people?”

Mr Fokker looks at me with that question.

“Yes, because that way you eventually keep people from having to forget those horrors, don’t you?”

“Now you’re jumping to conclusions,” he answers. “You say that remembering wars doesn’t stop a new one from happening. I agree with that, but does not remembering wars stop new ones from happening?” (In the Real World)

Do we go to a war memorial for the tradition or to prevent the next war?

Does “lest we forget” really mean what we are made to believe it does? Are we better off not forgetting than forgetting the wars? And what exactly of those wars is it we need to remember if we want to prevent the next one from happening? Is it the hero stories or the horrors? Do these ceremonies help remember the actual events of war or our idealized picture of it?

Considering that psychologists are now admitting that people don’t all remember the same details, not even a day after an event, do we really remember the war as it was or only that part that has been selected for reasons of patriotic propaganda? “So governments can trick stupid young boys into becoming soldiers,” Grandpa Will says.

People talk about “war ethics”. People say there is good reason for countries to go to war. People say, “we have to support our government”. Governments say, “we have to protect our people”. But when you look at all the past wars, did any of those benefit the people?

Artists across the warring nations still admire each other; scientists still work together or wish they could; women still feel for the children of all people. In the end, it is never the people governments go to war for, no matter what excuse they use.

So is there an ethic to war? Does not one person’s war impose on another person’s ethic of peace? Is it not freedom to be allowed to speak and act freely as long as those words and actions do not encroach on another person’s freedom? Doesn’t the government that engages in war encroach on the freedom it promised its people?

The UN Declaration of Human Rights, written in 1948, is a moral law.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

I say that a state of war is in violation with the provision of liberty and security of person for every soldier who is conscripted against his will, as well as for every civilian whose life is endangered as a result of attacks by the enemy due to this state. Since a dead person does not have freedom, the value of life itself has to take prevalence over liberty. Therefore, a government who cares for the safety of its people remains neutral or surrenders.  

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

I say that soldiers who are trained to obey orders without having an opinion of their own and to do the dirty work for their leaders are servants of the state. If conscripted, they are “held in slavery” and sending them to foreign lands makes that slave trade.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

I say that for some types of people – and this is part of their inborn psychology and not a choice – it is degrading punishment to be treated as a number in a army of identical beings and to be forced to wear a uniform.  

 Article 20

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association… No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

I say that an army is an association and it is not a peaceful one.

I understand that there may be situations in which is necessary to fight back, but each person will have to make the decision whether something is necessary for themselves; nobody can decide necessity for somebody else without invading on their privacy and freedom.

Ethical decisions are individual decisions. As long as there is no congruence about what is right or wrong, good or bad – and there never has been nor will there even be congruence, because not all people are psychologically alike – the imposition of one view upon others is itself an act of oppression.

So is it true that remembering dead soldiers will stop the next war? Did it help the last thousands of times? Is it true that we need brave soldiers to fight the next war? Isn’t the next war much more likely to be automated?

When I asked a peace organization if they would consider advertising my book,  they replied that they could not possible do so because they had to “support our soldiers”.  But can people really say they want peace and yet glorify war – or the symbols of it – without being hypocrites?

I will keep saying this: To portray soldiers as heroes – even if some of them were – is not helping peace, because it sends the wrong message. See my other post, Heroes and Cowardshttp://judgmenthurts.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/heroes-and-cowards/

The government tells people it wants peace but actively supports war and peace organizations repeat this message without giving a second thought to what they are actually saying.

So, do we really want more government money to be spent on war memorials, so the politicians can lay a wreath every year and be applauded for it?

I say “no”; enough is enough. The First World War is nearly a century in the past. If we want to give peace a fair chance, it is time that we stop deceiving our children with hero stories that are based on fantasy and on memories that are fictitious, or they will be the next soldiers to be brought home in body bags.

The PM who today lays a wreath at a war memorial represents the PM who sent those soldiers to die. If a politician today does not believe in war, he should not be at the ceremony.

And what about those medals?

How is it that those who have no voice, those who identify by a uniform and shout “yes sir” to a superior, those who kill on command without any regard for life itself,  those who cannot possibly be called “individuals” in any definition of the word, can get medals with their name on it as if they somehow acted on their own?

They didn’t. An army has no place for individuals. Soldiers who don’t follow orders are punished – in times of peace they may be kicked out, but in a war situation they face death and, lest we forget, hundreds of soldiers in the First World War alone, were killed by their own superiors (not by the enemy) for being disobedient.

InTheRealWorld