Wednesday, January 25, 2006

For fear of being ordinary

I can't help but be afraid that when I sit down at my desk and in front of my blog that I will pour something idiotic and generic on the page, much like Snoopy did, describing all those dark and stormy nights when all he wanted to be was a World War II flying ace.

That fear is quite a hurdle for many writers, or aspiring writers for that matter. It's that lack of confidence that really gets you, that fear that the pages and pages you pore over day after day will be as insignificant to you as a letter from some far-off collection agency.

Mediocrity. That word screams failure. Some think that "mediocre" is acceptable. Maybe for a half-assed report on Jane Austen or a statistical analysis of how many cows give birth after Artificial Insemination, but not for journalism. Writing for news or for periodicals is something that is done in attempt to grab an audience (sometimes literally) and captivate them. But, what do you do when you've got them in the palm of your hands? That's where outstanding journalism really comes into play.

Let's say that you really like breathing. I mean, you REALLY like it, well, you know, because it keeps you alive. And, like many people, you don't want to die like that chick in "Total Recall" that almost suffocates from the oxygen-depleted atmosphere of Mars, like you would without air to breathe.

Because of your passion for respiration, you decide that you will convince those that do not feel so passionately about air that they should be, that it's important. You sit down at your desk and you write:

Everyone needs to breathe because it's good for our bodies and it keeps us alive. You should like breathing air that is breathable, too. You're human, and like all humans, we need great air to fill our lungs, so come on and get on the bandwagon for air!

Mediocre. Isn't it? Now, what if I think that building a developing nation's economy on sweatshops and prostitution tourism is a bad idea. I mean, I think it's a REALLY bad idea. So, I try to convince others who do not feel the same way I do by writing a letter to the United Nations or some other agency that actually cares about the plight of the world's poor. I sit down at my desk and I write:

Fairouc is an 11-year-old boy in Moldova, a small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine and once a part of the Soviet Union. Although liberated from Communism in 1991, Moldova remains occupied by Russian forces. Bitter winters put hardship on young boys like Fairouc, since his mother died and his father abandoned him and his younger sisters. Fairouc and his two sisters, Illyada and Gorcheeva, must work to pay for enough oil to keep them warm in their shanty just outside Chisinau, the capitol of Moldova.

If Fairouc is to earn enough money to keep warm during the semi-Siberian winters, then he must keep two jobs. One is at a local textile plant where he straightens cotton combs, a dangerous job that requires his nimble arms to navigate large steely machinery and dislodge objects that impede the combs. His other job is working in a grain storage warehouse with several tons of corn and rice that has all been treated with chemicals that are deemed toxic in more developed regions.

DDT contaminates the food supply, the soil and the groundwater and slowly poisons Fairouc, Illyada and Gorcheeva because they lack the resources to purchase clean drinking water. On many winter nights Fairouc has had to choose whether he and his sisters will eat or stay warm. This is an important choice because until last winter, they were four children living in the shanty, but Fairouc's twin brother Achaev got pneumonia.

Illyada and Gorcheeva are looking towards a pretty dim future as well. Once abandoned by their father, the girls have no one strong enough to protect them, and just as the first melt started and Gorcheeva went to an unpolluted spring to fetch water, she was attacked and raped. Many girls their age are sold by their families into an elaborate tourist-prostitution market where pre-teen girls are indentured sex servants. Gorcheeva and Illyada will live forever with that pain, until that is, one or both dies from a rampant disease outbreak.

To many people in the world, their lives are expendable. The are treated like cattle; just a few insignificant means to a few ends for a few people that will make a few bucks off of their withering, their death. This is not a way to value human life. This is voluntary genocide in a weak republic with leaders too greedy to see past the ends of their noses.

Just to be completely honest, these characters were completely fabricated. There is nothing true about this story except the part about Moldova being a former Soviet country that is occupied in part by Russian forces and is located between Romaina and Ukraine. But do you see my point? Personalizing the consequences, giving people an example of the virtues of your convictions, that's persuasion with an intent to convince.

Now, if that diatribe up there was factual and I had provided a few statistics (which, by the way, are perverted easier than Larry Flynt) you might actually be convinced, if you weren't already, that governments of developing countries should take more responsibility of their citizenry. Fairouc, Achaev, Illyada and Gorcheeva should have been put in a group home, somewhere with a warm fire and three squares. They should have had a shot at a happier, healthier childhood.

But, as I said before, mediocrity is standard, but for me, it just won't do.

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