Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Naivete and Its Discontents

Whoa. Just Whoa. I read the Letters to Salon about the midlist author article that I blogged about two days ago. From the overwhelming response of the letters it seems that other reactions to the article than mine are possible. Those reactions are mostly of the "Poor baby, your little writing thing isn't making you rich, there, there" before they slam her for expecting to make a decent living when hardly anybody now or anybody in history has ever done that purely from selling fiction, and that the very real success she has had so far surpasses that of other equally talented writers, so she should just quit her bitchin'.

Well, yes, I agree with those viewpoints also. And that's my problem. In certain areas I am too naive and in other areas I am way too cynical. For instance, I am incredibly bad at picking up certain direct insults or slights. Sometimes companions will have to say "You know, you just got incredibly dissed right there..." This happens to me regularly in the workplace. I believe that this blindness comes from not realizing that the person I am interacting with does not necessarily respect me. My blindspot is that once a person gets close enough to have a conversation or whatever, I expect anything they say will be civil and respectful and without malice - because I do the same. So since I put myself in that mode, when something insulting does happen, sometimes it just goes over my head. The cause of this is probably my own anxiety about being respectful and nice so I don't see clues. This does serve me well in some aspects because I don't lose any sleep over it, and the insulter does not get any satisfaction because of my cluelessness.

The flipside of this is that I overcompensate the naivete by reading ulterior motives, evil intentions, impoliteness and conspiracies in situations where I am not in immediate person-to-person contact. These are things like traffic situations, office politics, politics in general, strangers with dogs etc. In these cases, I always believe the absolute worst about them - whereas if I was talking to them, they would be in my "everybody is considerate when I'm interacting with them" blindspot. It's one among many reasons why I don't have many friends - since everyone starts out excluded from my naivete blindspot it is hard for them to get in...

So that is what happened with this article I think. The conversational tone of the author kinda fell into my blindspot since what she was describing made sense (i.e. this wouldn't happen with a transcript of Rush Limbaugh, I don't completely turn off my brain...) And then I missed out the stuff that the rest of the readers latched onto. Not that what she wrote isn't valid - I think it is still important to identify good books by authors who have not had Barnes and Noble marketing pushes and to use independent book stores to find them - but that she was a poor messenger due to her, by comparison, very successful career. I mean, it's like Bush invading Iraq for his oft-stated reasons - but wait a minute - his friends are going to mint money on this, the oil is the elephant in the room, and there's this thing about his dad. The ostensible reasons (WMD, Iraqi people suffering) are valid - but look at the tremendous baggage of the messenger that seem to overwhelm those reasons...

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