Wednesday, September 30, 2009

View from afar: things that make me want to bang my head against a wall

I'm supposed to be using this blog to draw a worded portrait of interesting places, currently the lovely island-baby-nation of Timor Leste. But allow me one more moment of frustration in my sojourn, seeing America from the other side of the world.

I follow several publishing blogs, and in the last week two of them, by agents whom I generally greatly respect, have recent posts that make me want to cry in frustration.

The first
, which I actually only read today, was on the occasion of September 11. It's been 8 years since that day that changed the world, already!

In the blog, she asked her readers to share memories of that day. The comments were mostly very bittersweet memories of how difficult that day and the days that followed were. It was a good reminder of the emotions that Americans went through surrounding the events of 9/11/01. For me, it was life-changing, since I moved to the Arab world one week after it happened. The Middle East has now become my home, but of course my roots are back in America, and relations between those two regions were forever altered after that day. To me, though, remembering 9/11 is about thinking of all the death and hatred that has run amok since then, how many families have lost loved ones, how many broken relationships have become irreparable. That day was difficult for the U.S., I well know, but it was a heart-wrenching tragedy for the world at large.

What disturbed me about the comments on the blog, though, was that anything other than 100% support for America drew fierce and bitter criticism. One person's comment was deleted because it conjured ideas that maybe America wasn't perfect - I didn't get to read his comment, but I did think it odd that the responses criticising his criticism were left intact. The comment that saddened me the most, though, was by someone who was abroad when it happened. She talked about how pained she was that the lives of the people around her went on, how it was little more than a media event to the citizens of the country where she was on that day - couldn't they see how tragic this was?

She makes a good point, but we all do this every day. And perhaps Americans are more guilty than others of not suffering in solidarity with humanity. How many of us gave pause during the last year when Georgians, residents of Gaza, or Congolese were killed in the thousands?

Moving on to the second blog, which I read last week: this blog was about piracy of books, through the easy sharing of ebooks on the Internet. There was a fiery and emotional debate in the comments section, largely related to money and industry protection strategies (Digital Rights Management). We all believe a writer deserves his/her fair pay, but how much inconvenience should the average consumer have to put up with in order for this to happen?

I commented, trying to bring the conversation to a new focus, but was disappointed that my perspective didn't even get a nod from any of the other commentors. In fact, I think my comment was deleted by the moderator!

It's probably because I said that I have a really hard time accepting a debate about who makes money when that debate doesn't acknowledge that the largest number of people who pirate books/movies/music in this world simply do not have access to originals. The U.S. industries are so busy limiting opportunities to buy electronic media in a legal way, that those of us who live outside the U.S. (and sometimes, but not always, Europe) find ourselves having the choice between piracy or not-at-all. And, when this means getting more information into the hands of the less-privileged, then I am all for it, and yes, I do think that people who dismiss that way of thinking (which apparently were the readers, or at least the moderator, of that blog) are practising a modern form of imperialism.

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