30 May 2014

Unethical campaigning

This blog is not political and never will be. That is, I will not advocate or suggest in favor of either party over the other nor of any candidate over any other. Notwithstanding, something so despicable has happened in the Texas gubernatorial race that I must call it out.

One of the candidates printed up posters of the other with the latter's face on top of a Barbie doll body carrying a visible fetus in her uterus. Printed across the top are the words "Abortion Barbie." The posters were put up in prominent public places all around Houston. There are so many aspects of this action that are so wrong that it is difficult to know where to start.

If this were not a political campaign, those responsible for the posters would be subject to prosecution for libel. Are we to accept libelous actions as legitimate campaign procedures when we are in such desperate need of debating urgent public matters in an objective, helpful, and healing manner? The perpetrators are ripping apart the fabric of our democracy.

The makers of the posters are using a registered trademark and a patented figure (Barbie) for their own gain. If such action is not illegal, it should be. They are also purposely insulting the majority of women, who consider Barbie a negative self-image builder for girls and young women. It was calculated to offend and is overt in its callous disregard for women.

This procedure must stem from desperation. I must say, though, that we are all complicit. Political advertising has descended from the insulting to the unethical because we let it influence how we vote. We can change all this if we want to. Here's how:

1. Pledge to turn off the TV for the duration of all political ads.
2. Refuse to vote for anyone who allows the campaign or the PACs that support him or her to engage in attack ads againts the opponent.
3. Resolve to vote only for candidates who will discuss issues: what they will advocate for once in office, what they will oppose, and why.

To vote on any other basis is to be manipulated. Marshall McLuhan said, in The Mechanical Bride, that all advertising is both destructive of all traditional cultures and totalitarian in nature. I am advocating against unethical treatment of political opponents and in favor of a civilized discussion of the candidates' respective position on issues.

My character Angela Fournier typifies the longing of many young adults for responsible citizenship and ethical behavior. www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid to see my Angela series.

20 May 2014

Some Thoughts on Latin American Literature and its Place in the Grand Order of Things


Considerable confusion exists concerning magical realism and fantastic literature, which are often treated as being essentially the same. In fact, they are two different literary movements. Movements should not be confused with genres. Most literature of the first half of the 20th century is a reaction to the end of the Modern Age, which went from the invention of the movable-type printing press (1450s) to World War I. The early modern period placed its faith in commerce, then (18th  century) in human reason, the late modern period in science, technology and “progress.” World War I convinced thinking people that the prevailing world view no longer matched the reality on the ground, just as the medieval world view collapsed in the fifteenth century for the same reason. The major literary responses to the end of the modern age were the English and American “modernists”, the surrealists, magical realism and fantastic literature.

 

Magical realism responded to André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1924) by showing northern Latin American reality as seen through its people, many of whom take magic in stride. This is especially true in the Caribbean, home of the principal writers in the movement (Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala, Arturo Uslar Pietri of Venezuela, Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, and Gabriel García Márquez of Colombia). They especially favored historical novels, highlighting the magical events on which historical events turned. Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) has roots in Soviet socialist realism, but is equally rooted in Colombian culture. It is a history of a family (Soviet style) based on the fictional oral record of it (Latin American thinking with bits of magic thrown in).

 

Fantastic literature is grounded in the River Plate area (Buenos Aires and surroundings) and reflects a strongly European-influenced mentality. It counters the prevailing world view with stories built on a philosophical, rather than scientific, way of explaining the world, thus seeking to undermine faith in commerce, reason, science, and progress. It especially highlights the fact that the world is a construct of our will and imagination. The main writers have been Horacio Quiroga, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Ernesto Sabato (the latter two in part of their work), Leopoldo Marechal, and, among current writers, Alejandro Dolina and Vlady Kociancich. This literature has affinities with the best early science fiction (H.G. Wells) and with detective fiction.

 
Marshall McLuhan said that the medieval people saw themselves as ancient Romans, while the modern age people thought of themselves as medieval. Now we think of ourselves as modern. We would do well to consider the past which has formed us so that we may see the future with some clarity and take control over it.

My Angela series deals with clashing world views which put people at odds with each other. It also shows the difficulty of being ethical. View the first two books in the series at www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid