I have really run out of excuses not to write. You would imagine, fancying myself a writer and critic, that I would find any opportunity to write. But when there is something I love, I truly love, I find reasons to not do it, or preferably ignore it altogether.
I have another reason, although this one does not sound nearly as interesting. I am trying and failing to change my writing style. I have grown bored with ruthlessly slashing through egos and poking hornet's nests. I think part of the reason is because it is so overdone around us. One need only need to turn to Fox News or CNN to find enough venom and bile to kill your average brontosaurus within moments. The fact that people repeat this hate mongering from these 24 hour channels is not only disturbing but it is sad. I think Americans, and westerners in general, have forgotten how to do anything except feel victimized. I have been going over my posts and I noticed that a lot of my posts that I deleted where full of self pity (oddly those tended to be the ones that commented on the most while the happy one got, well, ignored). Westerners, I have found, have very little to feel victimized about. Before an angry mob accuses me of out and out insensitivity, I will qualify that remark. Unless something directly bad has happened to you, you have no real reason to feel sorry for yourself.
I see this manifest itself a lot in Asia. For example when I was in Cambodia there were tours, yes tours, that brought you to garbage piles where children scavenged for food and things to sell. I asked one of foreigners in Cambodia why on earth he would go to such a thing. He said he wanted to see how the other half lived. Would he go to south central Los Angeles and see poor African-Americans rooting through garbage. No, he replied, that would be racist. I asked him if he was going to go back to America and raise awareness of these problems with his friends and work to raise money for these kids. He visibly was looking for a way out of this conversation. When I asked him if he already twitted about his experience he got angry saying yes, because it moved him so much, But not so much to actually do anything about it, so he could feel quite sorry for these children for many years to come. He got up from the table he was quite disgusted. His actions were fine because I was disgusted too. As you can imagine I have a lot of friends because of encounters like these
Now for contrast I will show you my story from Cambodia. I was on a bus trip from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat. It is a 6 hour trip and you really have a good chance to get your neighbor. I was pretty quiet on the first part of the trip. Partially because my mind was still numb from the Shinoukville to Phnom Penh leg of the journey which was done started at the previously undiscovered hour of 7 am. I was , as I said, partially numbed by the length of the day but partially it was because of this utterly hilarious movie. I am not sure what the plot was, or that in fact a plot existed, but it seemed like some plot would happen for about for about ten minutes and then it would either be hilarious slapstick comedy or a good fight. Okay it was not academy award winning stuff but I loved every moment of it. It culminated in a game of kung-fu football. Really you can't go wrong with Kung fu football.
Then there was Tom and Jerry. Tom and Jerry was dubbed in Khmer but since it was an old episode I knew what was being said (I have probably seen each episode Tom and Jerry at least a few million times so I know what is being said). And I was laughing at this as well because the dialogue of Tom and Jerry is not as important to the plot as one may believe. This got my neighbor curious and he asked me if I knew Khmer and I told him I didn't and then for the next three hours we talked about many things. We talked about his dreams for Cambodia. He told me about a spot near the Thai-Cambodia border where there is a haunted house and it sounded like a cool story and I really wished I could have seen it. Of course I probably would have gotten scared because , while I don't believe in ghosts I also don't want to be proven wrong After I asked him where he learned English he told me about learning English under the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. He told me how teaching of English was illegal and the lengths that people went to avoid detection. In his voice there was never any anger towards the Vietnamese or the western powers that looked away because there was little incentive in getting involved.
I learned about Cambodian weddings. And it was amazing how much planning went into it and it made American weddings look like some cheap and tawdry prize out of a Cracker Jack box. It was all so lovely. It was uplifting and it changed my view of Cambodia and allowed me to see the rest of trip there from a whole new vantage point.
As writers we have a responsibility. We have massive power. We use words as tools to build the world around us. We can build a dreary and depressing world or we can be build a world full of hope. As Spiderman's uncle said "With great power comes great responsibility". We have the power to make the world a little happier and a little less dark. We can't sit and wait for someone else to do it. And that is why I have been gone so long, I really just want to make the world a little happier than it was when it woke up this morning.