I’ve hated bickering ever since I was a little kid. Where most siblings relish the chance to needle and annoy their brothers or sisters, I was always the peacemaker. I avoided the situations that seemed to cause arguments, like where my brothers and I would sit in the car. No one wanted the middle seat, but I always offered to take it so we wouldn’t fight.
As an adult, I can be considerably more confrontational when crossed, and I’m in no way a pushover, but I still try to avoid conflict. Or rather, I work around it, try to find a peaceful resolution by getting one side to see and understand the other. That’s just my nature.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe I might be in the minority. Everywhere I look, people are badgering and bickering with each other. It’s typically the source of every news story where someone gets shot or stabbed, and it’s the norm on nearly every reality TV show. Viewers think it’s boring unless one person is railing at or tormenting another. We find it amusing for some reason.
It’s no wonder so many little girls turn mean at the age of five, why some kids are bullied so mercilessly. For all the complaining we do about the issue, all the time we spend teaching our kids not to pick on others, the example they often see is what we leave running in the background on the TV while they eat dinner, do their homework, or just plain horse around.
And don’t even get me started on the politicians, those inept, contentious tools who, on camera, say how they’re trying to work together, but, in secret, bully their party colleagues into vowing to never cow to the demands of the other side. They won’t even entertain the idea of compromise to deal with the issues they were elected and are paid to do. I’m not surprised though. They act the way their constituents act. So perhaps they’re just doing what they’ve been hired to do after all.
Frankly, I’m sick of it. I keep remembering poor Rodney King, God rest his soul, saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” Well, can’t we? I, for one, think we can. The world just needs to look to the writing community for a good example.
I’ve worked in various industries, and while I never had any enemies, in the end, it was always about looking out for number one. You’d think in an industry such as ours, where we, as writers, don’t operate as a team, but rather as individuals, that we’d be more cutthroat, more backstabbing and winner-take-all. Yet that’s about as far from the truth as you can get.
Perhaps it’s the ambiguity of the prize, the fact that what we each have to offer differs so much and that makes it seem like we’re not truly competing with each other, but it hardly explains why, as a community, we’re so…friendly and helpful, so cooperative and supportive. I’ve heard of a few writers who got jealous when someone they knew landed an agent or a book deal, but those are rare.
I’m not entirely sure why but, I think what we share is something akin to how disaster survivors are seen and treated by those unaffected, kind of a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God mentality. Or maybe it’s just that we know what it’s like to fail, to be rejected, and our hearts ache. That would mean we are compassionate, as humans are wont to be. We see the other side as something more than just competition, more than the enemy, more than the scavenger trying to steal our nuts. We see them as we see ourselves, and that is what the world needs more of.