I’ve been interviewed and x0 has been reviewed by two fascinating young women from India, who ask great questions and make excellent points in their review. Please check out their blog “The Pensive Phoenix” here.
I’m giving some thought today to negative stereotypes associated with India, particularly those held by my fellow citizens of the USA. There are plenty, let’s face it. We paint a comic insult cartoon of every other nation on earth, although some caricatures, like the stuffy Brit, do imply a bit of fondness. I wonder if every other culture does the same. I think I am going to go with yes on this one, and guess that all caricatures of us are not that fond either.
Several years ago a good friend of mine was told his job was being outsourced to India. The friend is an electrical engineer who spent years writing in machine code to tell your car’s more intelligent parts exactly how to behave. It was a high level skill and he was very good at it, but he was told that his company had a found a kid in India who would do the job at a fraction of the cost and, as his last assignment, my friend was to train his replacement. Yeah right. Guess I’m just not going to remember a whole lot to teach him, my friend laughed. I sympathized.
And then, he started to talk to the young man, who turned out to be smart, eager and happy beyond belief to have gotten this job. It was going to make him one of the richest people in his village. One of the most successful members of his family ever. He and everyone he knew were rejoicing at this incredible good fortune. So of course my friend started to remember more and more to teach him, and before he was done he had passed along every trick and shortcut he knew. The young man was so grateful and once he took over my friends job I’m told that he was very good at it.
So was my friend successful, or not? That depends on how you define success. Remember board games? The directions always started out with “The object of the game is……” Surely I’m not the only person who has wished that real life came with such clear information. If the object of your game is to make as much money as you can, as easily as you can, then my friend failed. And, let me add that if such is your object, you should consider something other than writing self-published novels. They are exhausting to write, they take forever, and you can probably count on a few dollars a month in return.
But what if success is having a more interesting life? Learning things you never knew you never knew? I firmly believe that the internet has brought the world together in ways we are just beginning to understand, and it has done this for anyone who gets online. But writing and self-publishing three novels has taken this to a whole new level for me. I now share ideas and information with readers and fellow writers in a global community that would have astounded my seventh grade self, a girl who could barely contain her excitement at being allowed to study world geography. Today, copies of my three books exist in over twenty countries. I’m pleased beyond belief.
And later this week, I’m going to be interviewed on a blog written by two young women in India. I’ve done a fair amount of such interviews already, but this one is different because I didn’t go to them. They found my book, read my book, liked my book, and sought me out. All the way from India. Is that cool or what?
The young woman I’ve been corresponding with works as an instrumentation engineer and she also has aspirations to write. She wondered how I manage to raise a family, have a technical career and find time to be an author. I told her that I didn’t manage all at once, rather the writing started once the kids were older and job demands lessened. I offered advice on any of the above if I could ever be of help. I suspect that she has plenty she could teach me as well.
Did I mention that my my friend the electrical engineer learned quite a bit from the young Indian man he instructed? Well he did, of course, for in the best of circumstances knowledge flows two ways. Not every outsourcing story ends so well, but in my friend’s case his employer was so impressed with the job that he did training this kid, and with the new skills he picked up while doing so, that they decided to keep him on also. He trained a few others for them and then he went back to happily writing machine code, using all he had learned to his advantage. Your car may run better because of his story.
So what’s the object of the game? Some days I think I know, other days I’m not so sure. But I am am pretty certain that my friend’s story is a success story, in more ways than one. And I do know that I gained far more than I hoped for when I picked up my laptop and started to write my first novel. If gaining more than you hope for isn’t success, what is?
I’m riding a tour bus across the Danube and I’m thinking of Nietzsche. He had the reputation of being a depressing godless existentialist where I was raised, and only as an adult have I learned of the many uplifting things that he had to say.
One of my favorites: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
I am thinking about this because I can’t see out of the bus all that well, because I am in an aisle seat and my sister has the window. She loves the window but she would take turns with me if I wanted, but I don’t. Like Lola, my hero of x0, I too was trapped under a canoe a few years ago and was lucky to live through the incident. Lola used the experience to help her grow into a strong telepath Me, I still find myself uncomfortable being anywhere for very long where I cannot easily get out. After berating myself for being silly and forcing myself to endure mildly uncomfortable situations, I’ve finally just accepted the new me and now I keep plenty of open space between me and the exit. So, no window seats.
I have decided that I love the Hungarians. I love the wild violin music and the rich food and this hilly city called Buda pushed right up against the Danube and the flatness of Pesht. This happens to me a lot when I travel. I tend to fall in love with whole cultures and pieces of the earth.
I am fascinated with how these warriors on horseback arrived in Europe the 800′s (that’s right, 800 not 1800). After hundreds of good years, disaster struck. The Mongols passed through, killing most Hungarians and burning their villages to the ground. Tough times.
It took a couple of hundred years to recover from that, but the Hungarians did. Then the Turks came through, killed and burnt as before, and stayed for a couple of hundred years. The Austrians showed up and kicked out the Turks, but then they milked the Hungarians dry before they pulled them into the losing side of World War I. After the war, Hungary lost two thirds of its land and half its people as punishment.
A guy named Hitler came along and promised the Hungarians their land back, and they made an unfortunate alliance. Once they learned to know their ally better and tried to end the relationship, Hitler simply invaded and occupied Hungary. But not to worry, the Soviets showed up and pushed Hitler out. The Hungarians were so happy that they made then statues of thanksgiving. Then, the Soviets imposed their own stern totalitarian regime on the Hungarians for decades, behind a political artifact known as the “iron curtain”.
Today, Hungary is a sliver of its former self, fighting to regain its economic footing and cultural cohesiveness. Our tour guide quips that “really we’re just hanging around to see who is going to invade us next.” My science fiction brains is already thinking about an alien invasion story that begins in Hungary. It has promise.
I think that what Nietzshe said is technically true regarding germs. I wish it was true more generally. I think we should all be resilient and not leading lives of fear. Survive and grow stronger. It sounds good and when it happens, it’s great. But the truth is that what doesn’t kill us, sometimes damages us. To deny that fact doesn’t help.
If there is there a message in there for those times when what doesn’t kill leaves marks instead, I think it must be about the need for us all to be far more gentle with each other. We’re strong But as people and as societies, we are fragile too. We’d all be far better off if we did less damage to each other to begin with.
If you would like to read other posts from this trip check out “One person’s tourist destination is another person’s home ….. thoughts from Bucahrest “ on my blog for the novel y1. Also check out “A lot of pissed-off people ….. thoughts from Belgrade” on my website for the novel z2.
I am in awe of teacher John Hunter. I just watched him give a talk on TED about his class room game that takes a new twist on RISK, the famous board game of world conquest. In John Hunter’s classroom, fourth graders play “The World Peace Game” in which four imaginary nations struggle with war, poverty, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Students only win by working together to find solutions to issues that many adults think have no solution. The good news is that these kids don’t yet know that the problems “cannot be solved”.
Hunter has recently written a book about his experiences with his World Peace Game and you can click on the image on the right to read more about it at Amazon.com. Compassion, Hunter writes in the book, “is the ultimate point of education and everything else. The game emphasizes compassion.” he says.
He says that the solutions his students devise are always complex and include negotiations, treaties, compromising, and a willingness to not to have the perfect answer. He claims that several classes have found workable solutions to global warming.
“Children don’t bring a lot of baggage to things,” he said in an article on Yahoo News. “They come with a much more openheartedness and open-mindedness to solving problems, and they do it in unusual and amazing ways. It thrills me every time I see it.”
The best news I’ve heard in awhile on the world peace front is that he and his fourth grade class have been invited to come play the game at the Pentagon later this year.
You can check out Hunter’s enjoyable TED talk here.
North Korea continues to try to position itself as a serious threat to world peace. Does it take size and might to seriously disrupt this world? Or will a minimum amount of destructive power combined with sufficient meanness suffice? Sadly, 911 supplied that answer to us all, and now we collectively hold our breaths while North Korea asks foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider evacuation.
Meanwhile this past week Egyptian security officials say five people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians just outside Cairo, and a Taliban assassination attempt on the governor of Afghanistan’s southern province failed but caused several American and Afghan casualties.
There is some good news. Connecticut passed a new gun law that specifically bans the sale of ammunition clips that hold 10 bullets or more, and the state now requires background checks for private gun sales. Sadly, that momentum failed to carry over to the U.S. congress where, in spite of a majority support for both limiting the sale of automatic weapons and for strengthening background checks, our elected representatives won’t even let the issue come to vote.
Rich Lowry of the National Review took a bit of a victory lap yesterday saying “The president’s push for new gun laws looks, at this juncture, like a complete fizzle. … The most concrete effect of his advocacy has been … to stoke increased gun purchases on fear that the government wants to ban guns. He set out to lead a great crusade for gun control and ended up the best friend the gun industry ever had.”
Talk about sad.
However, this past week the U.N. General Assembly voted 154-3 to approve a treaty that regulates the international arms trade and will establish the first international standards for cross border sales of small arms and ammunition, tanks, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles and missile launchers. Yes, missile launchers. The resolution aims to nudge nations towards barring weapons sales to terrorists, criminals and human rights violators.
Let’s hope the predators of the world don’t respond like so many of our own paranoid gun extremists in the United States have. Wouldn’t you just hate to read that the sales of armored vehicles and attack helicopters have spiked worldwide because we are trying to make the world a more peaceful place?
I spend a lot of time searching the internet for information for my blogs and my books, and one subject I search on often is “world peace”. The idea fascinates me, and I devote much of this blog to the concept. And every single time I search, what do I find?
That’s right, I find World Peace. Metta World Peace to be specific, player for the Lakers formerly known as Ron Artest, and perhaps best known for his role in brawl with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Who is this guy? And why does he keep getting in my way?
With basketball everywhere right now (yes I do know it is college, and Metta plays professionally) it seemed like the right time to learn more about this nemesis who keeps fouling up my searches.So I searched on him.
Well ….. He’s more than another rough player who makes a lot of money. He’s also the father of four, and he donates much of his money to causes, especially those aimed at helping high risk students and supporting mental health. He doesn’t just play basketball, he plays it well and is having an impressive career. He he speaks his mind, also raps, and just released a new single “Get Like Me.” (I listened and thought it was interesting but I’m really not part of the right demographic. If you like rap it might be great.)
He legally changed his name in September 2011 hoping to inspire youth and he chose Metta as his first name because it is a Buddhist word for loving kindness. He is described in the media as eccentric and outspoken, but frankly I’d call this man something of an idealist. An odd one, and hardly a perfect human, but upon some reflection I’ve decided that anyone who would actually change their name to World Peace is a kindred spirit. I’ve decided to stop groaning every he shows up in my searches, and to become a Lakers fan instead. Go World Peace!