RHAE – Farewell Statement

Oct 24, 2009 by

*Rhae was eliminated at the end of Round 7

Read Rhae 7 here

“He is not dead who departs from life with a high and noble fame,” the 19th century German author Johann Ludwig Tieck once wrote.  Leaving aside the suspect romanticism and inherent vagueness of words like “high” and “noble,” Tieck offers timely advice for an era in which we are given every opportunity to resign and outrage our better sensibilities in favor of that euphemism for self-imposed lobotomy known as positive thinking.

I’ll interpret “high and noble fame” as living by one’s conscience, one obeyed from within, not imposed from without. It may explain why I resisted advice by readers to flesh out the characters. Perhaps I would still be in the running had I done so. However, I would have also betrayed the primary inner voice that each of us has but doesn’t always listen to. Even when others clamor for our attention, there is one voice that speaks more firmly, one that compels our attention when we look into the proverbial mirror, one to which we lose everything if we ignore it.

There is always a danger of pigheadedness. But a dose of intransigence is a necessary tonic to our times, which demand a stubborn independence of thought. After eight years of Bush’s degradation of intellect and “thinking from the gut,” the mere act of oration has lulled much of the progressive community into passivity and soporific hero worship. In certain respects the dangers now are greater than they were during the Bush era because they go unrecognized.

I have appreciated all the critiques, discussions and disagreements. Although the fiction provided a useful skeleton for interaction, it is these comment strains I most enjoyed. Hopefully we’ll pick up some discursive threads again in December. I look forward to finding out if Tuck’s jingoism, sexism, racism and misanthropy were satirical or in earnest. At last we will learn if he really is a cyclopean, bigoted nationalist or just a puerile, offensive, second-rate comedian.

I’ll leave it at that. There are times when it’s constructive to leave on a combative note. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but dissidence makes the mind grow stronger.

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  1. Jay

    I’m glad you went with your inner voice! And thank you for your fiction, I’m glad I got to read it.

  2. Thank you for your words Rhae – both now and those in the contest.

    I do know where you are coming from. For six years I have been part of the birth reform movement here in Australia. We are a group of dedicated Mums, Dads and midwives, juggling family, work and life to go up against well funded, powerful lobby groups such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Aust. & NZ College of Obs and Gynos (RANZCOG).

    For decades they have had the ear of successive governments and have influenced the spending not only of health dollars, but defined the moral code when it comes to birth.

    In 2004 when my son was just three months old,Queensland, the state I live in, called a Statewide inquiry into Maternity Services (number 24 in 10 years of inquiries etc across the country at state and federal level).

    I sat on a committee comprised of homebirth mums, dads, grandparents and midwives. The Dept wanted our submission in a certain way – but how do you tell your authentic story, let that inner voice out if you’re being told “this is how you write it” – well you write it but you find a creative way to be authentic. In our case the 120+ page document which was submitted incorporated photographs and comments/snippets of personal experiences in 1/3 of every page. The time and effort which went into producing the document was enormous – but it was worth it. It was a beautiful powerful document. We submitted something which ticked the boxes for the bureaucrats but which was also true to ourselves. A picture tells a thousand words and we had hundreds of photos of women in their beauty, glory and power. This was the most powerful message we could have sent to those making decision that birthing is not dangerous and doesn’t need to be controlled by doctors. The process goes on … (the Federal Govt currently had three pieces of legislation cross which made homebirth illegal as of 2010 – with a hasty included stay of 2 years on the eve of a major demonstration at parliament house.)

    What I admire in your writing Rhae – as in your final round you found the place where the authenticity of your inner voice found a “vehicle” to connect with your readers. I hounded you for characters because I believe your story is the most important of all the ones which have been created as part of this contest and I didn’t want to see you voted off because your story hadn’t connected with readers.

    The other thing – on the big picture, there are lots of little pictures – the impact at the personal level often hammers home more profoundly the big picture message, than a pure focus on the bigger picture. This is what I’ve focused on in my Fourth Fiction – which is a thinly disguised political rant on birth. It may not be right, it may not be wrong. But I know the pollies we also talk to – beg for personal stories to illustrate their points in Parliament. A “human” face, a “human” experience is always more powerful than a list of statistics.

    Someone said that art is always on the forefront of social change, and has the capacity to drive it forward.

    I hope you keep writing this story. I have big publishing plans afoot for 2010 with my London business partner and we’d love to, when our platform goes up – publish your story Rhae.

    Thank you for bringing intellectual debate to this competition. It has definitely been something I have enjoyed and revelled in. Keep well until we see you again in December.

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