Last weekend I watched Arrival. (It's lovely and amazing, go see it.) Throughout the film, 12 alien spaceships hover over the Earth. Inside them, aliens wait behind protective glass for humans to come to them.
This in itself sends humanity into a terrified frenzy, exposing a variety of cracks and fractures within the goodness we like to believe is at humanity's core. Politics, secrets, and fear fuel a range of negative responses from the world's people and governments, while the the aliens wait patiently.
The worst monsters are the ones hiding inside us and the people around us.
It's a message that hits hard right now, because I see its truth everywhere I look. I have tried to keep politics away from my author-ing this election year, and I don't want to break that now. So I'm going to skirt the politics itself and just say this: A big and very serious consequence of this election has been a normalization and emboldening of racism, sexism and bigotry. This frightens me to no end--and most of it is not even directed at me, because, white privilege.
This is a blog about monsters and speculative fiction. But if there is one thing that this genre tells us over and over again, it's that the worst monsters are not dragons, they are not AI, they are not hydras or demons or demogorgons. It's us.
The trouble with monsters within ourselves is, they are particularly difficult to fight.
They cling deep into us with bias and determination. Often, we become so comfortable with them inside us, we do not even realize they are there.
How does one fight such a thing, in ourselves or in the people around us?
I actually found a pretty great answer in this Vox article, and I consider it the most important article I've read all month.
The article delves into a research study that used the issue of transgender rights to see if a simple conversation that calls on empathy could make a difference.
The canvassers, who could be trans or not, asked the voters to simply put themselves in the shoes of trans people — to understand their problems — through a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation. The hope was that the brief discussion could lead people to reevaluate their biases.
It worked. The trial found not only that voters’ anti-trans attitudes declined but that they remained lower three months later, showing an enduring result. And those voters’ support for laws that protect trans people from discrimination increased, even when they were presented with counterarguments for such laws.
The article goes on to say:
This is the direct opposite of the kind of culture the internet has fostered — typically focused on calling out racists and shaming them in public. This doesn’t work. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold.
I strongly encourage you to read the full article for yourself.