I hate the indifferent. I believe living means taking sides. They who truly live cannot help but to be citizens and partisans. Indifference is apathy, parasitism, perversion, not life. That’s why I hate the indifferent.
Indifference is the burden of history. Indifference operates with great power on history. It operates passively, but it operates. It is fate; that which cannot be counted on; it is that which twists programs and ruins the best-conceived plans; it is the brute matter that chokes intelligence. That which happens, the evil that weighs upon all, happens because most of humanity renounces its own will, allows laws to be passed that only revolt can nullify, and leaves men that only mutiny can overthrow to achieve power. Thanks to indifference, few hands weave the fabric of collective life unsurveilled, and the masses ignore it because they are careless; then it seems like it is fate that runs over everything and everyone, it looks as if history is but an enormous natural phenomenon, an eruption, an earthquake of which everyone is a victim, those who consent as well as those who dissent, those who knew as well as those who didn’t, the active as well as the indifferent. Some whimper pitifully, others curse obscenely, but none, or very few, ask themselves: if I too had fulfilled my duty, if I had tried to impose my will, would this have happened?
This too is why I hate the indifferent: Their wailing as if eternally innocent is a nuisance to me. I hold every person liable to how they fulfilled the task life has given them and continues to give them every day, of what they have done, and especially what they have not done. And I feel I have the right to be unrelenting, not to squander my compassion, of not having to share my tears with them.
I am a partisan, I am alive, and in the conscience of those on my part I feel the pulse of the future city we are building. And in it, the social chain does not rest on a few, nothing that happens in it is a matter of luck, nor the product of fate, but the intelligent work of citizens. In it, nobody is looking out their window while the few sacrifice and drain themselves. I live, I am a partisan. That is why I hate those who don’t take sides, I hate the indifferent.
If you’re a boy writer, it’s a simple rule: you’ve gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women and that the worst women writer can write a better man than the best male writer can write a good woman. And it’s just the minimum. Because the thing about the sort of heteronormative masculine privilege, whether it’s in Santo Domingo, or the United States, is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity. And because you grow up with this, it’s this huge surprise when you go to college and realize that, “Oh, women aren’t people who does my shit and fucks me.”
And I think that this a huge challenge for boys, because they want to pretend they can write girls. Every time I’m teaching boys to write, I read their women to them, and I’m like, “Yo, you think this is good writing?” These motherfuckers attack each other over cliche lines but they won’t attack each other over these toxic representations of women that they have inherited… their sexist shorthand, they think that is observation. They think that their sexist distortions are insight. And if you’re in a writing program and you say to a guy that their characters are sexist, this guy, it’s like you said they fucking love Hitler. They will fight tooth and nail because they want to preserve this really vicious sexism in the art because that is what they have been taught.
And I think the first step is to admit that you, because of your privilege, have a very distorted sense of women’s subjectivity. And without an enormous amount of assistance, you’re not even going to get a D. I think with male writers the most that you can hope for is a D with an occasional C thrown in. Where the average women writer, when she writes men, she gets a B right off the bat, because they spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity. In fact, part of the whole feminism revolution was saying, “Me too, motherfuckers.” So women come with it built in because of the society.
It’s the same way when people write about race. If you didn’t grow up being a subaltern person in the United States, you might need help writing about race. Motherfuckers are like ‘I got a black boy friend,’ and their shit sounds like Klan Fiction 101.
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons. And if you want to be a good artist, it means writing, really, about the world. And when you write cliches, whether they are sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, that is a fucking cliche. And motherfuckers will kill you for their cliches about x, but they want their cliches about their race, class, queerness. They want it in there because they feel lost without it. So for me, this has always been the great challenge.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track. They tell you, “You know what? You’re a bit of a fucking homophobe.” You can’t write about the world with these simplistic distortions. They are cliches. People know art, always, because they are uncomfortable. Art discomforts. The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real. And sexism is a way to avoid the real, avoiding the reality of women. Homophobia is to avoid the real, the reality of queerness. All these things are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
can’t wait to publish the next novel everyone will pretend to have read