So, that’s what I mean by saying that the world is upside-down. The world is not well-arranged. It is not well-arranged, and therefore there is no way that we can be happy with it—no way, even as writers.
–Chinua Achebe, 1988
I was raised Catholic, and I took it seriously. Though eventually I lapsed from the church, certain habits of mind I developed when I was quite young are still with me. One of them is looking at the world through the lens of right and wrong. I am a moralist.
The problem with viewing the world this way is that the world will make you crazy, or profoundly depressed, or murderously angry, sometimes all three at once. None of these emotions are useful. They won’t help you make the world any better; they are as likely to poison your actions as motivate them.
Every day gives new evidence of humanity’s inability to handle the products of its ingenuity. The globe itself is being poisoned by the byproducts of civilization. Lethal politics, religious intolerance, ethnic strife, greed, ideology, shortsightedness, vanity, imbecility, a lack of regard for and active hostility toward others—the news every day offers examples of all of these things, at the macroscopic and microscopic levels, done by nation states, whole populaces, by the guy next door or the person at the next spot at the bar. Every day I participate in them myself.
So how does a writer deal with this?