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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Critical Thinking

Saturday, January 22, I went to the Life and Justice Conference here in town. It had break-off sections about crisis pregnancies, elder-care, and rights for the disabled, but the main speakers and the break-offs I went to were all about human trafficking.

Human trafficking: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

I learned a lot of things I didn’t want to know. Like most of the chocolate consumed in the world is harvested by what amounts to child slaves. Or the leading cause of death of orphans in the Sudan is hyena attack. Or human trafficking, although #2 or 3 right now, will soon be the #1 organized crime industry because drug dealers are starting to realize that they can get more money with fewer products and deal with fewer middlemen if they sell people instead.

I don’t know that I’d be able to do something directly. Of course, the woman who has nearly single-handedly funded two orphanages in the Sudan probably thought the same thing. But I found a ministry here in town that is working to get fifteen underaged prostitutes off the streets. I have a bed and a couch they can use. Woefully inadequate, but it is a need I can fill directly.

But this culture would tie in really smoothly with the novel I’m (supposedly) working on.

I have seen authors weave social issues into their fiction before. Some successfully, some notsomuch. I’m trying to work through this. The last thing I want to do is exploit even a generalized experience for my own gain. But I don’t want the story to be a morality tale about the issue, either. Subtle education good. Preaching bad.

I think I’ll be looking at August Rush, Neil Gaiman, and Charles De Lint as to how to do it right. They show how the setting can be a character—not a plot. Me being me, I have to keep my eye on the plot or I get too caught up in somebody’s angst and nothing happens.

Setting as character, not setting as plot. As my freshman history teacher used to say, I think I’m going to tattoo that one on the inside of my eyelids.

My sympathy to all y'all out there who are up to your eyeballs in snow. Here we just had -40 wind chill for a couple of days.
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