Corporate power and free speech

A video interview with author Arie Farnam

This is a repost of the first in a series of video interviews on hope and integrity in a perilous world. This interview focuses on the influence of corporations in society and how individuals respond with integrity. 

While the vast power of corporations often feels indomitable and the manipulation of our culture and media can be demoralizing, understanding of and resistance to tyranny is spreading.

As the progress of the past fifty years in civil, economic and environmental rights is under threat, we come to see that we have come a great distance and have much to believe in and lives worth defending. 

YouTube Link

YouTube Link

This interview also touches on how the struggle for social justice inspired my writing in 2014. The dystopian series that came out of that time is eerily predictive of our waking reality in 2017. That's why I'm reposting the video. As we struggle with immediate danger, we must also remember how we came to this situation in order to prevent its repetition in the future.

I write my stories because I cannot help myself. Writers must write. But I also write them to reach out and wake up the world from the malaise of apathy and despair. Mine are stories of hard-won and authentic hope and these video interviews tell how and why.

How not to get mad

I might have been annoyed this week. But I wasn’t.
I live in the Czech Republic and the president is Milos Zeman. I’ve been watching his political career for nearly twenty years, since I was an intern at the main English-language newspaper here in the mid-1990s. I’ve always noticed that he has some sort of muscle anomaly in his face. I don’t agree with his politics most of the time but I did think it was refreshing that a politician with such a physical difference became president.
Then this week he did something very, very, very… irritating. He went to lunch in a small town and before he got there his event team went in to check out a nice restaurant. They liked the space and everything about the place, except for two of the employees. One had a visible physical disability. The other was clearly developmentally disabled. Both are regular employees of the restaurant, serving customers and earning wages and tips. But the president’s staff said they couldn’t serve the president. The restaurant was required to give the two employees mandatory leave and hire temporary workers from a hospitality school.
Now as many people know, I’m legally blind. So... I found this news item disturbing.
My husband pointed out to me that one doesn’t have to be directly associated with the irritating news of the world to be affected. He was similarly disturbed by listening to a radio program which made a case for why same-sex spouses in a legal partnership are not allowed to adopt children, including the children of their legal spouse. So, if you are gay and you are married and your spouse has a child, you are not allowed to adopt the child to ensure that the child has a parent in the event of the death of your spouse. The reasoning? Children must have both male and female influences. They apparently forgot that single women and single men are allowed to adopt.
Okay, our children are adopted from orphanages where many other children wait for parents who are open-minded about ethnicity. So I guess we feel associated with that issue too, but is anyone really unassociated with these sorts of issues? If you don’t have a family member who is affected, you surely have a friend who is.
The world can be disturbing.
And so it is good to have a sanctuary, some place where the world can’t intrude. Even if that’s just a corner by a window that’s well-suited to reading or a spot under a favorite tree.
I have always made a sanctuary for myself, even when I traveled. I’ve lived out of a backpack for years at a time and I kept a candle, a handful of pretty pebbles, some tea, a tin cup and a alcohol burning mini-stove tied up in a scarf. This I could spread out anywhere – and did – on a rock in the Himalayas and on the floorboards of a shack in the Amazon jungle. It made a place of peace.
Now I have a larger sanctuary. I am lucky to have a little house with heated tiles on the floors and a warm fireplace. I even have a garden outside full of maturing trees and herbs. And these days I have the luxury of being alone in this place to write for several hours a few days each week. That is a great privilege indeed.
And so, I really wasn’t all that irritated this week, even though I was tempted.
Instead I listen to my children playing in the other room. I can hear them playing with their collection of letter stamps. I can hear the soft sound the stamps make as they push them against the ink cushion and the “thunk, thunk” as they stamp them onto pictures they are making. I can hear the whack as one child hits the other with a stamp and the yowls of protest. I call a truce, backed up by Mama-power, and they sit separately for awhile until they are calm. Then they resume their pictures. All the while I am making apricot cobbler and I don’t have to turn my head to “see” what my kids are doing.
So, the Czech president can have his bland lunch. This time I’m not irritated because he’s got nothing on me. I am sorry that he doesn't know about the richness of all the senses of the body and all the uniqueness of the mind. I'm sorry for him. There will be days when my ire is raised but not today.
The peace of my writing sanctuary has brought me to the half-way point in my first draft of the Kyrennei Series Book Four. Don’t get too excited, if you’re an avid reader. It is still a rough draft. But it is coming along and the computer demons have been largely appeased.

Being a rebel with a pen is a lonely job but someone's got to do it. We're here to support each other. Keep in touch. Write a comment below and tell me what you do to keep from getting mad. I love to hear from you.

Secrets of the firelight writer

I suppose I could just keep it a secret and let you go on thinking that my eyes are closed in my author picture because I’m looking into the bright flames of a campfire at night.

But it’s bound to come out eventually, so it might as well be on my terms.

It wasn’t easy for me to come up with a “picture of the author” that I could use on a website, particularly a website for a book aimed at ultra-picky urban fantasy and dystopia readers. That’s because, to put it bluntly, I don’t look very cool.

For one thing I’m pushing 39, my hair is going a bit gray and I’m too eco-friendly to go in for harsh dyes. But that’s not the real problem. It’s my eyes.

I don’t personally think my eyes look that bad. But then I don’t have an eye-contact obsession, the way most people on the planet do. I have never been able to understand that common human fetish exactly. Eyes are beautiful. At least they are when I can gaze at them up close in a photograph. But I have never experienced that instant connection that happens when people make eye-contact.

That’s because I can’t see well enough. I’m not totally blind, but close enough for most purposes.

I can’t see anything but smudges of darker color where the eyes should be when I look at someone’s face during a conversation.

I’m told that the eyes are the window to the soul.

So, what does that make me? I guess I am a house with shutters. I don’t mean to be. I love intimate connection with another person on a soul level--through words and voice or through the touch of a friend’s hand. But to those who are used to reaching that connection through the eyes, I must be frustrating and off-putting.

The problem with pictures of me is that not only do my eyes not make eye-contact correctly. They also don’t open all the way. This apparently comes from a lifetime of squinting to see a world that is forever out of focus.

While I don’t think squinty eyes are that terrible to look at, I don’t want to distract people who I don’t know yet with that little detail. I want to be seen first as a whole. And I would like you to try reading some of my books, before you leap to conclusions based on one little physical characteristic.

So, that’s why I spent several hours with two photographers, a tripod and a Summer Solstice fire, struggling to catch a glimpse of me that could be authorly without being retouched in photoshop. I love the result, though whether or not it makes me look cool is a matter of debate.

Still the issue itself is on topic.

The Kyrennei Trilogy takes that murky issue of what is cool, who sets beauty standards and who makes the unwritten rules of society and pinpoints it with a laser beam.

I don’t look cool--not by the standards of 2014 pop culture, not by the even by the more middle-aged standards of parenting-as-a-competitive-sport mommy clubs, and certainly not by the hyper-beauty-conscious standards of urban fantasy.

But if you ever wondered about who makes the rules, I’ll can tell you. Read this.

The story isn’t about me anyway. It’s about you because if you read The Soul and the Seed, you’ll be going on a trip to the other side of the mirror. And I’ll be staying home in my cozy little gingerbread house and writing furiously to keep you there.

P.S. This is my first post on the Rebel with a Pen blog. This is where I plan to mouth off a bit, give good reasons to get riled up, spread the word about people doing amazing and hopeful things and find a path to spiritual healing. At its deepest, hidden core The Kyrennei Series is about healing. It is about the hard edges of the world and about how we find the strength to stand for our own souls. And so, as a Rebel with a Pen, I’m going to keep doing just that.