Bad Writers to Good — or at Least Competent - I was reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he wrote something that at first enraged me, “Let me repeat my basic premise: if you’re a bad writer, no one ...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of an actual emergency people in authority would be lying to you right now. They would be giving you incomplete, inconsistent, probably useless, and possibly dangerous instructions. They would be telling you to wait for aid that isn't coming. They'd claim to know the proper escape routes, the path of the hurricane, flood, or fire; or the next move of the terrorist organization which has so far eluded them. They'd claim to be prepared. Above all they would be telling you to trust your survival to the very people responsible for this life-threatening situation. If this had been an actual emergency you would see infrastructure collapsing and teams of first responders with inadequate equipment and ineffective training die in an effort to save you. They would be supplemented by mediocre bureaucrats, incompetent political appointees, and contractors who delivered the lowest bid. Extreme chaos and a string of needless tragedies would be guaranteed. Disasters would feed on each other -- the attack causing the blackout causing the accidents which cause the looting which leads to more accidents, deaths and injuries. Any large, complicated system which has not been the subject of at least one scathing documentary or congressional hearing would disintegrate as soon as you relied upon it. You could count on discovering new and exciting -- very exciting -- flaws in our nation's streets, electrical grid, building codes, and emergency procedures. If this had been an actual emergency you would probably not survive. Your death would cause very few people to lose their jobs or to be otherwise inconvenienced. Those who did would then acquire book deals and appear on talk shows, where they would shamelessly pretend to be blameless, or even more shamelessly pretend to feel crushed with guilt and responsibility. Journalists, politicians, and government contractors would receive promotions, bonuses, and lucrative projects because of your death. They would then help modify the system which failed to prevent or outright caused the terrible calamity which ended your life. This new system would then guarantee the next disaster, a larger disaster, which would expand opportunities for them and their kind even more. No one ever gets a book deal or a promotion or an invitation to a talk show for preventing the preventable, but there are innumerable chances for advancement for someone who made a great speech or shot a gripping bit of video afterwards. If this had been an actual emergency you yourself might have felt some kind of guilty excitement as it started. That would be the product of seeing too many movies and TV shows where people survived terribly dramatic ordeals. And of course this phenomenon might be both cause and effect of a system that obviously feeds on disaster itself. But even you, soon to be dead in the center of all of this, wouldn’t ever learn.