It is not unusual at all for me to read what I think of as a tough guy book—stories filled with characters surviving an unforgiving world without a whiff sentiment—only to meet the author and discover he (it is always a he) is a great big butterball. There is nothing wrong with butterballs, we usually get along much better than if these men had been more like the heroes in their books, but I am reminded again that what passes for toughness is almost always a brittle shell protecting a gelatinous center. I find true toughness, or durability, best described by the saying, “In my defenselessness my safety lies.” To risk vulnerability is the bravest choice possible; only then will you understand you are invulnerable. Yet this kind of invulnerability comes with a price. If you choose to rest here, you lose commiserative opportunities with The Wronged.
The world is filled with people who have been wronged, and they are always happy, joyous even, to tell you how they have been wronged and why the wrong done to them is quite possibly more wrong than all other wrongs in recorded history. It certainly seems so to them. Groups are organized by people who have all been wronged in the same way, and here these people sit around reminding each other how wronged they were and how it isn’t their fault that they were wronged, and isn’t it too bad that they were wronged, and wouldn’t the world be a slightly better place if only everyone would acknowledge the extent of the damage done by this wronging.
The most dangerous thing you can tell someone else is that they are not a victim. We will defend our victimhood to the death, quite literally. If you aren’t killed, you will in all likelihood be labeled insensitive. Where is your pity for those who have suffered?
I have suffered plenty in my life, and every inch of suffering I have ever suffered has been brought about in exactly the same way: by something I have thought. In this way, I am always the abuser and the abused. Strange to think then, with all the hardboiled fiction out there, with all the heroes and heroines taking it on the chin, that the toughest thing you can ever write is, “Nothing is wrong.”