On the subject of character

noun: character; plural noun: characters

1.the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
2.a person in a novel, play, or movie.

As I writer I would say both these definitions are intertwined. That’s why we hear that a movie or book is “character driven” versus “action driven.” An action driven drama still has characters. The label is supposed to point out that the action of the piece is emphasized more than the mental and moral distinctions of the individuals (who are still characters, per definition number 2. Confused yet?)

But I digress. This post isn’t really about the use of characters in writing. I categorized it under “neurotic griping” for a reason. This post is my commentary on the way our culture determines character. At the moment I’m not impressed.

This started with a post from a friend on Facebook, lamenting about how disappointed he was with the lack of charity presented by truly wealthy people, such as celebrities and athletes who get free perks and gifts all the time. The problem with this premise is the assumption that a person’s character is intertwined with their occupation. As the definition above points out rather efficiently, it doesn’t.

And there in lies our societal problem. We are placing value on a person based on their occupation rather than their character. One has nothing to do with the other. You can have a factory worker who volunteers at the local hospital, and a renowned heart surgeon who beats on his/her kids. You can have a school teacher that deals drugs and a movie actor that has been faithful to his/her spouse for decades. You can have an ex-con that raises vegetables for his/her community’s food shelf and a minister that embezzles money from his/her parish. I think you get it.

In my opinion we need to return to the true definition of character and hone our judgements accordingly. These over-reaching, generalizations of “poor people entitled – rich people successful” or “rich people spoiled – poor people noble”  needs to go away because they are simply wrong. Human beings should be judged on their actions, on their treatment of others, not on their title or their income. period.

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