No, this won’t be about the British legal system. It’s for any other indie writers in the audience. I suspect there are a few; we tend to “huddle.”
I believe in charity: that is, in helping those whose needs are unmet through no fault of their own. (Charity toward those who’ve “made their own beds” is foolish and destructive, no matter what the Pope may say about it.) And so I believe in helping other indie writers whose works are worthy of a wider audience: with reviews and complimentary mentions here and elsewhere at appropriate times.
As it happens, my efforts in that direction aren’t worth very much, as my own audience is small. Still, I’ve tried to do what I can. However, one thing that irritates me greatly is the “something for nothing” request: i.e., the indie who writes to request a review of one of his books, but bridles when I suggest reciprocity. That’s panhandling, and I refuse to encourage it.
A few years ago, I got a flood of review requests of that sort. I responded to them approximately in this fashion: I’ll do one of yours if you’ll do one of mine. It struck me as reasonable; if my correspondent expects me to dedicate some of my minuscule free time to reading and reviewing his book, surely a return of service would not be too much to ask. Yet not one of my solicitors agreed to the bargain. It said a lot about our milieu.
It’s been a while since that siege of solicitations. I hadn’t received one such in a couple of years. (I suppose word got around that I don’t style myself a “curmudgeon” because I like the way it’s spelled.) But a fresh one arrived just yesterday morning. I replied as I described above. I have yet to receive a reply. Experience suggests that I shouldn’t expect one.
This isn’t a growl or a lament. It’s an observation about what’s been happening to prevalent attitudes in recent years. There seems to be a spreading conviction that there’s no reason not to ask for something for nothing. “The worst he can say is ‘no,’ right?” Well, yes: the worst I can say is “no.” But that’s not the only negative consequence.
First, let’s give this sort of behavior a brief, punchy name. Perhaps we might call it grasping. To whatever extent grasping is not rebuffed, it will be encouraged. There will be more of it. Over time it will become the norm. It will eclipse courteous behavior.
The general degradation of attitudes is accelerated by every sally of that sort. There are three facets to this: the “everybody else does it, so why shouldn’t I?” aspect, the accumulation of resentment among the importunate, and the hardening-of-heart among those they importune. By gradual steps, the graspers cause us to lose our grip on virtue of charity.
Don’t read too much into this. You already know I’m a old grump, and besides, you know what I’m like in the early morning. But it was on my mind, and this is how I exorcise such thoughts. Have a nice day.
I’m curious. Have you ever responded to such a request by ending with your observation? “Experience suggests that I shouldn’t expect even the honor of an acknowledgment, let alone agreement to reciprocate. It is both shameful and a shame for the opportunity lost.”
No, I haven’t yet done anything like that. But the gloomy presentiment is usually there.