is for Bias
Bias occurs when an author incorporates his or her own beliefs into a piece of writing. Incorporating elements of a person’s social, political, religious and life experience, bias can be as explicit as arguing a single side of a conflict or as implicit as omitting evidence that doesn’t conform to an author’s worldview.
Many years ago, I engaged with a self-described bottle-hunter online. I wrote a totally unsolicited email to him chastising for what I considered looting behaviours–“recovering” artifacts from known archaeological sites for their resale value. An active archaeologist at the time, my bias was toward preserving the archaeological record, admiring cultural remains for their intrinsic and historic value, and fostering the same respect in others. My newly discovered nemesis insisted that, since most of the bottles he collected were from backwoods and beaches that were not parts of the existing record and therefore had no provenance, the bottles were okay to collect. I argued that the only reason there was no provenance was because people like him picked up and sold the artifacts rather than reporting them to the proper authorities. In the end, both of us were so mired in our personal, political, social and educational bias, no amount of back and forth was about to change either of our minds and we eventually gave up the fight.
I’m still fighting the good fight, trying to persuade others to see things clearly (that’s my way, in case you’re wondering) via my writing. The following excerpt imagines how one might feel after arriving on site after pot hunters have finished with it. It’s from an unfinished manuscript tentatively called The Next Coming Race:
We’d arrived on site too late.
I surveyed the marred landscape, barely able to breathe, mired in the horror of it, unable to look away. Craters the size of meteorites; random piles of dirt peppered the grass like shrapnel. A gentle hand on my shoulder broke the trance. “Oh, Moll,” Palmer, my husband, said, barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry.” He squeezed my shoulder. Numb, immobile, unable to manage even the slightest nod, I said nothing.
“You okay?” he asked. I felt the warmth of his breath on the back of my neck, imagined his words edged with a fine cloud of mist hanging in the air between us. He placed his other hand on my other shoulder, and attempted to draw me near. Though I longed for solace in the shelter of his embrace, the shock of the potential archaeological site, ruined, kept hold.
One by one the members of our failed rescue attempt muttered their goodbyes until there were only Palmer, Michael and myself left.
I turned to face Palmer. He smiled. Those were his scruffy years. Clean shaven and hair close cropped since I’d met him, he’d taken to wearing his beard grown, but marginally so. His hair had grown in salt and pepper, and wavy. He kept it long, just this side of needing a cut. I’m not complaining, mind you; I’ve always liked a man in a beard. Combine that look with his dark, watery eyes, add a billowy shirt, and Palmer’d be at home on the cover of any romance novel, I used to think. I worried the look was a sign he was in the throes of a mid-life crisis, but God-forbid I’d ever say that to him—at more than fifteen years’ my senior, Palmer was a little touchy about his age.
That night he wore a dark pea coat, the collar hiked up around his neck as if about to head asea. He shoved his hands into his pockets, shoulders raised nearly to his ears, and asked, “Timmy’s?” Michael, Detective Constable Michael Crestwood of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department, nodded his assent.
“I need something with more caffeine,” I said. “Second Cup anyone?”
What would you do if you found an abandoned artifact washed up by the side of a cottage country lake? Would you notify the local archaeological association, or cultivate it for your own collection? Post your thoughts or opinions in the comments section below.