Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blessed are the Gatekeepers (not)

We live in a world of gatekeepers. There, I said it.

Obvious, you say? Perhaps. And perhaps it's necessary that in a large, complex, capitalistic society there must be this layer of human functionality that is positioned to make decisions about the fates of other humans to protect the interests and resources of whatever institution employs the gatekeepers in question. But in America, where citizens are guaranteed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, isn't it ironic that gatekeepers so often unconstitutionally deny those rights?

For example, there is a gatekeeper that says I cannot refinance my mortgage or get a home equity loan, and therefore I am at risk for losing my home and automobile because I have no access to capital with which to settle debts and make payments.

There is also a gatekeeper that decides whether a medical service or procedure will be covered, which is the difference between health and being hounded by a collection agency.

In my particular case as an aspiring author, there are gatekeepers a-plenty. One gatekeeper decides whether or not an agent will go only so far as agreeing to represent my book to publishers, with no guarantee even that the agent will be successful. Gatekeepers keep watch over the slush pile of manuscripts that no doubt form unsteady piles of paper on their desks, then decide after a simple letter of query or a few paragraphs or pages of a story whether or not it's worth their time to give any further consideration.

And should an agent agree to take on the responsibility for pitching the work to a publisher (with visions of 15% cuts dancing in their heads), they themselves come up against gatekeepers charged with preserving a publisher's supply of paper and promotional budget. Though writing is an art and should be judged purely by aesthetic standards, typically it is sheer numbers and equations that decide who shall be published and who shall wither on the creative vine.

Currently, I owe about a thousand dollars to my oil company; suffice to say, I cannot pay it. After the holiday I will call the oil company and speak to a gatekeeper who will have to decide whether or not my family freezes this winter. As I said, I am aware that gatekeepers often perform a necessary function given our form of government and economy, but at some point gatekeepers unintentionally (or not) promote the degradation of human dignity to an extent that ought not to be permitted in what ideally is a free American society.

I suppose I am in a particularly difficult situation, in that my oft-rebuffed creative aspirations and severe state of financial crisis make me especially vulnerable to and reliant on the whims of gatekeepers. And perhaps it is because I am alone on Christmas Eve thanks to a failing marriage that my bitterness and anger rise so acutely to the fore, but to what extent must my very fate be in the hands of people who are paid to care not about my needs and priorities but rather about the numbers and profits of their employers? Must every gatekeeper have the understanding that letting someone pass through the gate is the exception to the rule? Couldn't a gatekeeper be charged with ensuring that the gates stay open for many to enter?

Rarely have I used this blog for a rant, but rarely have I been so rebuffed by so many "customer service representatives" and rarely has my overall living situation been so dire. I'm doing as much as I can (working my day job, getting whatever freelance work I can get, and continuing to refine my manuscript and send it out) but ultimately it is in the hands of disintered gatekeepers as to whether I succeed or fail. I pray to God that a conscience rather than a formula guides their decisions.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I just happened upon your blog randomly while hitting the "next button" link at the top of the screen. Your work is very interesting. I was just lamenting that so many of the blogs on this site were simply flameouts and those that did post regularly didn't have very much interesting content. Anyway, your blog is interesting and worth reading in the future.

Jason M. Rubin said...

Thanks, Jay. Very much appreciated!