Number 2, Volume 2
Plagiarism: repeated words
"Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before him." —Mark Twain
This month, Fareed Zakaria, was chastised by CNN and Time magazine for copying material he stole from another author about gun control. As a writer, I find that deplorable. Yes, we all have dry spells when we stare at a blank page, and twenty minutes later it is still blank. Two hours later we gaze at words which we had meant to put in proper order, yet look redundant and void of significance. We know what we really want to convey, but our brain will not cooperate.
Journalists work under deadlines and when we get paid to say something smart and we have a blank page in front of our nose, then it is so much simpler to just plagiarize. The unethical ones, that is. As most of my fellow writers have such wild imaginations that they would not dream of plagiarizing. Stealing somebody else’s work is no different than inappropriately lifting their wallet. Violating standards and ethics these days seems to be the norm in schools, business, and recently in politics.
“Take it from me, baby, in America nothing fails like success.” Budd Schulberg. (I don’t know who Budd Schulberg is, but note I am giving him credit for his insight so that I cannot be accused of plagiarism.
“In the world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Oscar Wilde, one of my favorite authors, came up with that aphorism.
Goethe noted that everything has been thought of before. The difference here is that an author must think of a fresh way of reflecting upon it.
I have never known the value of sending anonymous letters to the editor, the complaint department of a corporation, etc., without signing your name. If you stand behind your opinion in a free society, you should stand behind your signature representing your persona, as I did recently when I gave the IRS a piece of my mind. There is something cathartic about scolding someone for a wrongdoing to your persona. But writers earn a living with words, either jumbled up or formed in sentences to create a story to entertain readers. I notice my cpa is a man of very few words, void of humor, and lots of numbers which give me a headache.
Granted, there is always the fear of reprisal. But as David never feared the giant, he simply outwitted him. Many politicians and people in the public venue, have received personal attacks by constituents and readers who disagree with their philosophy of life, critiques and editorials, yet survive by developing alligator skin. Some even resort to fantasies.
Being a writer is like having wings: taking a position and defending it with a discerning eye toward your own individual thinking. As an artist, I could never live in the communist system which stifles individuality and creativity and forces mankind (in my case, womankind) to follow like sheep into the abyss of ruin.
This country was built on the individual’s dream to be the best: the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the most successful, to fly the highest. But the challenge is to maintain our honor and dignity, and not to trample on the little guy in the process of achieving our goals. You don’t have to be a bastard to succeed in business or politics. You can still be the best without sacrificing your integrity. We can respect each other’s beliefs without plagiarizing or stealing or lying, or cheating, and tolerating each other’s frailties.
And as we watch the sunset, we can reflect on the words of Thomas Jefferson, (another one of my favorite authors) “Each generation… has a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness.”
Thank God we have that choice!! “A life spent in making mistakes (and I know I have made plenty) is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw; (another favorite author of mine.)
So, Mr. Zakaria, the next time, you (and yours) think of plagiarizing, think about another venue of work. I know President Obama is… maybe he will soon be writing his autobiography. I think that would be an excellent form of putting his fantasies on paper. And I am sure it will not be blank!
P.S. - I have signed my name. I do not fear reprisals because of Constitutional rights, although I admit to a little paranoia at this moment, since I have a lot of friends who are Democrats in Florida. I forgave them for stealing my McCain signs on my front lawn, but I doubt I can forgive them for another four (4) years, perhaps more if a king is elected, because I need to breathe freely as a writer.
P.P.S. - Michael and Jimmy in Florida, and Michael in Texas, et. al., will you pluuuuease vote for a Republican just this once? I have read your notes on Facebook, but do you really want to pay higher taxes? Instead of the boats you brag about you are going to end up in a dinghy, and I will be on my way to Ecuador. Do you really want to lose me? Tell Debbie to go eat lobster now – because on January 20th, she might be eating cake! Fruit-cake, that is.