Being a Better Writer: The Non-Gender of “They”

Welcome back, readers! Were your weekends interesting for you? In a good way? I hope so. Mine went pretty well, myself. Got a little more done on Stranded, and then watched as a truly amazing amount of book sales (by my standard) rolled in for Axtara! I’m not sure if it was the acknowledgement that you can find it on store shelves in Germany or what, but this weekend Axtara shipped quite a few copies.

Which was good to go with the bad. For a minor life update, the place I’ve been renting for the last few years is being sold. This is … less than desirable. The state I live in has a reputation when it comes to realtors that’s even above and beyond that of a normal state for being unscrupulous and dirty. So for example, the last time a landlord tried to sell a place I was renting, their relator tried to get everyone in the house evicted because they wouldn’t show it for her. That’s right: She wanted those living there to do her job for her. She got extremely upset when they wouldn’t.

Side note: This tangent got a little long. I do recommend reading through it (as it concerns not just me), but if you’re here for Being a Better Writer, jump down to the next break, then come back and finish this.

This relator also didn’t care at all for things like state laws requiring 24-hour advance notice of showings. I woke up to people in my rented house … and not just in there, but going through my stuff. The agent actually encouraged the kids of the people she’d been showing the house to start playing with my Wii console.

So yes, I have a distrust of realtors already, and today our landlord called us out of the blue and said ‘Hey, someone’s coming over today, and I’ve been told that by contract they don’t have to honor the 24-hour state notice. My hands are tied. I’m trying to get them to postpone it, but I signed that contract.’

Yeah … My distrust grows. Worse, if they’re willing to violate that part of the contract, the chance of the common practice in this state of bullying residents out to sell the unit “clean” goes way up. Our contracts are year to year, and this year extend through July. But I have a worrying suspicion that like so many other happenings in this state, our realtor will attempt to bully us out ASAP regardless of contract, either by looking for any sort of loophole that can get us evicted, or just simply by claiming that the new owner isn’t bound by any pre-existing contracts (imagine how life would be if that worked).

Worst of all, even if we manage to hold that off, such activity does not tend to enthuse new owners for the current tenants, even if the tenants aren’t the ones violating all the laws.

Sands, that’s a lot of text. Sorry to dump that on you guys. Just … bleh. If things get “dicey” in the upcoming months, this would be your forewarning as to why.

But tenant protections in the United States are awful. Well, not awful, just … not enforced very well.

Oh, and before I get a million comments saying “document everything” I learned that the last time. You can bet that if this showing happens today, I will not only be on hand but with a phone to record everything.

Also, I understand that while my current situation might suck, I’ve got it a lot better than most people in the US right now. Evictions are a historical high, housing and rental corporations are consolidating at a terrifying rate, using their new monopoly powers over whole cities and even states to send rental rates through the roof or even just hold empty buildings for the property value. I read an interview near end-2020 with a real skag-licker of a housing CEO who was giddy with how many people he was kicking out around Christmas because it was making him several hundred million dollars. This same skag also bragged that he (his company) now owned over a third of all American rental units. Meanwhile, homelessness, already climbing every year since 2016 (prior to which it had been trending downward … huh) is set to pass already historic highs. As much as nearly nine percent of the entire United States is at high risk becoming homeless in the coming year thanks to the effects of Covid-19 and the actions (read: greed) of rental companies.

So yes, I know my situation, while not great, is far from the grimness shared by almost ten percent of the United States. My rent hasn’t doubled in the last year. I still have a unit to pay rent on. My utilities weren’t cut off as a “cost saving measure.” Or any of the other horrible questionably legal junk that plagued the lives of many people in the US last year who were merely trying to have the bare basics to survive.

My point being with all of this: My situation isn’t as grim as a lot of other people’s in this country, but that’s … really setting a low bar. Would that my situation was the worst of it, with a realtor ignoring state laws to try and push a sale. But unfortunately, for a lot of people in the US, especially some of those nine percent barely hanging on, their situation is far worse.

We as a nation really need to clean up our act. Because I’m certain that when the founding fathers (yeah, invoking that) set out to found a nation, objectives like “At least ten percent of them should be homeless” and “the majority of all housing should be controlled by one or two individuals,” if found at all in their goals, were only there as “never let this sort of tyranny happen again.”

Because, you know, numbers-wise it really does look a lot like serfdom, which they wanted to get away from.


Okay, we’re done talking about that for the moment (though please, do go back and read through it later if you didn’t now, as it’s something that needs to change for the better). Now it’s time to dive into Being a Better Writer and the first posted topic from list #17!

Which … actually isn’t one requested by a reader, because I populate these lists on my own too, and this one is one of those. It’ll also be a shorter one … but no less interesting. And it actually was inspired by a few personal encounters with it.

So to begin, I’ll start with a question: If a friend and I are discussing the sex of an unborn baby, and I use “they” to refer to said baby, and my friend uses “it,” is one of us using the wrong word?

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Why You Should Read … The Pinch

Yes, it’s time for another one of these posts. Why You Should Read …, if you’re not familiar with them, are posts where I talk about books other than my own that I have perused, enjoyed for one reason or another, and now recommend to all of you for (probably) those same reasons.

I’m a big proponent of reading—well, not just reading, but thinking and comprehending. Thinking critically. Questioning. Gathering information and then using it to look at the world through a new lens. Comparing lenses and asking why one may work better than another.

I’m also a big proponent of seeking out knowledge. I don’t hold at all with the idea that “what I’ve got is good enough, and I refuse to learn more” (sadly a common concept, I feel, in modern culture). We should, I believe, always be striving to learn new things, new knowledge and new concepts. Again, there’s a way to do that intelligently and with patience, but seeking out and learning new things is one of the blessings of modern society. Well, at least, the capability to do so is. A lot of people, sadly, don’t take advantage of this, then still want to play in the grand sandbox, pitting their toy soldiers of ideas against actual tanks (and often not understanding in the slightest why their plastic memes failed to make a dent in a well-armored, carefully researched opponent).

Basically, Why You Should Read … posts are the occasional recommendation of books that I find worthy of being added to someone’s read shelf, for one reason or another. Some are fiction (because you absolutely can learn a lot from fiction, as many scientific studies are discovering) and some are non-fiction (because understanding the building blocks of the world around us along with its cause and effect is pretty important). Today I’m recommending one of the latter: The Pinch by David Willets. Or, to use it’s less common full title, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future — And Why They Should Give it Back.

Yeah. It’s a mouthful. And the longer title isn’t especially popular with some people, as you may guess. After all, it straight up points out an issue and assigns blame right there, and against a particular generation that doesn’t much like being blamed for anything save the good. Which, you might suspect, could be part of the problem.

But David Willets is not intimidated. In fact, he’s a member of that generation (the Boomers). He’s also a British lord and chair of the British Science Association as well as a member of the British Council of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In other words, he’s not some random individual. Willets is someone who was tasked with studying the economic impact of the largest generation ever, along with a whole wing of the British government and independent research groups. And after a several-decade study, comparing data going all the way back to the late 1800s (and in some cases even earlier), and yes, involving the United States, Willets wrote a book about their findings to try and widen their audience because, well, it’s vitally important that people know what they found out.

And I’m saying that you should read it. Hit the jump.

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