I’ve always remembered a quote from Flannery O’Connor, the great author from the American South. O’Connor wrote interesting tales fused with themes of ethics and morality. Her characters often struggled with prickly issues of the Civil Rights era like prejudice, racism and the waning influence of religion. Often, her stories would take a dramatic twist at the end that would shock her audiences. In the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” for instance, a genteel family on a road trip are murdered by nihilist criminals on the final page.
Her quote occurs to me whenever I read or see anything that people respond to with shock and disbelief. She told an interviewer once:
When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.
I thought of her words again today when I read Mona Eltahawy’s article “Why do they hate us?” which details her perception of the mass mistreatment of Arab women.