The day I realized I wanted to be a writer, was the day I learned that literature can have a large impact on society for a greater good. It started by studying Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin during my career in university. What struck me about this important play, was it’s impact on the nation in raising awareness about the horrors of slavery, in effect, playing a small role in Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Obviously there was lot more was involved in the freedom of slaves, however, one cannot argue that Stowe’s work was trending at a time when civil rights were at their peek (or so we thought).
What does that have to do with Ferguson, Missouri?
Troubled by the recent events in Ferguson, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share with you one of my mantras as an aspiring writer; writing for social change. When reports of the media being arrested for their ongoing coverage on the riots and police militarization, it’s hard to argue the parallel’s with the civil rights movements in the sixties. What disgusts me about this, is the desire to silence the truth about what black families are dealing with in Missouri (or anywhere else in the USA for that matter). I’m instantly reminded of the movie V for Vendetta. A curfew is being implemented, a corrupt government rules over it’s citizens with an iron fist and we are left to stand idle as the police brutalize their citizens, silencing freedom of speech.
Journalism, true journalism is about speaking truth to power. You’re obligated as a reporter to find the truth and present it to the public in an objective fashion. Do I believe this happens today? Very rarely. However, given the circumstances in Ferguson, it’s hard to argue that commentaries on the USA’s current police militarization haven’t found their way into the literature of our day. If you don’t believe me just watch Marvel’s Captain America: Winter Soldier.
What is social change about really?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that once I knew how Uncle Tom’s Cabin questioned white supremacy, I realized that there was an entire underbelly to literature that questions unethical or immoral world views. In a way, all literature is a form of expressing the challenges our society deals with, but my favourites are the ones that empower people to do something about it. The list really goes on and on. From V for Vendetta, to George Orwell’s 1984, to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, even that crappy movie Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan (I say crappy, but I love it.) Writing for social change is about showcasing through literature areas of improvement we can make as a culture.
Where am I going with this?
I don’t want to be silenced like the media in Ferguson. I want to have a voice. I want to inspire people. I want help people feel hope where there is none. I want people to see how certain world views are causing us all grief. I want to influence people for the greater good. I want to call to question corruption, injustice, and immoral behaviour. Whether it be speaking up through social media, writing a news report, or finishing up a distopian novel, I want to showcase the demons of man, helping us to (hopefully) understand a path to a better tomorrow. That is why I want to write. I want to give a voice to people who have none.
If I can give hope, inspire, help, or improve the life of just ONE person through my writing, I’ll have done my job. If I forget or struggle with what I’m doing, I look back and remember this promise I’ve made to myself.
What makes you want to be a writer?
Why do you want to write?
Do you have a mantra that inspires your own work?