Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Activist Writers?

Can a writer of fiction be a social activist? I mean, a truly committed one? I wonder.
If our first priority (aside from telling kick-ass stories, anyway) is to tell the truth regardless of consequences, how can we ally ourselves with any single position? Even on the most basic social issues, things are very seldom black and white, right and wrong-- but a real activist is sometimes forced to concentrate solely on ONE aspect of an issue in order to affect change.
Climate change: at this point, the only people really denying climate change are fringe-types, conspiracy nuts. That’s my opinion, and I think the folks who championed the cause, spread the word, about climate change are to be commended. But to comment about the handful of scientists who deliberately left out important information that didn’t support their views is frowned upon.
But if you’re a writer, you’re obligated to point it out. Even if it weakens a position that you believe in.
I tend to be pretty liberal in my politics (and I have numerous issues with Israel), so I was dismayed at the treatment of journalist Helen Thomas when she spoke out against the Israeli occupation. But if I’m going to be truthful, I have to admit that it was equally monstrous what my fellow liberals did to Juan Williams when he made statements that were read as anti-Muslim.
So I can’t take a side, can I? I can’t rally for anyone’s cause. Because my first obligation is to the truth.
Maybe you think I’m making too big a deal out of all this, considering that all these social issues rarely if ever come up in my writing anyway, but I contend that it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing. By committing to a social agenda, you’re already compromising yourself as a writer, making the next little lie (or lie by omission) that much easier to tell.
Maybe our only activist position should be the one of telling the truth. In this day and age, that’s a pretty radical concept all on it’s own, isn’t it?
Bear in mind this is something I haven’t quite made up my mind about yet, so different points of view on it are more than welcome…

1 comment:

  1. I think it depends. Painting the truth about a certain situation and certain people is already taking a stance. I would go on the opposite and say, you can't even tell the truth even if you want it. We're a product of our upbringing and out experiences and telling your truth might contradict with the experience of the world somebody else has.