Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writers as agents of social change

"Can writers bring in desired social change?"

Why did you ask that question? Oh, you forgot Charles Darwin and his work ‘The Origin of Species. Don’t you accept Voltaire as French enlightenment writer? Do you remember that in the middle of Second World War, Stalin distributed ‘War and Peace’ to Soviet citizens to gird themselves against the invaders? Ah, what a price Hitler paid for not reading his Tolstoy. Rachel Carson could bring ban on DDT, a destructive chemical, with her ‘Silent Spring’. What else could one ask for?

Many leaders chose writing as a communication tool to bring in the desired societal change and writing was their only option when they were jailed, for Gandhi to Nehru and Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela. If what they wrote were just self-expressions, why their works are in re-print for so long? How could Obama quote Gandhi or I would quote John Steinbeck (on this blog post), if we had not read and influenced by their writings?

Instead, you would have asked why all the writers were not equally successful at influencing the readers and triggering a change? For that, I would have quoted John Steinbeck again – “A book is like a man — clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly”. Effective writing demands efficiency in the creator. Do your homework, present your best case and attempt to stand out. They may not notice you immediately. They may chose to ignore your change proposition first, laugh at it, criticize it and then ride the change!

I would have loved the question, if you had asked why the successful writers could not bring the desired change all the time and why only few of their works were celebrated and the rest were ignored. If your new book is not loved by your readers, it is your publisher is at risk, more than you, the celebrated writer. Well, this applies to all the professions and is not limited to writing. Amitabh Bachchan and Rajanikanth too had their share of flops. Being accepted by the society does not necessarily mean they take all you give. Change is embraced when the society is ready for it. And you cannot remain the change master forever and it could be time to make way for another writer.

If leaders are product of the times, then it is the awaiting social change provides the subject to the writers. Writers too are part of society and do not live away from it. They are part of the change the society goes through. Probably they see it first and have the ability to communicate and pass on the message to others. Societal change demands writing from writers and writers propagate the change. The change cycle continues and new writers are born to lead the new change.

Well, what is your next question? I liked discussing this with you.