Who makes a real difference in society?
We look to politicians, as if they possess super-human powers, and when they fail, when Parliament descends to a crassly quarrelsome, strife-ridden place of inertia, we lament and moan and become disappointed.
And we must understand that the government is not god, all powerful and all knowing and omnipotent.
When we look at the history of how democracies work, we see the media defining and shaping society. The media really and truly perform the role of mediating between the power elite and the people, the government and the governed.
This mediating calls for balanced, reasonable, agenda-less writing.
In the media arena, writing plays the pivotal role, engaging the social space, generating mass-based conversation.
Writing plays a powerful role in shaping the public space. Using words, the writer exercises a kind of power, engaging with a rapt audience, conversing with readers who focus full energy and attention in reading those words.
It’s not a responsibility to handle with arrogance, pride or callous disregard. In that act of reading, the audience acknowledges the writer’s role with the greatest of compliment, a silent participation, a trusting absorption.
The writer who writes with flair, style and empathy awakens in the reader that sense of mutual understanding, nodding agreement, and silent bonding. Writing shapes a social space, writer and reader joining minds and hearts, engrossed in an idea, a story, a piece of useful information.
Such a thing calls for immense carefulness from the writer, who assumes a leadership role, responsible for shaping the very consciousness of the audience, those who encounter the words.
It’s a responsibility of particular sacredness, this writer-reader relationship.
The writer owes it to the reader to exercise integrity, commitment and absolute belief in the ideas and stories that shape the relationship.
One cannot write for the sake of a job, or to exercise the privilege of a mass audience platform. One writes because of a profound conviction in the heart, a thirsting desire to pour out substance, value and sensible engagement.
The conscientious professional writer shapes a social space, and therefore the role is a profoundly important one.
More than anything, it calls for integrity, for strength of belief, never peddling untruths, half-truths or propaganda. The writer must first believe in the story, the idea, that the information is useful to people in the society.
Writing with an eye to influence, power or manipulation cannot be the goal of the professional writer. Although such tactics exist in the advertising industry, with a huge body of scientific studies existing on how to influence mass behaviour, the domain of the writer remains one of sacred trust between a silent reader and an engaging writer.
All of society rests on language, on communication, especially in this Knowledge Age. The Internet, mass newspapers, TV, radio, movies, and even scripted video games and outdoor billboards, all propagate a global village that spins on words.
Everywhere, everyone tells stories, writing, designing and sharing inspiring information, cultivating hearts and minds of mutual understanding, shared empathy and common interests.
The writer, shaping and molding sentences and stories and ideas, builds a social space of vivid vibrancy, of people in a common cause. Even with texting and social media, writing, the formation of textual sense, takes the preeminent position in shaping the relationship between two or more persons.
This almost unconscious activity of the human being, to write, is showing up as the ultimate shaping tool of the 21st century.
Even where there’s war and lack of workable language, we see the use of propaganda to shape public opinion.
But propaganda doesn’t work. It never has worked. Real, authentic stories, heart-felt human interest writing, that’s what works to inspire people. Our writing must be along these lines, never descending to the grotesque, the lewd, the crass, the selfish.
Our writers must exercise integrity of character and purpose, empathy and an abiding eye to inspiring the reader with sound value-added stories. The ideas we engage in must lift the audience to a new space, a new perspective, a new self-awareness and understanding.
This means that the writer cannot just exist. Just like an athlete needs to train, the writer, too, must read serious, literary books, must learn, like V S Naipaul urges, to become fully aware, conscious and able to think and feel with profound empathy and understanding.
The writer becomes a reservoir of words, substance poured out on the soul of society.
This task of writing is too valuable, too powerful, too important for us to take lightly. The 21st century Knowledge Age spins on the shaping of words, and words shape the social space.
In that, the writer’s role takes on a particularly leadership role.
Most times silent, tucked away in a corner isolated from the world, the writer ponders the world, and crafts stories of inspiring sentences and powerful paragraphs that shape the heartbeat of the reader, the consumer of those words.
It’s not a task to take at all lightly. It comes with immense responsibility.
The writer, in fact, is the one who makes the defining difference in society. We’re poorer for the illiteracy that swamps the Guyanese social landscape. This illiteracy leaves us with a paucity of excellent writers, that reservoir of idea generators, storytellers and society shapers who design the way forward for us.
We talk a lot in this nation about building a new political paradigm, re-shaping the national conversation, designing a workable national social space built on mutual trust, goodwill, understanding, empathy, reaching out and cooperation.
We talk a lot about this absolute necessity, and yet with the next breath we plunge back into that instinct to blame, accuse and scapegoat: we say oh we need a new way to work together, then say oh it’s they who are not doing it.
The writer who writes about these things, in the current context of the Guyanese nation, if that writer works with integrity, belief in an idea, and an abiding interest in seeing the idea take root, must act out what is written, must search out that cooperation, trust and mutual understanding that makes a real difference.