Arrogance of Writers

I always hear writers say that writing is difficult but not writing even harder. These people can’t imagine going through life not being able to write. Like, if they wake up and suddenly and for some strange Twilight Zone-ish reason they lost all ability to communicate, they would instantly die.

I admire them, these sensitive creatures. But though I fancy myself to be a writer, I don’t really share their despair. Sure, I write for expression and need to communicate, and mostly to keep my sanity. Sometimes, though, (and much more often nowadays) I think of writing as some form of vanity, like someone wanting to write because of some bourgeois need to proclaim to the world that he or she exists. Which, if true, would mean that the rest of us who have not cultivated the skill to write do not exist at all — so vain, so bourgeois. The numerous, faceless, unschooled multitude do not exist because they cannot express themselves through writing.

If writers cannot imagine themselves not writing, it may do them good to imagine, say, the holocaust. Hitler wanted what he felt was good for the world: a pure, sophisticated, cultured, Aryan race. He wanted the ascendancy of a race which he felt was superior in culture, and which embodies the very best of humanity. For him, the “impures” do not deserve to inhabit the earth. We as inferior races and cultures do not deserve to live — we do not, and need not, exist.

I remember we were once watching the news in our office about another outbreak of hunger in Africa when Neil Doloricon, who lays out our newspaper’s front page, commented that “grabe ang problema sa kanila ‘no, so…basic.” Which struck me as very true, so true in our country where problems are so basic and yet so perplexingly hard to solve. For those faceless multitudes the problem is not even how to read and write but just how to continue to survive. How to be able to live when you cannot live off the wage you earn, or you are prevented from partaking of your own harvest.

I don’t suggest, though, that when these faceless multitude finally empower themselves that we begin shooting these arrogant writers (calling to mind a oft-misunderstood Stalin quote: “Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.”). What I suggest is the opposite, that is, for writers to stop thinking they are doing the world an immeasurable service with their poems and stories and actually empower their words by speaking for and with those faceless multitudes in their everyday struggle for survival.

What I suggest is for writers like _____ (I have to restrain myself from mentioning names) to get over themselves and actually start to write. As in actually write. To speak not only to say that he or she exists and matters, but also to say that the rest of us strive to exist and matter.


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