Writing To Raise Social Awareness
One of My Inspirations
Henry David Thoreau is perhaps best known for his book “Walden,” but it was another of his books, “Civil Disobedience,” that in part shaped me as a writer.
Long before I became known as a writer of writing tips, I was writing reflective pieces about society and trying to raise social awareness through my writings. This has always been the type of writing that fuels my soul, a writer taking nouns and verbs and combining them into messages that can propel people into action. For me it was Thoreau. When I was in high school and later in college, Thoreau spoke to me. He was a man of deep conviction and incredible foresight, calling for a simpler life, a simpler and more just government, and calling for a social conscience with regards to nature. To me, his were noble words…..powerful words….words that inspired and ignited those who would otherwise wallow in complacency and apathy.
I thought of his words as I marched in protest during the 1960’s. I thought of his words as I continued to work for social change as a teacher, and I think of his words today as I work at my craft of writing……
As I work at my craft of writing.
I heard someone say once, and it has stayed with me for decades, that writers are the voices of their generation. We are the recorders of history and we are the collective mirror of our time. There are 7.2 billion people on this planet, all adding to that history, but only a few chosen ones have the talent and capabilities to put into words that history. Think about that for a moment. Think of the responsibility that comes with being a writer in terms of our impact on society.
Simple truths from one man, a man with the gift of words, a man who used those words to awaken the citizens of his time and spur those citizens into action.
Our history has many examples of such men and women. Our own Constitution is a result of writers like Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke, who saw injustice and wrote about a better way to govern and be governed. On through the years to the words of Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Mandela, always questioning the status quo, always serving as that nagging reminder that injustice anywhere, anytime, is wrong and must be confronted, stirring the masses into action for the common good.
A Call to Action
I cannot ignore my responsibility as a writer. I awoke one day understanding this fact, and that led me to the formation of H.O.W. (Humanity One World), a movement comprised of writers who believed in social change and who believed it to be their responsibility as well to speak out and affect much-needed change.
Now, perhaps, more than any other time in our history, we need writers to speak out. Complacency in society runs rampant. Apathy runs rampant. Fear dictates and from fear is born anger. Our freedoms are being stripped away by governments that have forgotten the basic creed that all men are created equal and that governments derive their power from the governed. These are truths that can never disappear or we are all lost.
Look around you and tell me that I am wrong. Corporations, and not the people, rule our lands. Horrific crimes are being perpetrated upon those who cannot defend themselves. The hungry increase in number daily, as do the homeless, Nature is being raped in the name of profit and greed, and the voice of the people is but a whisper compared to days gone by.
Who will speak out against all of this if not the writers? Who will cry out against injustice if not the voices of the generation?
I would submit to you, then, that it is my responsibility to do so. I would submit to you, then, that it is your responsibility to do so.
But I’m Not That Kind of Writer
I have heard this often. It goes something like this: “Bill, you write these types of articles so well, but I am just not that type of writer.” And I would say to those writers that we will never know if you do not try.
I believe being a writer carries with it a responsibility. I don’t care if you write recipes or travel articles or mothering tips. I believe you have a responsibility to affect social change. Far too many sit back and bemoan the current state of affairs but do nothing to change them. We, as writers, have been given a gift, and that gift must be used for the common good.
And so I’m calling on all of you to do so. Of course I do not expect you all to write exclusively about the wrongs of this world. I understand the need to make money and pay bills, and I understand that many write to their comfort level…..but…..perhaps you could at least try occasionally to raise awareness about some issue that you deem important.
But what’s the point you say? Nobody will pay any attention to your meager article about sex trafficking or child abuse or the destruction of our environment. Why even bother?
And to those I say, respectfully, that you are terribly wrong. If your article raises the awareness of just one person then it will have been worth writing. As writers we have the ability to raise the level of discourse in this world. As writers we have the ability to start conversations and debates, healthy conversations and debates that may give birth to other ideas and possible solutions.
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Can You Do This?
Of course you can do it, but will you? Are you willing to leave your recipes and how-to articles once a week, or once a month, and climb to higher levels as a writer? Are you willing to try….just try….to be a voice of your generation?
I believe in the power of our words and you should too.
A little over a year ago I was contacted by my niece who lives near the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, She told me some rather disturbing news about child abuse on that reservation, and she asked me to write an article about it. Why bother I thought? I’m just one man…a white man…and what good would it do for me to spend my time tilting at windmills about an issue that is happening 1,500 miles away?
Still, it was my niece, and so I did my research and I interviewed people and I wrote that article.
And then a remarkable thing happened……people read the article, and were incensed and saddened by the article…and they contacted others and those others read the article….and leaders were contacted and meetings were held and…..change happened. Today, although things are still not acceptable on that reservation, change is happening and the situation is better, and it is partially because of one article, written by one writer.
Do not tell me that writers cannot affect change. I will not believe you.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)