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WRITER'S AGENDAS - A SERIOUS EXAMINATION
An AuthorMe special article by Kenneth Mulholland, Australian Editor.
Now I wish to address the subject of Writer's Agendas: What are they? Why do we need them? Where lie our priorities? How can they be achieved? Who will attempt them?
Here are the old Newspaper Questions: 'what, where, how, who and why?'
There are many reasons why writers write. Sometimes it is to give and to
Sometimes, Writers have very direct ideas as to what they want to say. They tend to specialize in fields that suit them: Children's Books, Romance, Westerns, Fantasy, Crime, Thriller, Spy, How-To books, Educational, Religious, Political, Medical, Theological and so on.
And there are Writers who work in many areas; chameleons who change style and stance as easily as we change our minds.
There are also the writers of comic books, of newspaper articles, of doctrines and essays, speeches and law, the biographers, the teachers.
Here is the shortest story of all.
We could extend it a little by saying, 'I think, therefore I am. I am a sentient being. I have a will, a free will, to express myself in the written medium. We could therefore say that the next shortest story of all is, 'You'.
You have a power that is at once astounding and humbling. You have the
power of the written word. And you can turn that power to any Agenda that
you wish. And in this new age of the Internet and global world
communication it has never before been as powerful as now.
You can reach out to people across the world for as long as we have this
incredible technology within our grasp. You can speak and be heard.
You can decide what is to be your Agenda.
And yet...And yet, there are still scores of millions of human beings in this world of ours, this Twenty First Century world, who have never even made a single telephone call, who have no access to even the simplest means of communication, who are underprivileged in every meaning of the word. Who have still, and even so, a tiny word: a word that is driven, and will be driven, by their Champions. These are the People who have survived through terrible situations and have emerged to speak out. These are the People who yet dwell within the shadow of regimes that seek to eliminate various individuals and entire groups.
In the early 1980's, whilst working as a television cameraman in Melbourne,
Australia, I happened to meet Chris, a sound recorder who was also employed
on 'Prisoner', a locally made production about women in prison.
I got to know him over a few months. He was a Black African, and he told me
that his father had been killed in the riots of the seventies in Soweto. He
was a young man with a good sense of humour. He had to be, considering the
Australian way; which is to give and take a little bit of 'rubbishing',
'send-up', 'give the other guy a hard time and see if he can take it and
come back just as hard', kind of thing.
He took it all in his stride with a lot of laughter, and shot it back to us
Like Shalom, a fellow from Israel, also in audio. I asked him, 'Why are you
'But you like it here. You said that you had never felt so safe, so free as you have in Australia. Couldn't you stay and work toward getting your people out here?'
'That's just it. It's not that they wouldn't like it in Australia, it's just that they already have a home and they don't want to leave it. It is also my home. I want to see things improve there. I have to go back.'
And so both of them did.
What has this got to do with Writer's Agendas, you ask? Only this: there are Writers living and working today who have another kind of Agenda. Their Agenda is one of desperation, of frustration, of fear and terror and the ever present reality of what is happening in their countries. They are Writers who have been forced to flee their own lands, or dwell there still in circumstances that are intolerable. They have experienced, and are still experiencing situations that we find difficult to even imagine: famine, brought about by leaders who have no concern for their own peoples; ravaging disease, sexually transmitted so that almost no one is exempt; war, that continues unabated over many years and leaves whole peoples decimated; cruelty and suffering in so many ways that are absent to we in the western world, where freedom is considered a right and not a privilege of the rich and powerful.
These are Writers bearing the Yoke of Agenda.
These are Writers who cannot go back, who might go back, or who are still
And still, they persist.
There is an Australian lyric writer, Keith Reid and an Australian singer, John Farnham, who wrote and sang these words:
'We have the chance to turn the pages over.
Try and understand it.
Writers such as Rais Neza Boneza, Monica Arac De Nyeko and Beatrice Lamwaka are not alone. There are many others, and there will be more. These are the peoples of very real and urgent agendas that cannot be ignored. They have a great deal to say, much to tell the world about their fearful past and their terrible present.
I have made a point of reading what they have to say. It is not easy
The subject matter is of atrocity and debasement, of cruelty and death, of
inhumanity, sickness without hope of recovery, loss of human dignity, loss
of life almost before life can take any meaning. It is a litany of sad, sad
dreams that are not dreams, but reality. It is a cry for the world to
They deserve to be heard, these three:
Beatrice Lamwaka, Monica Arac
De Nyeko and
Rais Neza Boneza.
Read Them. And think on what they have to say.
Now to the last part of Writer's Agendas.
It is TIME.
Born, Breathe, Die.
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