The Writer’s Credo
They may not understand us, yet they persecute us. They persecute us, because they fear us. For in our pen, we control the destinies of Men…
The torch has been passed from one year to another. So, too, have the crises that were borne at that time. One is worth mentioning here.
If we look at the Writers’ Strike in the United States from a remote point of view, we would find it absurd. These laborers, given good pay by the major networks, have taken it upon themselves to rise up, with the intent of paralyzing the primary organs of the American entertainment industry. And for what? Shares in revenues taken from the online expansion of these networks? They seemed to have wrought far more damage not proportional with their demands.
But that is from a remote point of view. What is the effect of the Strike to us? No recent episodes from American shows. Here in the Philippines, we have our own networks, and their respective rivaling programs. Besides all of this, we don’t need to fear a solidarity strike with our writers—they’re not united.
The Writer’s Strike is more than just a question of income. It cuts at the core of the plight of the writer.
Ever since the dawning of time, the philosopher has often been persecuted, and scoffed at. He is a dreamer, a rebel, and an unimportant element in society. Socrates set forth principles that would shape the structures of governments today, but in his time he was forced to commit suicide through hemlock. Cicero, in his speeches and dissertations, to this day influence Law theory. Yet it was the likes of Pompey, and Caesar, who made and broke Rome, while the senator-statesmen ended up as a trophy to the Second Triumvirate.
With the development of writing, the philosophers found a medium by which to relay their ideas, and thoughts. Through the development of the printing press, these writings could be mass produced and mass distributed. It was the patience of the writer that preserved knowledge for later use of Medieval Europe. It was the inspiration of the writer that gave rise to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Romantic Era. His ideas ushered in the exploration of the Sciences and Arts.
For all his efforts, what has the grateful world given? Nothing but rebuke, or worse, indifference. The writer could strike at a man’s heart and stir his soul, but he could never force more than a few cents out of him. So they end up penurious, hungry, and desperate. The Philippine reformistas and illustrados, given the honorific title of heroes, died of hunger, or poverty. The main editor of La Solidaridad, Graciano Lopez Jaena, ended up on the streets of Madrid, where he withered from tuberculosis. Everywhere else was the same: Fedor Dostoyevsky was constantly hiding from his debtors, Edgar Allan Poe drank himself to death, and Ernest Hemingway was driven to suicide. Not a few writers are driven to suicide. With the world uncaring, and unchanged, he is frequently driven to despair.
And nothing has changed. The American Writers’ Strike is proof of that. The writer may have found new outlets through express his ideas—the blog, the online and offline camera, and various viral websites—but he is continuously undervalued. Constantly frustrated in his expression of truth, when the government imposes heavy censorship. In poorer countries, and harsher climes, they are targeted by elements of the government, or crime syndicates (often the two work hand in hand).
Yet the writer is important. The various states of Europe hunted down Karl Marx, and tried to stop the production of his Das Kapital. Eventually, his ideas brewed a storm, which swept the world and changed it forever. The writers of the Enlightenment, from Voltaire to Rousseau, influenced the spirit of the French Revolution, and then the later uprisings. And are we to forget the denunciations and censorship of Noli Me Tangere, and El Filibusterismo?
We must take a page from the American Writer’s Strike. We must also take a page from Myanmar. There, in the midst of heavy government censorship, the word got out of the violent suppression of the uprising of the monks.
They may not understand us, yet they persecute us. They persecute us, because they fear us. For in our pen, we control the destinies of Men.
Our duties as writers are two-fold: one, to uphold the truths, ideals and principles by which we stand by. We must be ever watchful of the excesses of our governments, the decay of our society, or the simple need for change. We may end up the lone voice in the wilderness, but we must shout, and shout until we are heard.
Two, we must uphold our dignity as writers. It is a sad sight in the Philippines to read of the latest journalist killed by shady men of “military color”. Oftentimes, the major newspaper companies are pressured by the government to back down from potential exposes on their excesses. So, we end up with empty headlines of prosperity, and complacency. We must organize ourselves as a national force. Then, we must stand side by side with the writers of other countries, and demand recognition from the International Community. It will truly be a triumph if the United Nations would allot a special declaration championing the rights of the writer.
The power is inherent within us. It is our choice to be cowed down by the world, or to stand and fight. But know this: we write not of our own compulsion. We write for their sake, and for truth’s sake. We write, to champion the dignity of Man. We write, because we must.