Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Shall we keep silent? Meg Harper
Hurray, hurray, I did some writing today! I was only polishing up a short story that is my contribution to the anthology I’m publishing for my summer school creative writing group (Good old Lulu!) – but it made me feel I can justify my presence on this blog still! I read some of the recent posts and I am bowled over by the sheer single-mindedness of some of you, writing, writing apparently all day long, be it on Facebook, Twitter, your own blogs, other people’s blogs or even something you might actually submit to an agent. Words, words, words. Voices, voices, voices. Talking, talking, talking.
As a result, I’m thinking that this is a forum where I can raise something that is much on my mind at present. I had thought not – because I had not thought you are people for whom it would make a difference to be silent – but of course it would! You are anything but silent in countless different ways.
So where are we going here? OK - an explanation!
I am much troubled by the issues of people trafficking, modern slavery and bonded labour. My most recent novel ‘Piper’ tackled the slavery issue obliquely. The central characters were faced with a dilemma – would they choose enslavement and relative safety or freedom and the likelihood of death? It appears to me that, despite the efforts of Stop the Traffik and the Anti-Slavery Campaign, there is very little attention being paid to these appalling and widespread practices – so it is in my mind to mount an awareness raising campaign. I recently went to a workshop run by Eugenie Harvey, of ‘We are What We Do’, the outfit she set up to create the book ‘Change the World for a Fiver’, followed by the ‘I’m not a plastic bag’ campaign and more recently the book ‘Teach your Granny to Text’. According to her, I should test out my bright idea for changing the world on a group of ‘normal’ people and get their feedback!
Well, I don’t want to insult ABBA blog readers by calling you ‘normal’!!! You are clearly far from that! But I can’t really think of anyone I associate who is ‘normal’ really, so forgive me testing out my thinking on you!
My counter-intuitive idea for making a noise about those whose voices are silenced by their oppressors behind hidden doors in a succession of anonymous locations - is to use silence. In terms of non-violent direct action, silence seems to me to have immense appeal. My idea is to encourage people to be silent in their workplace to draw attention to the plight of those who are silenced as they work as slaves – silenced by those who ensure they are voiceless by denying them any form of communication with the outside world in surroundings where the language is not their own. Consequently, even their screams are silent.
Which is where we get back to whether writers at work are silent or not. And it seems to me that you are not. Many of you talk to the outside world through a variety of Internet applications throughout your working days. So I can certainly ask you if you would stage as silent protest, backed up in advance by explanatory notes on your web-pages or Facebook profiles. And I can ask you what you think of the idea:
• do you think it would seed and spread?
• what are the things I need to think about?
• how could I make the ground fertile and make the silence that I sow run rampant?
• Should I see this simply as awareness raising, directing people to the excellent work of various anti-slavery/people trafficking lobbies or should I, for example, target a particular piece of legislation?
• Should I aim for a Day of Silence on which people could do as much silence as they wanted to – or should I ask people to make regular briefer, silent protests whilst spreading the word – or both? Or something else?
Or maybe I should just keep quiet and get back to my writing? : )