Do writers have a social/philosophical/political responsibility?

Stamp wich represents Sophie Scholl (Personal ...

Stamp wich represents Sophie SchollΒ (Personal stamp-collection of Gretaz). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been wondering about this question a lot lately.
Can’t remember why it popped up. Probably with reading up on how to be a good writer they sometimes ask the question

Why do you write?

and

Who do you write for?

When I read these questions I remembered when I started writing poetry some 20 years ago that I always wanted to be at least a socially critical writer. I used to be a very religious person but I have never followed any dogma without questioning it. So some of my more religious poems were quite critical. But I suspect as a teenager you are bound to be ;-).

Some of the authors/poets that I like/d were socially and politically critical like Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Fried or Wolfgang Borchert. But looking at them I realise they are all German-speaking/writing. So might that be an especial German/central European thing?

I think I was also influenced by reading the biographies of Sophie Scholl, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Their example inspired me and I think one of my core believes is that you can not stay aside or keep your mouth shut when something unjust happens. I have spoken up now and then not as often as I wanted to and I have always gotten into trouble and hardly ever achieved anything which did not motivate me a lot :-).

But I also realised that I enjoy reading entertaining literature of any sort. There is an awful lot of fantasy and criminal literature that I have read. I would never have thought about writing “just” something entertaining which I now think is quite arrogant :-).

“There is a time for everything” to quote the bible and not the byrds:
Sometimes you just need to shut your overactive mind up and escape somewhere into a lovely story but sometimes it is good to have a close look at the drawbacks of society/politics/philosophy and stand up and say something.

I am not sure if you can have an overall answer to this question as our writing era is so much more individual than it ever has been. I think being a good writer today means being versatile. Not doing only one thing but being able to write about many things and with different goals. But maybe I am wrong about this.

What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Do writers have a social/philosophical/political responsibility?

  1. I understand the desire to be a versatile writer, and there are those who can do this. However, in my own case, I find it impossible to stick with anything that does not deeply interest me. I write to express my opinions, my personal philosophy, and my life experience. Writing isn’t something I do. It is an integral part of who I am. Even my fiction (still unpublished) stems from the ideas and values that pervade my blog posts, diary entries, and notebooks. I don’t see the point of doing anything else. The versatile writer is usually someone motivated by money, or who has a remarkably broad range of interests.

    • I suppose in the end this is how I write as well. As a teenager I wanted to become a journalist but the fact I would have to write about things that do not interest me and also being impartial made me change my mind. I have just been waiting for “Blogs” and the Internet :-)).
      I think though that when you publish even in a small little blog you need to be aware that your words will have an effect. Therefore I do think you have a responsibility as a writer and/or blogger

  2. Pingback: We do not live in an ivory tower | phoenixrisesagain

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