Writing - World Issues
Updated: Jan 25
Many books make me reflect on life in our broader society and give me food for thought. They make me ask questions and although, our politicians generally offer simple solutions (sometimes packaged as three word slogans), life is more complicated than that and the issues we are dealing with as a society cannot be resolved without deeper thought, drawing on expertise and being willing to apply solutions that are not always popular. As we begin our return to BC (before Covid) life, I am hoping for a better normal, not just a return to what we had.
Personally, I’ve been appalled to see communities around the world split into warring tribes. Allegiance to political parties, for some, borders on worship and they remain loyal even when those they follow lie and cheat. Often the excuse is ‘they all lie,’ but to me, continuing to support those who are dishonest, who abuse their power and who take advantage of the vulnerable, is tantamount to condoning their behaviour.
One of my recent reads lay bare the dehumanisation and cruelty of the ‘us and them’ mentality. ‘You will be safe here’ by Damian Barr is a disturbing novel set in South Africa with one story line from the height of the second Boer War (1901) and a second story line from 2010. (The story lines are linked but I won’t reveal any spoilers here). These stories form uncomfortable histories. The depiction of the cruel treatment of Boers in the British concentration camps was disturbing and heart-rending. I’m amazed that we appear to have learnt nothing from these events that reoccur through history. Pointing the finger at people, denouncing them as ‘the other,’ is too often used as justification for mistreatment and labelling people as less than human.
Reading this novel wasn't so much about entertainment in the traditional way but a way to explore ideas and concepts. It made me think and I hope it also helped me to understand.
Fiction can provide a safe space for thinking, challenging and questioning. Reading fiction can also be an escape, a way to avoid thinking about the unpleasant issues of life. For me, despite the temptation to be drawn into a cocoon of pleasant worlds, I am not satisfied to let that be the only reward for reading. It serves a purpose at times, but I want the world to be a better place and that can only happen if I pay attention, challenge, ask questions and think more deeply.
A quote from John le Carre’s ‘The Secret Pilgrim’ seems to echo the current political environment.
“…we sacrificed our compassion to the great god of indifference. We protected the strong against the weak, and we preferred the art of the public lie. We made enemies of decent reformers and friends of the most disgusting potentates. And we scarcely paused to ask ourselves how much longer we could defend our society by these means and remain a society worth defending.”
The novel is set in the period after the cold war but disappointingly, I find many of the observations in that novel relevant in today’s world.
Fictional stories are often built on research and fact. They can highlight issues that are real and need attention but sometimes we need to turn to non-fiction.
I read non-fiction from time to time, mainly for research but sometimes also for interest. I read ‘Stasiland’ by Anna Funder many years ago and it left a lasting impression. It is a classic book. The portrait of the surveillance state of former East Germany is chilling. It draws on interviews with both those spied on and those doing the spying. It’s frightening to read how some still hold an absolute belief in the system regardless of the overwhelming evidence of its dreadful harm. It’s scary hearing Anna Funder say many of these issues still need to be addressed. I highly recommend this book. These are issues that should never be forgotten.
In our current times, it is easy to want to turn away from politics. It’s depressing and upsetting to watch the political manoeuvring. Some say it’s ‘not my problem’ but I disagree. It is everyone’s problem. Politics decides the kind of society we live in. It decides what we value and what we care about. If we care about standards, then we need to ensure we make those who act for us, uphold them. This requires paying attention and being willing to make a stand.
'The Third Party' by Greg McLaughlin is a different kind of political fiction, one that shows an honourable politician trying to make a difference from within a highly charged political system. It is an interesting story of the behind the scenes machinations, but also the story of a man of integrity who struggles to stay true to his principles while working within politics. My review said:
Greg McLaughlin has written a terrific story with stunning characters and a plot that keeps you turning the page. This well-written novel is steeped in action and perfect pacing. The plot kept me intrigued and reading to the end and the conclusion was satisfying and rewarding.
It is unusual to have principled politicians. Who knew a writer could create a politician that I would be cheering for?
Everyone has a choice in life. We can choose to sleepwalk through issues, turn a blind eye to inequity and abuse of power or we can choose to object and stand up for principles. It’s the challenge I set the characters in my political thriller, Deadly Secrets. Ordinary characters are faced with extraordinary circumstances, they're posed some hard questions. The story follows their wrestling with difficult options. Do they stay true to their own principles or do they walk away? The question is: Can ordinary people thwart a powerful conspiracy? Read Deadly Secrets to find out.
I hope you all stay safe and well. Until next time.
Visit my website www.hrkempauthor.com for more about me, my book, and published short stories. Sign up to comment and to receive updates (especially for novel 2).
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