Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ethics for Writers

Every once in a while, one of my Facebook friends complains about offensive 'political' posts. I figure they don't mean posts like, 'Be sure to tell your Congressman how the new farm bill will affect your family,' so I asked a few of them what they meant by 'political.'

One cousin turned out to be referring to below-the-belt personal attacks on public figures. My reaction: Go, Jennifer! I don't have much toleration for petty personal attacks, either.

But other friends objected to links or discussions about serious matters. "I go to Facebook to escape reality," some of them said. "I don't want to have it thrown in my face here." That one makes me worry.

I certainly can understand the need to take time out from a stressful life to recharge; I think we all need that. What bothers me is that with few exceptions, the people who complain the loudest don't choose to face reality outside of Facebook, either. If workers are kept in slavery, unemployed people are being jailed indefinitely without access to lawyers, or prison inmates are being tortured, many of my friends simply don't want to know about it.

I think there's a strong perception in our culture that if we don't know something, then it doesn't exist.  Judging from how much effort they devote to shutting out reality, it would seem that many Westerners have never grown up past the peek-a-boo stage. When faced with messages like, 'People are suffering; let's figure out how we can help them,' they call the messengers rude and ask them to change the subject.

So where does that leave us as writers? Should we write only about 'safe' topics and leave the slavery and torture alone? Sure, we'd be accomplices to the atrocities, but at least we wouldn't be making our readers uncomfortable. Making people uncomfortable is not nice.

Okay, let's say we choose to be part of the solution. We decide to spread the word about suffering people, and encourage brainstorming sessions on how to help. Then how do we get people to listen? How do we get past the game of peek-a-boo?


  1. Excellent post Mary,
    I have a mixture of the political animal and the escapist 'let's just look at funny pictures' people in my FB network.
    There are a few (like myself) who like a bit of humour but prefer to use the media to share/promote some deep thinking.

    I think a big problem (with those of us who live in 'the west')is the fact that many are spending their lives doing things they were not born to do.
    They are not walking in their true purpose, so they look for escapism (in sport, entertainment, social media & drugs etc.) to cover their annoyances and frustrations.
    It can also make us become more selfish, e.g. who cares if people down-town are suffering, I'm suffering, I need more, I'm not happy...etc. etc.
    Which in turn leads to people wanting to switch off from real-life and also caring about the serious situations others find themselves in.

    I personally don't believe we can escape ethics and real life.
    It's more healthier to face situations and deal with them and makes us feel better when we attempt to assist those who are in serious situations, in whatever way we can.

    Apologies for the length of comment, when I'm stimulated I become very intense. :)

    Thanks again for the follow on Twitter.
    Have a great weekend. :)

    1. What an excellent point; I had never thought of that as the reason people escape and become selfish. Thank you!