History is a record of transit. You have always been trying to describe the condition of being in-between. Syrian refugees battle the ocean and risk their lives to flee from their homes. They seek shelter in lands of abundance, while people sitting in their own castles of casual luxuries watch from high and above.
Writers strive and suffer in gaps. They stand in between the voices which deserve all ears and the walls bouncing off any sound. Writing forces them to be in the front row and bear witness to humanity in its crudest form.
As Junot Díaz suggests, in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, ‘You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.’ Writers are the ones who keep punching down the walls and barge in unapologetically with their heads held high—to write is to make all the other voices heard.
To do nothing seems too much to ask from a writer. It may seem tiring to care, but it is even more tiring if you choose not to care. It is not human, not natural to be indifferent.
You write because it is only natural—especially in a time when the cheesiest dystopian fiction becomes reality. It is all the more important for us to act on our instinctive humanity; as Susan Sontag considered that the art of photography (which I would suggest could be extended to all creative art forms, such as writing, dancing, acting, singing) ‘…is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability.’ Writing and making art are practices of empathy. We feel as one, act as one to resist the hatred and violence.
Writers must keep writing to inspire confidence or, at least the illusion of freedom, a healthy illusion I must insist. It is to prove to the others that individuals have the freedom to be cynical, angry and disturbed by the state of the world. And it is only practical and even ‘cool’ to care deeply, which eventually pushes you to start helping the one next to you, your friends and families, your communities, your city and the world you zealously hate and love all at once.
Keep writing—no matter how small the effort may seem. In volunteering, in poetry, in lyrics, in music, in the light and shadows of the cinema or in emancipation, you may re/discover the lost voices.
This is a short speech given
at #WRITERSRESIST on Sunday 15 January 2017.
Suzanne Lai is a BA graduate in Stylistics and Comparative Literature (Class of 2014). [Click here to read all entries by Suzanne.]