I've just returned from a panel discussion on The Role and Responsibility of the Writer in Shaping the Identity of a Developing Society. And it was hilarious for a lot of reasons, not least among which was the refusal of one of the panellists to engage blogging as a legitimate medium of writing. He was outraged - or rather feigning outrage because one senses that he often uses the theatrical to make his point - that here we were meant to be discussing writers, the greats of literature, and we were wasting our time mentioning blogging and other such new-fangled nonsense. He kept saying 'blogging' with much disdain, like one might say 'phlegm', and I started to wonder if he even knew that blogging was actually writing, or if he thought it was some completely unrelated and tiresome young people's pastime - like skateboarding. I began to invent all kinds of things that blogging might actually refer to in his mind. Maybe he thought it was derived from "breadfruit logging"? The wanton cutting down of breadfruit trees? Or "blue fogging": driving around vehicles that send huge puffs of blue smoke into homes and communities, which sounds ridiculous but would surely be at least as effective as regular fogging in killing mosquitoes (i.e., not at all), and would be much prettier and hilariously random.
But assuming he does realize that blogging is writing, then I have to wonder what he's so upset about. Could it be that we're so used to the elitism of traditional literary/news/opinion media that it sticks in our craws that we have no control over who gets a voice these days? That we aren't ready to release the privilege traditionally required to publish and achieve literary greatness (or at least some kind of audience) and its associated power? That we want it to be hard, goddammit, because then anyone would have access and then what would be the point of our privilege and overpriced, overinflated educations and egos? No. That probably wasn't it.
We talked too about the importance of fair, unbiased reporting, which we seemed to be saying was the current standard of print journalism. We neatly separated this accounting of fact from 'creative writing', as if some of the writing we see in our newspapers isn't the most intentionally scandalous, subjective, created (as apart from creative) thing you've ever seen. The entire discourse reminded me of fourth form English class, where we were taught the definitions of fact and opinion, and then took sentences and assessed them for their content of each. It was disingenuous in its kind of Journalism 101 vibe, and when it came time for audience questions, I wanted to take the mic and say "I'm sorry. Are you people at all serious?" Are we really saying that a newspaper that often runs quotes like "A HOMOSEXUAL TRYST that turned into robbery and ended in death went before the No. 2 Supreme Court yesterday", describes the fact that a man didn't kill his cheating wife sooner as "restraint in the face of adversity" and spends entire paragraphs on stories covering wrongful death/police misconduct cases on whether the alleged victim was gay and promiscuous is committed to some apparently invisible ideal of non-sensationalism and impartiality? No, we can't have been saying that.
In the end, I didn't say anything at all. I've not really outed myself as a writer in this community, at least not in that way where people gather around cheap wine and bemoan the fact that we haven't produced another George Lamming. (As if anyone wants another George Lamming in 2009, or ever. Or another Derek Walcott or Austin Clarke. I don't want another of any of those. We already have them.) And I don't know that I will, because all that bellowing messes with my process and keeps me in my own head, which can't be good for writing. But also because writers talking about writing is potentially some of the most tiresome navel-gazing you could imagine. The people behind the event seem to have great intentions, and I'd like to see them keep going, with perhaps a little more focus next time. But I'm not driven to charge to the fore of this particular movement. I'm not sure I get where it's moving.