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Sunday, 31 March 2013

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Taboos on the rich and poor in writing and guiding

What is the best sector qualified for advising? It is cruel to say so or write but the poor sector of a population cannot indulge in advice to society via writing and other media for many reasons. First, they have no social standing to do so. Their lives are too muddled by their own doings or by doings of their parents and grandparents to offer advice to others.

Of course, the experience could add vigour to their advice, but society has become so haughty that nobody cares to listen to them. Actually poverty does not end in itself but is followed by discrimination, degradation and other abuses. Secondly, their education is meagre, the experience of the miseries gone through forming the only educating factor.

Sheryl Sandberg

It is terrible to be poor but to be thus discriminated and abused and neglected is much more disastrous. Besides professional advisers are we left with only advisers from the privileged society? An article I read recently disqualifies even the very rich and the successful, leaving to us only professional advisers and maybe writers belonging to varied classes in society randomly striking it good in the advisory field.

Feminist Movement

The particular article centres around a book Lean IN, described as part a feminist manifesto and part a career guide. The author is Sheryl Sandberg. It is almost supposed to herald a Feminist Movement. It is all happening in New York where such things are not anything sensational. A book advocating rights for females being launched under much fanfare is nothing out of the ordinary.

But what has followed is much more sensational. Many have taken offence at the book, saying that the author is too rich a person to be aware of women's woes and even to go on to write a book on them. Cruelly, she has been described by a woman herself,a columnist of New York Times as a "Power Point Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots ". It is ,according to her critics , from a lofty pedestal that she speaks for she is a multimillionaire with two Harvard degrees. Too rich to offer advice. Too successful in her own life.

Of course, all this discourse went on in the USA but in this global village other countries, in no time, get infected with this type of thinking especially when it filters down from Obama territory. The critics have gone to the extent of measuring the area of her residence, 9,000 square feet in salubrious California and she has a very supportive husband who is her boss too.

Social injustices

Why does she write books in such outstandingly comfortable circumstance? Why does she write at all? Sorry ,but fingers about social injustices begin to scratch when problems overwhelm you. But she simply has to get out a lot of things and to that we will come later. The immediate issue is the prejudice developed against writers, especially women writers, who are materially very well off. That they do not have life experience to galvanise their writings, is the common argument.

But if you analyse the lives of the world's foremost writers, minus going through the grill of poverty via their imagination they have produced remarkable books. A few have garnered the dish with their own experiences, if they were "lucky" or "unlucky" enough to go through the mill.

The stand taken against the author of Lean In seems very unjust going through her own biodata. Of course, she has not personally suffered, digging into street bins and that sort of thing, but according to her book she has suffered with other women. Actually she had been no arm chair activist. She has led a march asking for parking areas for pregnant mothers, and she has taken to the stage on topics such as, "Why do we have so few women leaders?"

Discrepancies

In her book she lists out the discrepancies clearly. But even before reading the book that follows the launch , those ,especially media women having heard that a book by her activating female power have launched their own campaign to show that she is too rich and socially high -up to talk on the need to foster women's power.

This leads to a rather anomalous situation or more clearly, a crisis of a dearth of advisers in a world much in need of advice and guidance where so many are wandering about aimlessly. The poor are disqualified to guide for obvious reasons and now the rich too is getting disqualified. Perhaps the best sector would be those who have suffered much and have had the intelligence to garner lessons from it all and are now of an equilibrium to lay it all out in public for the betterment of the "audience", the readership or the public. They would no doubt buttress those at the top in the areas of guidance.

I remember a magazine I ran for children. Lama Nirmana in the Ministry of Education. It was in the 1980s. Contributions poured in from 100 schools but the best piece was one written by a student of Parakramabahu Vidylaya in Narahenpita. titled "Ranige Kathawa" (Story of Ranee). It charted the life of the writer who begs on the streets when not attending school. All other family members are beggars and she too puts in her share outside school hours.

Morsel of food

I remember her writing, "Three meals a day! That is a luxury for us. We do not know that there are three. We eat when we get a morsel of food and survive on it till the next morsel comes our way through the tin shacks".. Her writing style was marvellous and her piece was the most educative of Lanka's poverty experienced in the slums of Colombo. Tharunee Editor Sumana Saparamadu having had access to the magazine, I remember paying the writer a compliment by re-publishing it in her newspaper but the red tape of my own workplace would not allow me to go further and help her.

The counter argument was that this type of issue is a concern of the Social Services Department and quickly washed its hands off the beggar family of Narahenpita that encased a blossoming writer. Only the gods know what she is doing now. Perhaps surrounded by a brood of malnourished children that she begot, her pen in the smelly drains.

My own humble thinking is that no sector is disqualified from guidance or advisory and beneficial writing, whether the writer or activator springs from city slums or from a grand mansion in California measuring 9000 square feet.

 

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