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
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
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.
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.
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
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?"
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.