In the fast paced world of cyberspace jokes, fashion and interest seems to change at breakneck speed, so perhaps it’s ridiculous of me to suggest that we all cast our minds back to ten years ago yesterday. But that’s what I’ve just done in my latest ebook from advocacy publisher Guerrilla Midgie Press ‘We Couldn’t Stop the war…’
Because on 03/03/03 a Worldwide Act of Theatrical Dissent took place. And I was part of it. You may have been involved too (or you may have completely missed it. Life’s like that isn’t it!?) It was called the Lysistrata Project and the aim was to raise awareness of the impending war against Iraq. It hadn’t happened yet but it was, we were beginning to realise by that date, ‘inevitable’ So we did what little we could. Spoke out about it. In our communities and spreading out round the world. Did it stop the war? Of course not. But ten years on I note that the Royal Court Theatre are about to do what we did 10 years ago in Dumfries. Which is get a bunch of writers together and present some dramatic work reflecting on the war. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I suppose. I bet their budget and their reach and response will be bigger and better than we ever got. I bet they get more revenue than we earned for our charity event. But we were there first and we did what little we could. We said This is not in my name. And if you want to take a trip into the past then please download the ebook. It’s potentially interesting as pieces of dramatic writing but also has some small value as capturing a moment in social history. It’s the sort of thing that prior to the ebook era would just get lost in the mists of time. Put it on your ereader and you give it a chance of a new life!
|Available in ebook and paperback formats|
One good thing about the present is that we now have ways of getting this sort of protest/advocacy writing out there to a wider audience. We can’t stop wars and maybe we can’t change minds but we can bear witness. This is what I strive to do through advocacy publishing.
My current advocacy ‘cause’ is the Top Ten FairTrade Flash Fiction Festival which is being held online during FairTrade Fortnight. I’ve heard Fairtrade described as ‘a marketing ploy’ being rebutted as ‘political’ and dismissed as ‘the green welly brigade.’ I dispute that it’s just something which nice middle class ‘developed world’ people are using as this year’s fashion statement. They may be true for some but that’s not why I care about it. I advocate for it because I believe it’s a just cause. It’s fair. At the most simple level (which is usually the one I operate at). I’ll admit, I have no more kudos or credentials with the FairTrade ‘establishment’ than I have with mainstream publishing and for sure if I got in with the in crowd more people would hear my voice, but it’s the words that are important not my voice. I bear witness because it’s all I can do. I put it out there and hope that others will pick up the baton. I’ve no right to hope that, but I feel it’s my responsibility to do it. Why?
John Lennon’s Imagine is a powerful song for me in this respect. ‘You may say I’m a dreamer…’
Fiction is based on counterfactuals (what if’s) and I’ve long had a ‘fictional’ thought (not yet developed it into fiction.) I think: What if it’s just a quirk of fate or luck that I was born who I was and not someone in the developing world destined for exploitation? I get pretty antsy when I feel that my rights are being abused (as I’m sure do you) so it seems hypocritical to simply dismiss people who might, if the dice had fallen another way, be me and I be them.
Imagine if we all woke up one morning and had a life change. Imagine if I was suddenly growing cotton, or bananas or eking out a living in the coffee plantations. Would I want the person who’d got my life to give a damn about my living and working conditions? Yes I would. And I’m guessing you would too. We spend so much of our time banging on about ‘our’ rights but I’m not sure we think that much about the people whose rights we exploit in order to have these rights. Hard fact but true. Many of our ‘rights’ come at the expense of the ‘rights’ of others. And with rights comes responsibilities.
I have this fictional thought that the world would be a better place if people were twinned at birth. Like they do with towns. What would the world be like if each of us in the developed world twinned with someone in the developing world. If we were responsible for each other on a personal level. How differently would you act then? Well, I don’t have a named ‘twin’ but I feel a responsibility to the ‘unknown’ twin and I try to live my life on a daily basis appreciating that I’m the privileged twin and I have a responsibility to make the most of every moment of my life and to do whatever I can to make the life of my less privileged twin that little bit better. Because I could be them, and they could be me. And it’s in that spirit that I set up the online festival. Just my way of trying to raise an issue and offer people a chance to ‘have their say’ to ‘engage’ and do so in a creative way. I know to take the rough with the smooth and as I write this, it is falling on pretty stoney ground. It seems people are more interested in the retirement of the Pope or horsemeat in their burgers (or to be honest about jokes on these topics.) Even Richard III in the car park is old hat now. So why should anyone bother to put themselves out for FairTrade eh? Let alone look back and reflect on the ‘war on terrorism.’ This is the world we live in. Real and virtual.
We are all happy to take the advantages of this global wired world, but what about our responsibilities? To each other, to past, present and future. I’ve often been accused of being too ‘serious.’ I no longer apologise for that. My twin’s life doesn’t allow for a lot of trivia after all. Their condition is pretty ‘serious’. And what we do in the present will affect the future. WARNING. I’m about to say something unfashionable. Not for the first time. Perhaps if we used social media in a more serious and responsible way we’d get more out of it? It’s a tool. And we are the users. Cyberspace is a big, big place. You can talk but you can’t guarantee anyone’s listening. Any more than you can guarantee sales of your publications. Nor does any of us have any right to expect an ‘audience’ however much effort we put in. Certainly we have less right to that (in my opinion) than a banana worker has to earn a fair and living wage for a very hard day’s work. It’s easy to be selfish. And self obsessed. But at least we are free to use the internet and to publish. Millions still aren’t. So is it not up to each and every one of us to find a way to make what we say count? Perhaps if we think more about our responsibilities and less about our rights we’ll use our skills in a more fruitful way? Just a thought.
The way we engage with the present will inform how the future pans out but essentially it’s an uncertain commodity. In one sense we’re all equal in the lottery of the future. For me the immediate future sees three plays to format and publish by next month. And then once more organising the 2nd Edinburgh ebook Festival for August. An event to which you are all invited. It will be serious, it will also be funny, but if I’m doing my job right it won’t be trivial. It will offer a chance for writers and readers to ‘meet’ and to ‘engage’ and open channels of communication for everyone with a smartphone or computer. Our ‘twins’ won’t get a chance to come to this festival, but you can – it’s a privilege we have. So it might be worth some of your precious time. It might be worth flagging up as a ‘priority.’ Your ‘twin’ can’t be there, but you could stand in for them because I’m betting they’d love to have the opportunity to virtually be in Edinburgh talking about reading and writing this summer instead of knocking their pan out for below poverty wages and wondering why none of us care if they are treated fairly or even bombed to oblivion.
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