“Shut up and put it in a blog!” I have often wanted to tell myself that. No, it is not because I write slightly longer tweets, longer than 140 characters, but because I feel that our conversations are undocumented. It is not that we are not having conversations. We do, all the time. Unfortunately, all these conversations are buried somewhere in the privacy of coffee shops and the overloaded twitter streams. There is really never a tomorrow for them.

After the #SomeoneTellCNN debacle, a friend asked me why we are complaining about ‘stories untold’, yet we never really tell our stories. “Don’t you people have blogs?” he asked before I could slide in an excuse of how our publishers are to blame. And you know what? He was right. There is something we are lacking, something that only a few blogs, like this one here (Diasporadical) have going. If someone were to scout the interwebs, not for news pieces, but for social and political commentaries in Kenya, I doubt they would find many. Maybe I am the one who does not know where to look.

A writer I was reading over the weekend tackled the issue of gutless writers of this age, and it resonated. He spoke of the lack of a political dimension in the works of fiction being produced. He was speaking about the American literature sphere, but just like them, we have very many writers in Kenya, but many of us do not write. A certain twitter I follow likes to put this message out there: ‘Writers write’. What else do they do if they do not write? But the gutless of us will rarely write, especially on social/ political commentaries. We steer clear of this.  When issues arise, where there is a clash of interests, even the most opinionated do not talk about it. I understand that things often get messy, and there are snakes you do not want to rattle, but I know I am not alone when I say that the conversation on blogs is dying, and/or it is leaning towards some subjects and steering clear of the most important.

I might not be the biggest fan of Clay Muganda, but his writing, I find fearless. I have often wondered how many lawsuits he has collected in his writing career. I don’t know if there is a shift of interest, where writers are no longer interested in matters of politics and social commentaries. Maybe I am just being a paranoid reader.

We all know that mass media shapes opinion, and it isn’t a secret that it has already prostituted itself. If you have a sharp eye for cracks, you have noticed that most of the opinion pieces in our mainstream media drive an agenda. It is commoditized opinion. Even most of the articles and talk shows we are watching on TV are purely a case of promotional work, where opinion is subject to the products or the politicians which these shows and columns represent.

There is thus a vacuum that needs to be filled. Unfortunately, many of those who would fill in this cavity aren’t as gutsy. We tremble a lot. We would rather just not be concerned. I know you want to tell me that ‘it depends’ with the kind of work one puts out there. But if we were to learn from history, writers have been vocal about things affecting societies of their times, regardless of their genres. In some areas, they go ahead and even hold debates.

Here, we are not that engaged with our society. A few are, and many among them are driving paid-for-agenda.

7 thoughts on “WriteThinking: Dying Conversations and Gutless Writers

  1. Well put Ndinda. It is sad that unbiased opinions never get to see the light of the day. For many reasons, fear of polarization or taking sides and mainly the laziness to get our fat fingers on to that keyboard and pass the message or grab that pen and write. Sad.

  2. You state “…but the gutless of us will rarely write, especially on social & political commentaries…”

    And there lies the problem.

    I feel, we want people to write BUT the writing that touches on social & political issues will have an added advantage. Why not start simple: “Write.” Period…

    If budding writers in Kenya were told & encouraged to just write and to especially write what they enjoy reading, maybe, just maybe, we’d have more stories out there. There are some people who are not so passionate about social or political issues & would find it tedious to be asked to write on such issues but they can beautifullly write a laugh-out-loud quick read (the kind we label as beach/matatu reads)…the kind of book even a reluctant reader will pick and cherish…it may not have had the most ‘profound’ message, but what it made that reluctant reader feel was priceless…

    You know what would be really cool; having books from all sorts of genres (from childrens, YA, thrillers, humor, graphic novels, non-fiction, romance, horror, poetry etc) being penned by Kenyan authors. They can be pulitzer award winning stories or pure pop fiction…but the important thing is that they are BOTH there for our sampling…

  3. Thanks for your comments guys.

    About readers being left alone Jacquie, to write whatever they want, of course. That should be the case. But isn’t literature a reflection of the society? Most writers cannot disengage themselves from social matters, no matter the genre. Even children literature. Maybe I might have narrowed it down too much to politics, but social commentary is broad. The issue here is never really what people are writing about, it is that they are not writing…and that the main reason they are not is because they are afraid. Sometimes you meet bloggers for a cup of coffee, and the talk is something you want to trap in a bottle and share with someone else. These things they say in the comfort of coffee shops make so much sense, but they dare not say them on their blogs. They are constructive! Very. We have a platform we could best document our conversations. You write something, I respond to it..keep the conversation going…make sense out of this and that. You know. Talk

  4. “A writer should concern himself with
    whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his
    heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. I feel
    no obligation to deal with politics. I do
    feel a responsibility to society because of
    going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively,
    not dull; accurate, not full of error. He
    should tend to lift people up, not lower
    them down. Writers do not merely reflect
    and interpret life, they inform and shape


  5. True, every story even a fantastical one has bits and pieces that are a reflection of the every day…what I’m wondering is, the fear that we have, it is just because we are scared of the backlash we will get should we write a piece that agitates?

    OR is there another fear at play here? The fear that, even a simple story, should we choose to write it, will be dismissed because it doesn’t ‘fit in’? And if that simple story won’t even be encouraged, how then will the writer feel comfortable writing a person piece that challenges my society?

    I could be looking at it all wrong. And I admit, being an avid reader, I’m looking at it from a reader’s point of view. I browse the shelves and most Kenyan stories have a similar feel…maybe we can ask other readers perhaps?

  6. i think writers should be biased, biased in the sense that when we write on which side are we on.. when we commentate on our TV shows on whose side are we? the side of the politicians or the people..of the worker or the employer.. and ultimately of those who have or the have nots..

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