There is this thing people do more often than other things. They talk a lot. I for instance am eating of the same piece of cake I am just about to preach against. There is just too much talking around, too many words to listen to. Speaking junkies! But not much doing being done.

I will use a writer as my punching bag here, because a twitter might subtweet me, and I might die. People tell us that the pen is mightier than the sword…and that a word spoken or written can be the medium of change. I agree. I have never underestimated the power of a word.

But I have wondered about the role that our writers play as far as change is concerned- change being the only thing that Africa as a society is yearning for. Is word on a piece of paper enough to bring a revolution or is there something more that can be done beyond the writing desks? Becoming a little more participatory in activism beyond just our political and socio-economic commentaries on a piece of paper or a blog?

I remember late last year, Chinua Achebe refused to receive an award accorded to him by President Jonathan Goodluck. Chinua Achebe did not want to receive an award from a man who was thrusting his country deep into sewers of crisis.  Now that is very commendable. To refuse to eat from the same table with the wolves. I respect that. Most people however felt that Achebe was being a little dramatic on this. To refuse is not enough-they said.

Then I remember talking to a friend from Nigeria earlier in the week, concerning the #OccupyNigeria situation. I was raining praises on two writers I have known via twitter- telling them that I am proud of the activism their countrymen have put forth, and they themselves- through writing and tweeting about it in the most creative way possible.  This friend of mine said something that made me stop and think – He said “they too need to come off their safe haven and get their hands dirty on the street”. He wanted something beyond just the tweets and the verbose pieces of writing on the Guardian and The New Yorker. He wanted them to join the citizenry in protest- on the street instead of just speaking to the world about it.

It got me thinking of the writers of our time- the Binyavanga Wainainas and the Ngugi wa Thiongos that speak with so much irrevocability about Africa, an Africa they do not live in.  It also made me think of myself, about the tweets I send out and blogposts I write like this. It is something yes-sharing with the world. But sharing is not enough. Sometimes it becomes a hiding place- a breeding place for opinion that sometimes does more havoc than good.

How many times have we hidden behind this ‘unparticipatorily’ activism of words? It is like the world becomes a television set, and after watching the drama, we will retreat back into our safe haven and churn paragraphs after paragraphs of commentaries. We will then sell it out to the world and say – hey, I am fighting in solidarity with you through my words, through my music. Then we will sit back and learn more words, stock more and more verbatism for better commentary on the next calamity. It is clean activism. No one gets dirt on their hands, maybe the ripple effects from our commentaries, but we try as much as possible to stay off the street.

I am not taking writers or twitters on a guilt trip, or blaming them for the fine things that they might have written or tweeted.  I am just wondering what is beyond the tweets and the pieces of writing. Everyone is saying something. But is anyone listening? So now? And then? After we say things?

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