I have been in this argument before and yesterday after reading my piece “we must do something” at the weekly critique reading session of the Abuja Writers Forum the issue came up again.
My piece basically painted a picture of legislative corruption which to say the least is a norm around here. Besides the style of presentation of the story (which most of the more senior members of the forum who felt they should know thought was rather strange), the two corrupt lawmakers in the story were having a field day doing their thing. In fact they were grumbling that they were not getting a fair share of the kickbacks that should be getting to them.
The question then was, shouldn’t we write fiction in such a way that good transcends over evil?
In the opinion of the person who raised the issue, fiction should be used to preach some morals. In the context of my piece therefore, he felt I should have done something to show that the corrupt lawmakers did not get away with their actions. Perhaps I should have written that they were rounded up by the EFCC, tried and sent to jail.
Of course this generated some argument immediately. There were the “For’s” and the “Against”.
Without any fear of contradiction, I make bold to state that I am an Against. The concept of happily ever after is fake and a look around our society proves it. The stealing and the looting continue without end. The perpetrators do it with impunity because there is no consequence.
There are wars, fuel queues, unemployment, hunger, armed robbery, campus cultism etc. prevalent in our society. That is the reality of our society. A writer who leaves in this clime can not thus begin to write about surplus job availability, or an efficient police or criminal justice system when all of these are mere fantasies to him.
Writing Happily ever after stories cannot then be the preoccupation of a Nigerian writer when there is little ‘happiness’ around him . And he doesn’t also have the luxury of preaching morals in his writing as really that is not what art is all about.
In any case, what is the definition of what is good or bad? Who can lay claims to being a judge of morality?
Just last week we had to contend with a sect- Boko Haram- which believes very strongly (strong enough to become violent about it) that western education and everything western was bad and a sin. Who says they don’t have a right to believe in that? Assuming then that a member of that sect was reading a writing that was preaching against anything his sect believed in.
We find among us persons who believe in God and those that do not. Among the Christians we have Protestants, Pentecostals, orthodox and Catholics. Even among Catholics, there are extremists and liberals. The muslims have their own belief variations. There are atheists, humanists and pantheists, pagans, etc. All with their various belief system. How does a writer succeed in preaching whatever morals when he’s readership isn’t specified?
My submission therefore is that while arts should be an instrument for education, entertainment and societal change, it must not achieve this by giving the impression that good always wins over evil, for in reality, it does not.
What do you think?
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo