TUMBY BAY - The Man Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world and is conferred annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
Speaking at the 2020 Man Booker Prize ceremony in England, former USA president Barack Obama related how he had “always turned to writing to try and make sense of our world, both as a young man trying to navigate the different parts of my life, and as an elected official trying to bridge our divides and find a way for all of us to move forward.”
He also said that good books “remind me of fiction’s power to help us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand their struggles and imagine new ways to tackle complex problems and effect change.”
This week Barack Obama’s third book, his presidential memoir, A Promised Land, was released.
Writing as a way to explore and order one’s thoughts has always been recognised as a useful personal tool. This is so even when there is no intention of publishing what is written.
In this sense writing can simply provide the experience of “seeing into one’s true nature”, otherwise known as kenshō in the Zen Buddhist tradition.
This need is perhaps why writing can be a compulsion for many people.
Writing, of course, is not something confined to books.
Even if one never reads a book and just watches films and television or follows social media it is impossible to avoid the fact that all those mediums begin with a writer sitting down and taking up a pen or a keyboard.
Very often the enlightenment that comes through writing is so strong that it must be shared through publication and dissemination.
Seeking, as opposed to simply experiencing, enlightenment through the process of writing works in similar ways. It is a kind of higher-plane problem solving process.
Taken to its highest degree writing, both fiction and non-fiction, has the ability to change the world. To cite a couple of random examples think about the impact of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species or George Orwell’s 1984.
Writing and reading go hand in hand. To achieve enlightenment one can write but to acquire enlightenment one must also read.
Notwithstanding past cultural practises such as oral literatures, it follows that a society in the modern world that is literate and where its citizens both write and read is very probably an enlightened society.
One should therefore be very suspicious of any attempt to restrain, impede or otherwise adversely affect the ability of a society to read or write and thus not experience the benefits of enlightenment.
This sort of attempt might also include a demonstrated apathy towards enabling, promoting or facilitating the ability of a society to freely indulge in the practises of reading and writing.
It is a charge that can be justly levelled against both past and present governments in Papua New Guinea.
In doing so one must ask the obvious question. Why?
Are they consciously suppressing the desire of their citizens to experience the enlightenment that reading and writing brings, just like some sort of oppressive autocratic dictatorship, or are they just being insensitive, uncaring and stupid?