by Aki Schilz
Welcome to my Free the Word blog.
I am lucky enough to be one of nine participants chosen to take part in Eastside Educational Trust’s Free the Word creative writing programme, a scheme that gives young writers the chance to attend weekly intensive workshops led by Eileen Condon (journalist), Francesca Beard (poet) and Martyn Waites (novelist) to consider ideas about freedom of expression and censorship in the context of their respective areas of work. We will be guided and mentored as we explore these ideas through our own writing, experimenting with different styles and uploading our creative responses to what we learn throughout the process.
On Wednesday, we had our first workshop, led by Eileen Condon. The workshop was an introduction to blogging, which in turn is an introduction to the power of the voice. To blog is to engage in dialogue, and communication is one of our greatest and most important tools. Voices shape and influence other voices. They shape the world. This is mine.
In 2006, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was YOU.
The “Great Man” theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.
To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn’t make enough PlayStation3s.
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.
The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web.
In today’s technically-powered world, bloggers (web loggers) are logging on and taking a stand. Taking a stand against injustice, against ignorance, against poverty, against war, against censorship. Our human rights are being asserted and our voices can no longer be ignored. In today’s world, government advisors look to blogs to guage public interest, public opinion, what is being talked about, what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’. It’s the same for advertising giants, who regularly scour YouTube and other content sharing websites to spot the latest trends and make sure their next big venture is on point, up-to-date, consumable.
We are become the storytellers of the world.
Here’s hoping that what we have to say is valuable, and that, perhaps, we can create a happy ending.