The other day, I received an e-mail from a man who had read many of my articles on the Web. “Reading your writing makes me think that expressing your opinions is what helps,” he began, “but…I now wonder if it actually does any good.”
The reply, for me, came from Voltaire: “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”
The author of the e-mail conceded, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” before adding that the pen “takes a lot longer to be effective.”
I was immediately reminded of I.F. Stone’s comment: “If you expect to see the final results of your work, you simply have not asked a big enough question.”
The e-mail went on: “In a world full of inequalities, I see your writing as an attempt to combat this situation but I wonder what provides the motivation in the face of such daunting odds.”
Emma Goldman: “The most violent element in society is ignorance.”
The e-mail ended with this: “I might have it all wrong and that is not what motivates you at all in which case I’d be interested in what does.”
Che Guevara: “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”
E.B. White once admitted: “If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
On the subject of plans, I rely on an unlikely modern day voice, pugilist/philosopher Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.”
In a nation where the rewards for remaining silent are abundant and perpetually in our face, why risk getting hit? Why struggle while others thrive in their tacit approval? As E.B. White explained, it’s a daily battle between seduction and challenge…so why choose challenge? Why speak out?
To answer that one, I’ll give William S. Burroughs the last word: “Modern man has lost the option of silence.”
MICKEY Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet and an editor at Wide Angle. He can be reached at: email@example.com.