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I have referred to this instance of my self-censorship neither with pride nor with embarrassment - it may even be quite an imperfect example. But it was available to me and I think I have been affected by it. It allowed me to measure the impact of the global crisis that we are in at a personal level, even from my distance (but what do we call distance today…), and it was – it is – clear that I could not afford the luxury not to question every aspect of the effect even of my modest words in a modest place.Terrorism and war have been happening against the background of vast territories of misunderstanding, rampant preconceptions, self-righteousness, a Manichean block of too many minds. And words have kept proving their potential to generate reality: even if they are false, the reality they generate will be genuine and can lead accordingly to action. That is, violent action. Words, serving us for communication, have been turned into weapons and violence, not only once - which is the absolute denial of communication.
At this time of “global war on terror”, concern has been expressed for years about the dilution of freedom of speech and the avoidance of a discussion of “hot button” problems. This is at the level of political, media and theoretical discourse. Literature keeps its quality of possibly being a healer of any deadly either-or: for artistic approach is a strong tool in bringing nuance and signalling intelligibly across barriers, a way to not let disturbing areas be unnoticed. Literature is an avenue to change a mind that may be frozen in misconception, enmity and ideology.
A writer should unabashedly speak the truth and nothing but the truth. But there are times when it becomes indeed a challenge to do that – and to do it right – so as not to defeat the purpose of literature as a propitious terrain for transcending prejudice and make others transcend it, assuming the world’s complexities. Not allowing false, damaging answers – like gun triggers - to be given to our difficult questions. And, yes, we should believe in the healing power of our writing, be it merely through the homeopathy of our words.
Some things coming with the much ridiculed PC may thus be helpful, especially at a time of crisis, when traumatized and humiliated people are reacting, and ready to overreact. For we wish to serve the good pupose of peace and understanding, or at least not to inadvertently bring more damage, confirm such people’s complexes and suspicions – those things that fuel aggressivity. We definitely do not wish to add to the pernicious misunderstanding and underlying hatred that we witness/suffer.
The situation I know best, in my country, is that, after the constraints of communist PC, the years after came with a most welcome liberty of expression – as well as with the usual post-totalitarian manifestation of lots of shrillness and unbridled wording and display of political incorrectness of every sort. Quite a hubris. One can note an underlying trauma there, too, following the vast social humiliation of the former regime. Let us remember that Aristotle, referring to hubris, noted “men think that by ill-treating others they make their own super¬iority the greater”. That is why, all things considered, I feel inclined to agree with those who see a virtue in some aspects of political correctness, of self-control and self-censorship – beyond the excesses of over-zealous PC. For, indeed, it does matter how we talk and interact. And words are indeed thinking, and words do connect to our unconscious. It would be ideal for attitudes of civilized restraint to come from a set of sound internalized principles, of genuine respect for the others, for diversity, for values and fairness, therefore from principles genuinely attuned to democracy – and not from opportunism. Fairytales themselves try to open our eyes from the beginning to the relevance of otherness and the beauty and interest even of humble things in life.
They say that strength and integrity are needed in order to avoid the temptation of self-censorship. But strength and integrity may also be needed in applying self-censorship, when desirable.