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What can Poetry do for Society?


Rabjor is a senior Tibetan writer, and he criticizes the argument that poetry has a responsibility to society.

What can Poetry do for Tibetan Society?
By Rabjor

Before asking whether poetry should take any responsibility for society, we should first ask what responsibilities poetry is capable of taking for a society. There are an enormous number of responsibilities in a society. First, the society should be able to fill its stomach and clothe its back. This is the responsibility of individuals and their governments. Then there is the safety of society, its welfare without fear, and that is the responsibility of the public security bureaus and welfare offices. Then society has to be healthy with fewer diseases. This is the responsibility of the health bureaus and hospitals. Following that, the society needs to develop knowledge and capability and this is the responsibility of education bureaus and schools. Moreover, what society needs is honesty and equality. This is the responsibility of court and judiciary offices. These and more are the basic needs of society. Which need falls to poetry to satisfy? Can poetry satisfy any of these needs?

We who talk about poetry think that society needs surgery, so we take the responsibility of pointing out society’s flaws through our literary work. Should we thus talk about the social responsibilities of poetry? However, in a democratic country, this is the responsibility of newspapers, radio and TV. Through these channels, media tries to point out societal flaws objectively which will then attract the attention of relevant departments and organizations.

The media channels in China are the tongue of communist party, so it is true that they have no power to freely talk about society’s flaws. So someone who doesn’t speak for the government is needed to talk about society. In Tibet, literature takes that responsibility. However, to our disappointment, literature is taking a responsibility that doesn’t properly belong to it. No matter how realistic we say literature is, literature is a subjective matter. When we judge the quality of a literary work, we are making judgments on the quality of the writer’s imagination and subjective qualities. No matter what issue, once it is made a literary subject, its realistic power is missing. Even if there was a government that would make improvements on these flaws, they would do so on the basis of analysis of the investigation data and various news reports by media. It be impossible to base this improvement on what is said by literature.

According to my thoughts earlier, the question of whether literature has any responsibility to society doesn’t really exist. However, this question is much discussed by Tibetan writers and intellectuals. Perhaps my thinking is too simple. They may have other more realistic conditions to point to, but I haven’t seen any such conditions. The realities of society also confirm this.

Since new Tibetan literature emerged in the 1980s, many Tibetan authors have work hard to point out right and wrong in Tibetan society. This is what they call “responsibility to society.” They published many articles and stories to criticize nomads having land conflicts, parents not sending their children to school, having no freedom of marriage within the family and so on. However, I never heard anything about land conflicts becoming fewer or ending. According to what I have heard, after land ownership was given to individuals, there were conflicts even between brothers of the same parents.

After Tibetan authors criticized the land conflicts for several decades, now it seems that there are less land conflicts. The disappointing thing is that this lessening of conflict is not the result of Tibetan authors pointing out what is right and what is wrong, but the grassland owner’s migration from the grassland to the town.

This original link:http://www.sangdhor.com/blog_c.asp?id=8233&a=alibaba

(Translated by Reb Sa)

One comment on “What can Poetry do for Society?

  1. Tenders on said:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your different articles. They are so informative and interesting.

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