Is it OK for one person to write from another’s perspective? Can a Chinese person write an account, from a Westerner’s perspective? Is it justifiable for a Westerner to write a book on Chinese history? These questions are being flung from writer to writer.
It is considered morally wrong, for writers to gain financially from another person’s story; to propagate evils such as xenophobia, racism and sexism; or to degrade other human beings by openly, discretely, jokingly or cryptically attacking cultural practices, belief systems, physical appearances or personal integrities.
Likewise it is morally wrong for a writer to disguise his/her identity in order to sneak a piece of writing onto a platform that were distinctly created to accommodate a specific gender or race (to which this writer does not belong) thereby stealing a publishing space from a rightful candidate.
What about writers who are able to empathise with the suffering of fellow human beings, to the point of them choosing to spend their time and money on researching; living among; or imagining themselves in the shoes of their subjects? These writers, generally have pure intensions. They usually aim to spread awareness on certain social issues, document histories or create works of fiction.
Whether writers with good intentions consistently deliver accurate accounts or commentaries, is debatable. One wants to ask, if it is possible to present second-hand reports on historical events or personal experiences, as the truth? To answer this, one should consider that all forms of writing (whether presented as fiction or non-fiction) are being constructed from, and is influenced by a writer’s personal frame of reference; cognitive perception; moral judgements; and emotional impressions at any specific moment in time. This makes it difficult to judge not only second-hand, but even first-hand reports. However, readers and most writers, tend to trust works of non-fiction that have been judged, selected, edited and published by trusted professionals with years of experience in a specific field of expertise.
It is also being said that first-hand reports make for stronger written accounts. My question is: can a piece of writing be trusted because it was written from first-hand experience or is truth created by the perception created by a writer’s voice/style (regardless of affiliation)?
Furthermore, would the act of judging: who should, or should not be, allowed to write from another person’s perspective, not be constructing a “censorship” framework for writers and writing in general…?
When it comes to writing fiction, writers seem to have a little more freedom. By the way, who, apart from a reader, in her/his capacity as a reader, (under the influence of a personal perspective) may be deemed fit to judge any piece of fictional writing written from another’s perspective? Fiction is, after all, measured by opinion and preference.
Is it not, that all works of art are made from objects or from subject matter that already exist? Is it not the combination of an artist’s creativity; technical skills; experience with- and knowledge of subject matter that produces either ordinary or extraordinary works? Whether created from first- or second-hand accounts, no-one, not even the artists themselves, can degrade certain artwork’s greatness. The viewers, listeners or readers wouldn’t have to see, hear or praise the artists.
Great works of art (in any genre), can after completion, stand alone. They no longer need the support of their creators. Their value is beyond question.