In the Possible Worlds course our class had the previous period, we discussed the significance of fiction.
I have never been in the midst of a war zone. Never experienced poverty. Never starved. Never suffered a serious illness. Nobody close to me has yet passed away. I’ve never been subjected to a direct racial attack (whether indirect is also questionable considering my paranoia).
I read the news, and I try to feel for those who are suffering. I can do so in words, but it is honestly difficult to feel genuine sympathy or empathy for people I don’t know. I highly admire those who can. I admire people who work for a cause.
Except… for when it’s fiction. Well fiction or a true story, narrativized in the same manner as fictional stories. Books more so than movies, because books bring you much closer to the characters. Movies are limited in that aspect as there’s a screen between you and the world/the events. Not to mention the fact that the characters are played by actors. In books, you get to portray things with your own mental tools.
Identification is by some scholars considered a fallacy, so that’s not a concept I’m touching upon. It’s not about feeling as the protagonist, but about being able to feel emphatical towards him/her. Or, in the case of some of the characters in The Song of Ice and Fire series, about being able to understand the reason behind people’s actions and emotions.
I may not be the only one lacking the ability to empathize with the unseen and unexperienced, with the distanced. And that is why literature is important. The more we read, the more we understand the processes at work underneath war, injustice, cruelty. The more we read, the more we learn about ideologies. And the more we learn about ideologies, the easier it will be for us to be able to get to the root of the problem.
Or perhaps, as I have realized with much of my thinking lately, going for the head of the snake is a bit too ideological. Perhaps fictionality has estranged me from the physical world and its rudimentary construction. I mean ideology must essentially be a part of Lacan’s Imaginary realm right? Then, in a sense, isn’t the cause to all those conflicts out in the world imaginary? Just like money, or nationalism.
Therefore we should take the battle to where it actually is, in the imagination. Fight imagination with imagination, through fiction… books. Because it’s not about who has the most gun power or money, but who has the strongest mind.