Tonight I wrote a poem that I’m not sure if I will, or indeed, should, post. The writing is about one aspect of charity after the bushfire. It is a subject that I thought I felt mildly annoyed about. However, as I wrote I realised that what I thought mere annoyance was unabashed rage. As I sat in a suburban cafe genteelly drinking my latte I found venomous words pouring onto the page, written by my trembling hand. I was shocked by the depth of my feeling. By my fury. And this rage is directed at people who were, no doubt, well intended. Who meant only to help me and others like me. I’m sure they have no idea how much pain their charity gave me. They don’t deserve the lambasting they receive in my three stanzas of rage. Yet, I cannot look away from this anger. I cannot pretend it isn’t there. And if I have experienced these feelings, then it is almost certain that other recipients of charity after disasters have felt this way. It is one of those ugly truths that we would prefer to shun. To disown. To ignore and hope it will go away. And ‘proper’ social behaviour dictates that we should be grateful. To passively smile and accept all that is given, recognising how lucky we are.
Having written my piece I now have to decide what to do with it. Should I post it for all to see and risk alienating or offending potential readers? Should I file it away and hope that the writing has served to relieve the burden of the anger, even by a fraction? But, by hiding it from sight does that indicate that some feelings are to be ashamed of? That we cannot be emotionally true? By not publishing this poem do I continue the disenfranchisement of other disaster-affected people? Should I allow them the chance to recognise their own feelings, their anger? What are the ethics of this decision? How do I balance non-maleficence with the possibility of benefit for others? And, quite apart from the ethical and social considerations there is the underlying merit of the poem as a piece of writing. It is undoubtedly technically raw and I’m sure I could polish it, give it better meter, be more inventive. My concern is that, by editing it, I may lose the power of the invective and, thus, its emotional truth.
So, I will sleep on these issues and let you all know what I have decided tomorrow.