In the moment the Facebook page PEN International on Facebook has reached its 400th member, I think it is opportune to publish again on this blog the quasi-manifest which it is founded upon.
A QUASI-MANIFEST FOR PEN INTERNATIONAL ON FACEBOOK
this Group has been opened – to say founded would sound a bit bombastic – three months ago. I confess that at that moment I had no idea that it would have been so successful, because to have 104 members is a goal I did not think could be reached in so small a time.
In view of this (little) success I feel it could be opportune to try to define what we are, what we are doing (or trying to do) and why.
This is not a manifest, which I don’t have neither the authority nor the wish to write: anyone of you is absolutely free to comment and to disagree, and your comments will help us to decide whether we have taken the right path or if we have to adjust the course.
The Group is an open one, dedicated to PEN members but not exclusive. One of the reasons of this document is to give to people asking to become members of the Group a clear idea of what kind of contents we are interested into and avoid to become a mess of passers-by.
There is no limitation to the contents, but these are supposed to be related to our quality of PEN members: literary topics and issues about translations or linguistic rights, as well as about freedom of expression – including the safeguard of writers -, keeping and promotion of peace. We know what’s it all about.
In my opinion we should also try to inform and keep informed about the initiatives of our respective PEN Centres, to signal the works of our colleagues which are already translated to other languages (and those we deserve to be), to maintain communication channels open between PEN Centres of different parts of the world.
This activity, at that degree of detail, is not in contrast with the activity developed by the PEN International website, which has to achieve many more institutional goals. Our role has to be one of support, in all the small areas this website cannot cover. It could be a role of incitement too, why not?
In order to do so, we should try to attract – I would say to lure, because many of our colleagues don’t like Facebook, worse, they don’t trust it – into this social network as many members of PEN as possible. Not because it is a heaven, only for the practical reason that it’s the most widespread one, and it allows more space for discussion than e.g. Twitter.
People fear a loss of personal data, a breach in privacy. Apart from the fact that nobody can steal data you do not put online, in my opinion there is no opportunity without a certain degree of risk, and vice versa. I personally have considered the possibility to vastly improve my communication a game worth the candle.
Anyway, we should try to find out as many PEN members as possible that are already more or less active on Facebook and ask them to join our Group. You all are well aware that a number of the present 104 members are leading members or Officers in their respective Centre: some are even Officers of PEN International. However, this Group is designed to accept any member and also non-members that are genuinely interested in our activity.
Writers are busy people, so it’s physiological that they at best have a look at the page and don’t interact: even so, our page is very lively.
It would be fantastic if in average everyone of us would visit the page once a week, possibly leaving a short message or at least utilizing the “Like” button, if he/she actually likes some post.
May I recall that not only English, but also French and Spanish are official languages of PEN?
But in the very end we have to ask ourselves non only what we can do in order to further our communication, and how to do it.
The real question is: why are we trying to build a sort of virtual Speaker’s Corner in a Facebook’s Hyde Park, where everybody can climb on a wooden box and start communicating to everybody else in transit his/her ideas and debate with them?
In my opinion this kind of exercise is vital if we want PEN to become a so-called flat organisation.
An international body with 145 Centres in 104 countries is too big to rely on two-way communication protocols like ordinary or electronic post. In the world of today we need easier and user-friendly forms of expression and it would be a mistake not to utilize the existent ones.
We have to debate openly if we agree with the present form of organization or if we would prefer some other organizational model, if we think this organization is apt to represent the Centres, the members, the geographical and linguistic areas and their interests, if the full membership can be granted to readers and to young people and in which form.
In the Congress of Tokyo there has been an attempt to free discussion that has to be further implemented.
Maybe democracy is too big a word for it, but I think you know what I mean. The same fact that you have decreed a certain success to this Group is a good proof for that.
Thanks to you all for your attention and for your cooperation.
January 26, 2011