In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Nixon references Edward Said’s “The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals” while discussing the role writers take in slow violence. Said’s view of writers is more broad and centered on the general sense of violence rather than slow violence associated with the environment. He describes two sides of writers: the select individuals that have control and power, and those “independent intellectuals who actually form an incipient community, physically separated from each other but connected variously to a great number of activist communities shunned by the main media but who have at their disposal other kinds of what Swift sarcastically called oratorical machines” (28). These two sides can be seen as the sides that Nixon represents of the oil companies and Ken Saro-Wiwa. The writer that Said focuses on is the second category that wishes to create awareness and movement. In the diverse range of violence, Said suggests that writers have three main roles to open up the eyes of those who are unaware; I will summarize his points briefly: 1.) presenting true (rather than distorted) perspectives on history 2.) building up areas of peace and coexistence 3.) stressing the need for human rights and redistribution of power and resources (34-5). In these goals Nixon seems to use Saro-Wiwa to indirectly provide a face to Said’s basic structure for writers. However, the two authors seem to emphasize different areas in the value of speed in today’s world. For Nixon, the negative aspects of speed include the audience’s desire of the spectacle that slow violence does not contain and therefore is harder to justify. Furthermore, technology has shortened stories to get them out faster, which also has a negative effect on producing stories on slow violence rather than something that is more exciting and eventful. The negative elements that Said points out are, not knowing one’s audience because the internet creates a wider range of readers, and the inability to control what is recirculated. However, the acceleration of communication enables freedom for writers to be heard all over the world, and this expansion of viewers is what Nixon also stresses that writers of slow violence need to take advantage of. For both general forms of violence and slow violence, “The intellectual can be perhaps a kind of countermemory, putting forth its own counter discourse that will not allow conscience to look away or fall asleep” (Said 35).
In Ken Saro-Wiwa’s A Month and a Day, the diary-like entries give a more real and personal face to the points that Nixon makes on writing about this type of violence. At one point, Saro-Wiwa explains why he continued to write a weekly column in the Sunday Times, he says, “The newspaper column widened my reading audience and spread my ideas to a considerable extent. Week after week, I made sure that the name Ogoni appeared before the eyes of readers. It was a television technique, designed to leave the name indelibly in their minds” (45). The specific moments that this writer explains his techniques, shows his moves and call for others to move with him in seeing slow violence as a major threat. The book leaves us on a rather negative note in his son’s letter to his father ten years after Saro-Wiwa’s death. His son writes, “Ten years have passed and, despite all the public outrage and grief, it appears that the world hasn’t learned anything from your death: we still live in a world where corporations rank profits well above their value to people and the planet” (215). Yet, even with this negativity, his son is still hopeful that more people will write and the world will one day see slow violence as it truly is.