“Art cannot change the world,” wrote Herbert Marcuse; “But it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of the men and women who could change the world.” Throughout this quotation, the first thing that may attract its reader is the optimistic perception of the world through art. To be more accurate, literature as being part of the artistic realm is included in this philosophical view. However, since the early age of childhood and school, children were encouraged to read as many books as they can. It is considered as a cornerstone to build the new intellectuals of tomorrow. Yet, this specific phrase ‘changing the world’ is undoubtedly a very strong set of words. It should not be taken so lightly for the world is the responsibility of every thoughtful and considerate being. Literature is definitely a sophisticated tool to know how to treat the world. In contrast, sometimes it is not that sufficient to make a progress in life. Most of the time, practical resolutions are much needed instead.
Probably, the first argument to prove that literature is not a powerful tool is to highlight the fact that literature in itself has always been recognized as part of the leisure time of the aristocrats and the elitists. In other words, it was meant for the bourgeois. As an example, the British essayist and literary and social critic T.S. Eliot has put into display that literature is elitist par excellence. The Waste Land, which was firstly published in 1922, is a long poem that requires a high level of education. Legends that are mentioned throughout the poem such as: The Holy Grail and The Fisher Kingalong with other literary and cultural allusions that were borrowed from Buddhism and Western canon are not that accessible for certain middle class folks, let alone the poor ones. To be part of the working class does not leave enough room to get acquainted with books and read all day long. Moreover, those elitists are small in number in comparison to the other needy ones. In general, those Bourgeois people, and since they are wealthy, think only about how to expand their wealth at the expense of others.
Another argument that needs to be pinpointed is the reality that everything is ruled by technology and scientific intelligence. Probably there are those who would say that the world has become an unethical and immoral one, which is true to a certain extent. However, there are priorities that should be taken under consideration; Building houses, pharmaceutical research, vaccines, new technological ways to use renewable energy, etc. The act of reading does simply provide little toward the betterment of society. While taking a look around the world, one would notice that everything is on the move and the only thing needed is a practical and pragmatic resolution. People are living in time of wars, such as in Libya, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine and the list is still lengthy. Governments and the various global communities should take positions and act quickly for the benefits of every single soul. Mayhaps those who are attracted to literature can feel depression and horror through their books. Yet, reality is always more painful for a book is simply a set of words that are arranged beautifully in a fancy artistic way.
This idealistic literary world is definitely needed to shape the common taste and achieve a high level of thoughtfulness. Whereas, watching televised news, sports, movies, documentaries and even travelling around the world are also parts of life which cannot be excluded. The fact of sitting all day long and just using the power of imagination with a book at hand may deprive the individual from exploring other mystic aspects of life. No matter how excited the reader is, this act will make him/her a self-absorbed introvert for unfortunately, there are things that cannot be taught through books and literature.
To summarize, it would appear that literature does no longer hold the power to make an apparent change in the world. Whether it is acceptable or not, the world is definitely on the move. Every day people would hear about a new technological invention that really helps to cure a disease or to facilitate the daily activities. However, literature should neither be prohibited nor banished, for science without ethics is a real catastrophe. Probably, the best resolution for this twenty first century is that both literature and science are put together in the same bucket and it is thanks to their complementarity that the world may change for the best.