And so the argument rages about Witi's infidelity to the god of original thought. It seems to me people who are interested - and we need to remember there are many who aren't - take one of four positions, and I have outlined them below. For better or for worse, I have fallen back on Position Two [see previous post], which I hasten to say is not a moral high ground. Every 'position' has its elements of faith, its strengths and its weaknesses, and those who espouse it have good reasons for doing so. Some of my close friends have taken the other positions, and I respect them for that.
Position One: 'Old Testament'
Thou shalt not plagiarise and thou shalt know my anger when thou does, in my eyes your action has sullied your past work and sullies your future work, any forgiveness is conditional on exemplary behaviour in future, we will use the 'big guns' - experts and the media - to get our point across, we will express ourselves in legal and academic terms even though neither is directly relevant to the work of an artist but hovers on the edges tapping your perplexing shell like a bird with a sharp beak, we will be watching you beadily, forever and ever ...
Position Two: 'New Testament'
Plagiarism is not something writers should do but we recognise it is a difficult area for creative people and mistakes will be made, we will be verbal in our disappointment hauling on our experience of your work as a whole - its originality and its impact - personally and culturally, we will refuse to savage you for your mistake but instead will try to gauge its level and impact, we will call on you by name, when you express contrition - we will forgive you in long sentences on many blogs and facebook pages and letters to the editor, we will buy your books again. Amen.
Position Three: 'Agnostic'
We believe there are facts and there is fiction, there is fact in fiction and fiction in fact and fiction in fiction and fact in fact, and however you approach this complex area as a writer [or a thinker, a doer, a be-er], you must always act in good faith and with the highest integrity. Before we can make a judgement of any sort, however, facts need to be gathered and analysed, and we will take the time to point them out to those who are not aware of them ... then, well, that's just the beginning...
Position Four: 'Atheist'
Plagiarism, under many different guises and names, is the order of the day for writers; we care more about whether or not the writing is good enough and that demands a high level of originality and personal guts. End of story.
Late addition to post on 23-11-09. Following a comment here from lit-blogger Paradoxical Cat, I have developed a fifth position:
Position Five: 'Pagan'
We have many ways of approaching the issue rather than the expected, more straightforward route, we build the sacrifical fires of satire and wit to burn the self-important and those without intelligence and wit in each of the other four positions, but like all fire-starters we have to make sure we have a safe place to stand downwind of the fires ...