And collectivity – collective art, and collective heroism.
The views in this article are entirely my own and do not reflect that of any organisation I work with. They should be considered reflective of my position at the time of writing, which may have since changed.
We don’t have much time. The ice is melting, and people are dying.
The news scroller in the hospital tells me that the pound is surging and the stock market is rising now the Tories have won. It tells me that the Democrats intend to impeach Trump. Trump has struck a trade deal with China, and humans are responsible for making American parrots extinct. Progressive hope seems downtrodden, and my friends are all looking at each other while we try to make sense of what happened. Nobody knows how it went so wrong. How the country voted for such a monumentally destructive course (in my functionally middle-class remainer position). We all have suspicions.
The world feels hopeless. Between Trump and Bolsonaro, Johnson, Jinping, Modi, Putin.
Now is a time for artists; now is a time for heroes.
We can be those heroes. We can make the art that the world demands, we can build those bridges between people, experiences, hopes, and desires.
Maybe it’s naive of me, but I believe that most people are open to this, to some degree. Maybe I’m naive in wanting to do that work, in wanting to open myself, my heart, my queer, trans, crip body, and invite people in. Maybe I want to talk about what it means to be a benefit scrounger to people who speak disparagingly of us. Maybe I want to answer these questions so nobody else has to.
Maybe I want to make the art that centres on these experiences from my perspective, whilst reaching out to other people. Maybe I want to ask for their stories, backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences and write work that welcomes them in. I want to write about people like myself and people not like myself. I want to learn to make the art that the world needs, in the time that it needs.
We lost this election brutally. We failed to reach out, and to be reached out to. A whole proportion of the population feels abandoned, whichever way you look. Racism and bigotry are on the rise, and as artists we have an obligation to respond to that. To highlight it, or to resist it. To write about it or against it. And over, and over, to refute it. To say that people can, and must, be better.
As artists, this is our time, if we are bold enough to grasp it.
We need to commit to regular practice on days when the grey cloud hangs so low our minds seem to be swallowed by it. We need to talk and hope a future, and we need to art it into being. When we feel like we cannot go on creating, we cannot go on at all, we need to reach out to other artists.
We need to build resilient communities and communal working methods that can last beyond the immediate crisis to look at the future. We need to not be destroyed by bad news, when we are stronger than that.
We need to ask better of ourselves and the people around us. It is an act of love to challenge someone, to ‘call in’, to understand why they behaved a certain way, to support them in understanding our reaction. It is an act of love to trust someone enough, and trust your friendship enough, to challenge them. It is also an act of love to accept that there are always ways we could all always be better. We could always read more, write more, learn more.
We are artists. We have the duty to bear hope
We need to look at reality and promise hope. Not the easy hope that says “do nothing, and the world will improve” but the challenging hope that gives us the courage to do the work, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. The challenging hope that lets us look at the world, clear eyed, and see how we can make it a better place.
We can, because we must
We can because there is no other choice
We can, because we love