Im currently living in a hostel, with no job and no permanent place to stay. Along with that Im in a new city, on the otherside end of the country from where Im from, not knowing anyone here. Everyday, I tram across the city, looking for a rental place, standing with the other apartment jackals trying to pickup a place to live that’s affordable and livable. Im also trying to not sell my soul too much, though I did apply for a part-time job with a Reebok discount store today.
Not much of a sob story but its mine.
What has been occupying my thoughts however is that with this stress, Ive had less time and less ability to engage with progressive thoughts and movements. Coming home tired, worn out and sick of thinking of problems, digesting the articles on ZNet and finding out about upcoming actions has been pushed down the priority list- not by choice but by necessity.
While my situation is not dire, though technically homeless and jobless, its given insights as how hard it would be for people with real day to day worries and problems to even consider radical or progressive ideas and actions, let alone make time for them.
My situation is (hopefully) short term before I can find some stability with a place to live and enough money to pay the rent. For those who face such situations for large parts of their lives, always struggling to keep their heads above water, engaging and participating in radical politics is probably low on the list of things to do.
After a day of stress and worry, the only thing I feel like doing is engaging with the TV or a cold beer. Being able to cut through the daily crap and problems of people, to entertain and also reconnect daily problems with wider analysis, poses a challenge to progressive movements.
So over the last week or so Ive been thinking of ways that movements communicate to people overwhelmed with their problems? How can radical movements express and present ideas in ways that invigorate, entertain or clarify, rather than appear as yet another part of life to worry about? How do the ideas Chomsky, Street or Albert reach and relate to someone who is overdue on rent and can’t afford a proper meal for their family? Why would someone seek out articles by those authors rather than try and take a break from reality with TV, alcohol or some other escape? Im not saying those authors dont have something to say, or dont say it effectively. Most likely their ideas situate and reflect such experiences and the wider causes of them. The problem is how do such ideas compete for attention with such harsh realities? How are they presented to highlight ways that they can help inform perspectives and actions, of being important enough to pursue and work towards?
For me personally, escape has an important role to play. I turn to TV, or a movie etc to unwind as it allows a means to escape, to feel liberated, to empty some of the worries for a little while. Movements I think, need to be creative and expressive while still communicating critical or important ideas. I dont think that entertainment needs to be mindless, or that to escape people need to avoid insights. Hope, laughter, satire, fiction can all maintain radical perspectives while allowing people to relax and engage at the same time. Escapism might be a misdirected desire for liberation. Progressive ideas seek liberation, obtainable escape from the current nightmare. Surely radical movements can present our ideas for liberation and justice in ways that direct escapism to constructive ways of building a better world. Allowing people to think beyond the immediate, leaving it behind for a time, while not forgetting it.
So with these thoughts in my head, Ive been trying to think of different ways that radical movements might be able to create a space in people’s lives that generates connection. Ways of communicating that can be just as effective as TV or a beer as a source of comfort for those suffering day to day life.
Im sure there are other ways- if ZTV is ever launched it might offer an example of how to combine analysis and entertainment. Id be interested in hearing different ideas people have on how to have our voices cut through the crap that people want to escape from at the end of the day.
Anyway these are just some clumsy thoughts…