In the gloomy context of Brexit, as our world reels from the effects of free-market globalisation (and misguidedly blames the EU for it), all the while listening to the incoherent arguments of bombastic politicians offering simplistic solutions to complex problems, and as fears of global warming increasingly become realised, what do we do?
For me, it is reminiscent of the despondency we experienced in the 1980s as Thatcher ripped apart the social fabric, reinforcing privilege and embedding a cynical, selfish culture that we see all around us today. Then, as now, I believe all we can do is to keep on doing what we are doing, setting up alternative cultures, giving sanctuary and reinforcement to those with a broader world view, avoiding head-on battles that cannot be won but, as creative performers, to use our position as communicators of culture to subtly promote, through content and form, a different perspective. By different perspective I mean extending people’s vision of what humans are capable of through presenting difficult or dangerous feats or through using fantasy to escape mundane futility, or by using comedy to release us from the stress of maintain dignity and false pretensions. And to cling to the hope that it will become, once more, obvious that the narrowness of self-interest is not a viable strategy for human co-existence, that it will become increasingly obvious that the drug of wealth and power, whilst providing a short term ego-boost doesn’t bring real happiness to those who are addicted to it. An ambition for self-fulfilment is healthy but need not be at the expense of others.
This summer I have been learning about teaching and learning for a qualification (Certificate in Professional Learning in Higher Education). One of the interesting writers I came across was David Kolb, who tackled interrelated problems we have been wrestling with at Circomedia but has wider implications – balancing breadth and depth, increasing specialisation or providing a more broad-based education, balancing emphasis devoted to action and reflection, assessable hard outcomes (trick level, wealth) and intangible soft outcomes (charisma, generosity of spirit, openness). This last binary is the same as that between personal achievement and social involvement and it is stating the bloomin obvious to say that a well –rounded, integrated person balances both. Keeping both in balance means that personal achievement is not at the expense of others and, looking at it from another angle, a sense of achievement and self-fulfilment means one avoids being so self-effacing as to be susceptible to exploitation.
Looking at the movement of sunlight reflections on the ceiling of our little canal boat, watching the ebb and flow of the tide on the river and seeing the migration of birds through the sunset, I can grasp a sense of the long term, in which this period of gloom is only a passing phase. All we can do is play the long game.