Tag Archives: compassion

Friend Your Enemies

27 Dec

 Unfriending culture and the dumbing down of debate

Information technology is argued to have brought the world closer together and exposed all those who partake in its gifts to a broader range of information and opinions. This, in turn, should have increased diversity and tolerance. What I see, however, is the opposite: fragmentation and self-righteousness.

The clearest examples of it are to be found on my facebook feed and in the behaviour of my (facebook) friends. While it might be easy to think of what happens on facebook as a rather shallow and fluffy (cats) manifestation of cultural trends, it is a manifestation of cultural trends nonetheless, and what it reveals about what’s happening in culture more deeply is profoundly disturbing.

I have deliberately chosen to remain facebook friends with a number of people whose political and social views differ greatly from my own. Some of these are old high school friends whom I haven’t seen in years, some are former teachers, others are people whom I have known socially. These people often post opinions or statements with which I disagree. Occasionally I like to challenge these opinions or statements, in the hope of engaging in some kind of debate, and of having the chance to refine or even change one another’s views. This is rarely (but sometimes) the outcome. On a couple of occasions, I have been unfriended or even blocked. Thankfully this is rare. On many more occasions, I have had other friends suggest that I unfriend a person for their opinions, because I “don’t need friends like that.” On the contrary, I believe I do. I believe we all do.

264714_124769727609671_4076341_n

Continue reading

Kicking it down the line

25 Nov

“The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors… The oppressed find in the oppressors their model of ‘manhood’… The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors.”

– Paolo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

It has happened in every revolution in history, one oppressive class is replaced with another. But this is a story of how I have seen it happen in the space of two generations, and of how we can stop the cycle.

DSC00962

My parents came to Australia from central Italy in the early 1950s. They arrived on ships. My father arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, on New Year’s Day 1952, and my mother and three year old brother followed eighteen months later. None of them could speak a word of English when they arrived. I am often asked why they came to Australia, and it is a question I asked of them myself several times in my life. Like most big life questions, the answer is somewhat complicated. And in this case, there is an official and an unofficial story.

My parents were born in Italy, and grew up in small farming communities near the border of the Marche and Romagna regions, just inland of the Adriatic coast. They both started going to school, but neither were able to complete their schooling because they were needed on the farms on which their respective families worked. My mother made it into, but did not complete, the third grade. She was the top of her class. My father made it a few years further.

They were teenagers during the second world war, and lived near the Eastern end of the Gothic line, the final line of defence for the Axis forces in Italy once the Allies began their attack.

GothicLine

Continue reading

Silence is Violence

22 Nov

One of the things I do with my time is to work with prisoners on performing Shakespeare. In the project I direct, this leads up to the prisoners at Southern Queensland Correctional Centre performing a Shakespeare play for audiences of other inmates, families, staff and invited guests from the community. At the moment I’m travelling in the United States and Italy, exploring and working with a few similar projects. I spent a month in Michigan working with Shakespeare Behind Bars on both an adult men’s and a juveniles’ (mixed) project led by Curt Tofteland (his TEDx talk is here). After that, I took part in the first Shakespeare in Prisons Conference at the University of Notre Dame. For the last handful of days I’ve been in Kentucky with the original Shakespeare Behind Bars project that Tofteland founded, now run by Matt Wallace.

Benjamin Prindable Photography-13

As a result of this, I have made valuable connections with many other Prison Shakespeare practitioners, as this can be fairly isolated work. The QSE project is the only Prison Shakespeare project in Australia, and one of only two in the southern hemisphere (the other being by the Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa). I’ve been steeped in the practice and philosophies of this kind of work (and pretty much nothing else except beer and bourbon) for the last five weeks.

I’m not going to write about the details of the process night about the benefits and challenges. You can read all about that in the final chapter of Teaching Shakespeare Beyond the Centre. Instead I want to explore here why arts work of any kind is important for marginalised populations. This is basically the written version of a short talk I gave at Women in Transition‘s open mike poetry night,  ‘Silence is Violence‘ held at the Rudyard Kipling bar in Louisville on November 21, 2013.

988347_546421835440335_1645575091_n

Continue reading

Lest We Forget – A Very Unaustralian Anzac Post

24 Apr

I vacillated on whether to post this today. Or at all, but I’ve needed to say this publicly for a whole year, so here goes. Exactly one year ago, on Anzac Day 2012, I was involved in a Facebook debate with a man I’ve never met, a friend of an old friend of mine. The conversation is repeated below, with my friend’s name changed to “Rob’s mate” and his friend’s name changed to “Digger”. Both men served in the Australian Army Reserve. It’s a Facebook discussion, so please lower your expectations when it comes to intellectual rigour and/or punctuation.

Uluru - a big, incredible sacred rock in the middle of the de

Rob’s mate (status): What ever you do today please spare a moment to remember those service men and women who died for us, those that served and those that are still serving today. These people are not the ones that start wars, just are prepared to give themselves for others. Lest We Forget.

Rob: I will, but I will also spare a moment to remember the servicefolk who died for “the other side”. Some of us, many of us, descend from ancestors who would have fought against ‘us’. Let this holiday not become (or remain) an excuse for mindless patriotic fervour, but an honouring of ALL who have died in the meaningless (or meaningful, if you must) slaughter. Bless the troops. ALL the troops, on all sides.

Continue reading

Out of the mouths of babes

16 Feb

Aged five and a half, my daughter spontaneously and unprovokedly sang the following at dinner the a few nights ago, set to an original tune:

When we have anger in our voices,
We still have love inside.
When you look up at the clouds,
Then your anger goes behind,
But you’re better just to feel the anger,
Because then you can connect to your love.