Wednesday, June 20, 2007

creativity vs politics

while a somewhat simplistic dichotomy, i want to explore the binary of creativity vs politics

specifically, i'm thinking about the difference between a poster that argues (politically) for the "inclusion" of disabled people. or something similar; and the creative agency of disabled people. [something to do with representation?] I was thinking how much more I'd like to see billboards with poems by disabled people, like the many spoken word pieces i've read/viewed.

the political slogans that are typically on billboards are reductionistic, didactic and essentialising. poetry, by contrast, is exploratory, subtle, open. importantly, poetry is an expression of agency, whereas political slogans in many ways replace agency with representation (Marx's famous "They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented", the quote with which Said opens Orientalism).

One of the wonderful crip texts i'm reading at the moment explores some "alternative" narratives of disability, focusing on sexuality and community. Arguably, these too are about creativity, agency, desire. I think there's something critical here - politics is too often the opposite of creativity. I don't mean all politics, for the most engaging politics, in my experience, is driven by love, rage, engagement, community and creativity. but, there is something about organised politics that erases the immediacy of human subjectivity. hmmm.

ok, so i'm holding back something critical to understanding all this. my own experience is that i was involved in student politics for a few years, and in hindsight, i think it was strangling my own creativity. i think i systematically internally erased my own individual desires and ideas for some imagined consensus-derived idea of what should be. this is really hard to ariculate, and even now i am sensing an opposition to this idea from the imagined "others in the group" - which is *exactly* my point. politics in some ways is about pinning down what "should be" and i think i have spent many many years trying to discipline myself into being what i should be. i think in many ways i internalised this way more than many people involved in student politics, and i'm not arguing that this is the fault of student politics, rather, it's also to do with my own personality, a form of profound perfectionism.

anyway, i want to keep exploring this idea, because there's something here that is ringing bells inside my body, startlingly beautiful bells, resonating loudly.

my experience of political engagment has been a fusion, or perhaps a borderline, between "radical" and "down-to-earth." i mean radical in the sense of pushing deeper towards the roots of an issue, and down-to-earth, in the sense of rejecting an exclusively "radicool" agenda that is scornful of the people in my life who don't live their lives according to the radicool agenda. some would call this latter part "moderate", and certainly, the people i worked with politically were considered between the ALP and the more "radical" elements like socialists or radical queers.

student politics caused me enormous heart-ache. i wasn't able to exist in a world where everything mattered to me, but wasn't done in ways that accorded with my political visions. working with people from various political stripes, constantly having to argue my politics, endeavouring, usually unsuccessfully to persuade people of my conclusions, based on political reasoning, killed my spirit. yes, it was in a huge part my personality, a huge idealist, stubborn, opinionated, bright, defensive, argumentative, etc. but i think there's something in the nature of political organisations that kills creativity.

i burnt out. i fled to my garden and chickens and sewing and partner and local park and circus and home-cooking and home-making and general anti-socialness. i have no doubt that the massive outpouring of creativity that i am undergoing is a response to a feeling of repressed creativity during my student politics days. it's as if my creativity is never wrong, is never open to suggestion or improvement or compromise or watering down. it can be as outrageous, or beautiful, or whimsical, and HONEST as i feel like being.

anyway, returning to the idea of billboards with poems on them. the more i read about "diversity" and "stigma management" and "marginalisation", the more i am inspired by the personal acts of creation, of resistance, or self-definition as THE ANSWER to stigma and marginalisation. there's a line from a danica lani song that comes to mind here "who gives a fuck about objectivity, i want to hear your truth, sista" anything else is reductionistic.

but i'm not arguing for individualism per se. what i find really powerful is when you get a bunch of people in a room together, all putting forward their own stories and feeling the commonality. yeah, feminism consciousness raising groups, or a dyke spoken word night, or the multicultural queer conference. speaking from the personal grounds the political.

i don't really know what happens next though. i know that feminism went through a phase of consciousness raising, and then kinda moved on, formulating platitudes based on CR insights. but then they kinda froze. it's like PC stuff. political correctness is often originally grounded in personal experience, but then it ossifies.

anyway, i'll end there.

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