Vice Media Swallows Dreams Whole

The Sad Remnants of The MuseYou know that kitschy indie hipster magazine from New York-cum-Quebec?  Did you know that Rupert Murdoch is balls deep with a $70m stake?  Or that Hearst and Disney own a ten percent stake?  Or that they’re partnering with the likes of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Google on a horrible new media project?

Bit strange…  Almost without anyone noticing, Vice went from subversive voice of the little guy to cynical corporate monster.

Williamsburg has been going down this road for a long time now – from cool artsy hangout to gentrified haven for idle Manhattanites with too much money.  So it’s not really a shock that loads of independent art and vital music spaces have been closed down and pushed out to make way for huge corporate interests.

What is a bit surprising is the fact that, in this case, the huge corporate interest is the little magazine from down the road.

It’s a bit of a shame, really, for the “voice of a new generation” to be rousting through the lairs and favorite haunts of what used to be their target demographic.  Now guys in suits are sweeping through hip, underground venues and live/work spaces for artists and performers, sending whole communities of sweetly naive creatives scurrying further out along the L.

The strange thing about the ongoing cycles of gentrification, a plague afflicting society just about everywhere, is that it doesn’t seem to follow a circular pattern.  It isn’t as though the Village is full of cool artists, becomes gentrified, loses it’s cool credentials, and then becomes uncool again, rent subsiding, and the cycle repeating itself…  No, everywhere just sort of seems to be getting more expensive.

From the bright and shiny centre of the galaxy, the wealth just seems to radiate outward and doesn’t seem to leave a vacuum in its wake.  Well, maybe an integrity vacuum.  Or a cultural one.

Impoverished artsy types move into an area, give it credibility, and when they leave, the well-heeled get to bask in that reflected cool for decades, clinking their champagne flutes and nibbling their tapas as they congratulate themselves on their cleverness, now the scruffy kids are out.

So well done, Vice.  You’ve arrived.  The champagne will be chilling in the empty space where our dreams used to be.

Advertising for Our Hearts

I confess I find ads like this irritating. It’s insidious, because it’s art, but it’s really good marketing. It seems like there should be rules preventing horrible corporations from using kitschy or endearing or well-conceived art to hock their products and services.

Our emotions are aroused by our vicarious participation in the vivid or cathartic emotional experiences of the people on the screen, and we develop a connection, reinforced by use of branding and focused message with a product or service, or a brand entity that has no claim to the feelings in question.

Delta Airlines very likely had little or nothing to do with the creation of this art, apart from paying for it, but they reap the benefits.

This misappropriation of our experiences of art and expression is as inescapable as it is inexcusable. We swim in a sea of art, most of it leading a double life. Beyond acting as outlet for creative expression, our art must generally be trying to sell us something. We can enjoy the creativity, but only once it’s been sanitized and put to work underlining our desires.

Artists themselves, who would most probably (and more beneficially) prefer to dispense with the sales tactics and focus on the business of telling us something true about ourselves, are wrangled in and tempted to the poisoned cup. Unimaginable money is brought to the table, especially when the artist has a powerful and trusted voice, because the best salesman is the one who we believe to be on our side.

These imperialist tactics are unethical. Our brightest points of light are lured away from us, one by one, by vast and insidious corporate interests, to sell us a new iPod or business-class ticket.  That their voices are allowed to be appropriated by the machine is wrong, to say nothing of the misappropriations of the art forms and movements themselves. Every day, subversive forms of expression are stolen and put to work serving the interests of the monied class and we applaud the creativity rather than condemning the thievery.

Oh well.

Philly – A Tale of Two Microbreweries

Wish Experiences

Last week we decided to take in a bit of Philadelphia, and managed to see five shows, check out two microbreweries, and even throw in some American cultural heritage sites!

The two microbreweries we managed to check out were Dock Street Brewing and Yards Brewing Company.

Incidentally, Yards Brewing is near the water, while Dock Street is in the very cool Cedar Park neighborhood.  Yards definitely feels more like a tasting room, with a free standing bar surrounded by stools, and lots of schwag to be purchased lining the walls.  They had some fantastic beers – Will enjoyed the Pynk – a sour beer brewed with cherries, that lacked the sweetness of, say, a kriek.  I went ahead and tried out their Signature Flight – my favorite brew definitely being the Brawler – the closest thing to a real English bitter I have tasted in almost a year!

Originally a…

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What do Nanotech and the Pixies Have in Common?



Or – Why Can’t I Pop a Pill and Grow Wings Yet?


The answer to both could be Digital Restrictions Management (DRM): those draconian attempts to restrict freedom in favor of profit put in place by corporate profiteers and dutifully upheld by their lapdogs and champions. And while it may seem like the music industry got all warm and fuzzy (or at least realized it was probably a losing battle) a while ago, the notion of ownership is still very much at the heart of their philosophy.  These value structures underpin systems anywhere there is money to be made (or lost), and there’s money to be made by the boatload in nanoetch.  Or there could be.

As an industry (or at least a collection of loosely grouped disciplines), nanotech’s been around for a while.  And though advancements have been made, they’ve nowhere near kept pace with those in other related fields (computing, processing, mobile technologies).  While it is of course the case that there are technological hurdles to cross still ahead of nanotech (how do we solve the heat problem, for instance), I would bet pounds to peanuts that part of what is limiting development is the crypto-fascist need to ensure there’s a way to control the technology.

In K Eric Drexler’s seminal book Engines of Creation, The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, he laid out how a successful, mature nano-tech could revolutionize the world economy.  With self replicating, self-assembling nano-devices bringing the cost of manufacturing just about everything down to near zero cents, people would be able to manufacture whatever they needed in their own home, wiping out the material manufacturing industry and the goods transportation industries in one fell swoop.

Since molecular machines will arrange atoms to best advantage, a little material can go a long way. Common elements like hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, aluminum, and silicon seem best for constructing the bulk of most structures, vehicles, computers, clothes and so forth: they are light and form strong bonds. Because dirt and air contain these elements in abundance, raw materials can be dirt cheap.

As this story at BBC Future suggests, such a revolution would also likely have a profound effect on the industry (and cost) of construction.

And while Drexler’s predictions (now thirty-five years old) may seem overly optimistic, his science is spot-on.  It’s safe to say that there are a lot of people with a fair amount staked on this revolution not coming to pass or, at least, on this awesome power being harnessed.

And the energy it will take to build that harness – design a “foolproof” means of preventing unauthorised (or un-paid) replication – will doubtless be enormous.  Again, from Drexler:

Advanced AI will emerge step by step, and each step will pay off in knowledge and increased ability. As with molecular technology (and many other technologies), attempts to stop advances in one city, county, or country will at most let others take the lead. A miraculous success in stopping visible AI work everywhere would at most delay it

Healthcare advances in the fledgling technology are already making waves, but things are still developing very slowly in comparison with many other high-tech fields.  If the energy that is doubtless being spent on finding ways to own the technology were being spent on its open development, we might already have those wings

Sacred Theatre; Deadly Theatre

I’ve been struggling with a concept over the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been reviewing shows at FringeNYC, and seeing a lot of new work and yet…  It hasn’t really felt like I’ve been at a fringe festival.

I should unpack that.  What I mean is that fringe festivals, in my experience, are events happening or, maybe more properly, positioning themselves on top of the edge of what’s happening now.  The mainstream is where you have your Andrew Lloyd Webber and your Spamalot; your Tennessee Williams, your Woman in Black, and your Midsummer Night’s Dream; these established forms proven to be popular and lucrative.  The fringe is where you get Fuck You! You Fucking Perv! and Dr Professor Neal Portenza’s Interactive Goat Hour, and Bootworks Theatre and Sound & Fury and Made in China!  The experimentation is happening on the fringe; the irreverence, the exploration, the uncertainty and the inquisition.

The first fringe started as an attempt by uninvited guests to capitalize on the newly founded Edinburgh International Festival in 1947.  The guerilla nature of the act, co-opting the event and subverting audience energies towards work created by less established artists was inherently daring.  The philosophy of open access (allowing anyone with an idea to rock up and put on a show) was quickly settled on as a guiding principle, and remains at the core of what drives the fringe in most places around the world today.

School of Night

At festivals like EdFringe and Adelaide, the gates have been flung wide, and one can expect to see everything from polished professional productions like The School of Night to a young man dressed as a gorilla dressed as an old man, sitting in a rocking chair for fifty-six minutes and then leaving.  You take the good with the bad and, obviously, there can be quite a lot of bad, but that’s sort of the point.  The fringe is a no man’s land where anything goes, and that’s why it’s so vital – because the fact of it, the fringe, creates impetus for artists to create new work, and new kinds of work.

we scorn the profane in favor of reverence

One thing I found a bit unexpected, upon first having moved to Britain, was the comparatively ubiquitous sense of barely restrained rebellion ever-present throughout many segments of society, but especially among the arty set.  Industrial actions (strikes, to US Americans) are so much less commonplace in the United States than in the UK, and this may be symptomatic of a more insidious condition – a sort of ‘willingness to obey‘, which I never noticed before leaving the country and now seem to see everywhere I look.  We put up a resistance to rocking the boat in the US; we scorn the profane in favor of reverence, and nowhere is this more true than in our theatres.

In Britain, there is an almost belligerent tendency to question authority to a fault, and this obstinance extends into the way of thinking about theatre and performance.  Now, obviously, this is not to say that every piece of British theatre is ground-breaking, or that every Brit is a revolutionary.  Far from it.  The West End is doing just fine, thank you very much.  But there is that restless sector of society, less interested in refining than in innovating, which (perhaps infuriatingly) insists on questioning the generally accepted conventions.

‘Well, why should we perform in a theatre?”

This process is so much a part of the experimental theatre scene, that an innovation scarcely hits the pavement before it, too, is being questioned.  And this sense of adventure, or anything-goes, party-time action is not confined to Britain’s fringes – One encounters the same electric question marks in Australia, Europe, and Canada – pretty much all over the place.  But it is decidedly less common in the United States.

Patty Hartigan, writing in the Boston Globe more than fifteen years ago, sums it up.  “Apart from a few progressive colleges with well-founded performance programs, presenting opportunities for experimental theater dried up nationwide, starting in the early 90’s.”  The frequently political nature of experimental theatre is seen as irksome by a consumer driven economy and its proponents, and funding is difficult to come by for companies not treading the company line.  Even the seminal Living Theatre was forced to close its doors last year, and as its co-founder, Judith Malina shuffled off-stage, barely a whisper was heard.

The Living Theatre“If this was Japan, if it was France if it was Canada, Judith would be a national treasure – She would be recognized for her contributions […] I mean we’re talking about one of the architects of the counter-culture.”  Penny Arcade said in an interview with NPR‘s John Kalish.  As Malina exits stage-left, dreaming of creating a performance with fellow residents in her assisted-living facility in Jersey, we’re left with one less light in an increasingly darkened theatre.

When Peter Brook described deadly theatre in The Empty Space in 1968, his work was still considered to be very much avant-garde, but now it’s required reading for theatre students.  Impetuous innovators inevitably become the old guard, given enough time.  In our current situation it may be difficult not to think that all the revolutionaries have given up or gone home. And not to get too X-Files here, but maybe that’s how they want us to feel.  A defeated people is a malleable people, and so corporate fascism wins the day.

But it’s not just about funding and diplomacy, Theresa Rebeck suggests, in a 2009 post to the Lark Play Development blog, that theatre artists in the US are too focused on experimental work and that “while all us intellectual and hip theater artists are so busy running away from what may or may not be conventional, audiences are pretty much running toward it”.  But don’t be fooled by the wording “all us intellectuals”.  Rebeck is not siding with the progressive cause here.  She goes on to say that:

“[The Dorset Theater Festival] started out their season this year with Jack Gilpin starring in Conor MacPherson’s St Nicholas; it was a terrific night of theater, but didn’t sell many tickets. Just last week, however, they opened The Hollow, by Agatha Christie. This production is a boffo hit; they’ve sold more tickets to the Agatha Christie play (staged with dazzling panache by artistic director Carl Forsman) than they have sold to any production of any other play in the last three years.

three full hours of some pretty hilarious Agatha Christie.

Does that make the audiences in Dorset stupid? I’m sure there are plenty of theater artists who would say, well, it doesn’t make them smart. On the other hand, these are not people who just stay home all night and watch television, or go see bad movies about idiots blowing up airplanes. These are people who got in their cars, drove to the theater and paid $45 each to watch three full hours of some pretty hilarious Agatha Christie.”

Laughing Audience

Rebeck thinks it’s a case of audiences balking at a naval-gazing culture of pretentious artists.  But audiences in places like Edinburgh aren’t so much more sophisticated than the Dorset Theater Festival’s patrons as one might think given her post.  They’re mostly just ordinary people, drawn to the spectacle of a city-wide festival, and yet ticket sales are for EdFringe, the largest celebration of experimental performance on the planet, are on the rise, while American audiences would evidently rather laugh at Agatha Christie for three hours. 

So we’ve got funding streams not supporting experimental work and audiences not buying tickets for it.  And these sound like pretty solid reasons to color inside the lines, but we’re not talking about a uni-directional traffic system – these streams flow both ways, and a healthy culture of experimental work will certainly breed some failures, but it will also yield some astonishing success.  And America is not immune to success, contrary to what anyone might have to say about it.  Sleep No More is proof that Americans love a good show as much as anyone.

So…  Back to US American fringe festivals and the diversity (or lack of diversity) of work present.  I hear what you’re saying.  You’re saying, “But FringeNYC isn’t a true fringe – it’s juried.”  And, while I’d agree with you that this particular festival is not in keeping with the spirit of fringe (in more ways than one), I’d have to disagree that this is the root of the problem, because every other fringe festival I’ve been to in the US so far exhibits the same lack of artistic daring.  And the majority of them (like the Orlando International Fringe, for instance) have been unjuried and *mostly* uncensored.

So what gives?  Where is all the trial and error?

I speculate that theatre makers in the US have a sense of reverence towards the canons of theatre.  That we have a tendency to hold what goes on in a theatre as sacred, and (for the most part) not to be fucked with.  And since returning to the US, I have seen this sense of propriety echoed time and again, from Los Angeles to Orlando.

SM TshirtPerhaps the most clear evidence of this rigid adherence to conventionally accepted practices is in the role of the stage manager, as performed here and abroad.  American theatre practitioners will all be familiar with a certain type, which immediately jumps to mind at the mention of the SM.  Dressed all in black, he or she (usually she) has a carabiner with a role of glowtape, some black tie-line, and a massive ring of keys clipped to his or her belt.  There’s a counter-culture reference or snarky clogan on the t-shirt, and a no-nonsense stride as he or she steps into the room, usually holding some sort of sign-in sheet or attendance sheet, and he or she is perpetually in a ‘not on my watch’ frame of mind.  We once showed up to a theatre we were meant to be loading into at a festival in the midwest, and we arrived a little ahead of schedule.  The SM strode up to us and perfunctorily told us that we could take a seat and wait; we still had six minutes until our assigned load-in time.

Now, I know what a trial it is working out schedules, especially at festivals where there are literally infinite numbers of moving parts, but we happened to be the only act in this particular venue.  At all.  She was so matter-of-fact I thought she was joking at first, but she wasn’t, and for the duration of the two week affair, we didn’t get a millimeter of flexibility from her.  I was tempted to label her a jobsworth, but there was nothing malicious about it.  She was just doing her job, and she honestly believed that things just needed to be done the right way.  And that meant, the way she had been taught in stage management school at university.  There was no sense of adaptation, no working with the new set of parameters.  Just a regimented, black and white approach to doing the job.  Outside of work, she was fun-loving and (somewhat) carefree, but when we stepped inside the theatre, she meant business.

there is an accepted, right way of doing things, and then there are loads of other, wrong ways

It’s as though the mindset is (generally speaking) that there is an accepted, right way of doing things, and then there are loads of other, wrong ways.  But this caricature of a theatrical professional is practically unheard of in the UK.

So we’ve got a reciprocal cycle of makers, audiences, and educators all feeding a system of *mostly* samey work, on the fringe and off.  And it’s terrifying to me.

I had a conversation yesterday with a talented maker and a good friend, Azure Osborne Lee, on the topic of a show we had both seen at the fringe, tangleplay.  The work was a fairly experimental piece of theatre about a woman who undergoes an ordeal at the hands of a mysterious group of proctors.

The show had some fairly serious issues, Azure described it as having been “a bit too rapey for [him]”, and I had to agree – the position the audience are placed in is fraught with dilemmas arising out of our proximity to the character/actress, and her mediated torture.  But despite these glaring ethical questions, we both agreed we liked it for its daring, and that work like this needs to be encouraged in the US, not for its content, but for its approach to theatre making.

Experimental art has always been important, in every society.  Work that pushes norms and gets people thinking and talking is essential to having a healthy socio-political system.  We need more work that provokes unquiet and refuses to take the party line in the United States.  And this is especially true right now.  In the wake of the the Aaron Swartz debacle and that astonishing business in Ferguson, we need to be asking more questions.  It’s all too easy to get distracted by the shiny things on television and go out to buy a new treat, but treats aren’t always good for you.  People may find the malcontent to be an irritation – it’s so much more pleasant when everyone just plays along, isn’t it?  But pleasant doesn’t get things done.  Pleasant doesn’t close down gitmo or bring back the genius we lost to Carmen Ortiz and her enforcement squad.

Not every work needs to be earth-shattering, or get us up out of our easy chairs with pitchforks in hand, and not every experimental work will, but the fertile ground has to be there in the first place, and we’ve spent decades salting the field.

A View from the Back



As I wander from fringe to fringe, I often wear two hats.  For a few hours a day I am the Executive Officer of the QPM Zythos, second in command of the weighty and consequential task of maintaining the integrity of the beery timelines.  Or I am serving cupcakes and champaign and making rainbows in empty space.  Or I am leading people backwards in time to the couch where they wait in front of telly for mum to bring them soup and Calpol with hot Ribena.  Or whatever.  Basically, I am trying something, sharing something, doing something, driven by some unknown mania, and in the hopes that someone else will get something out of it.  That’s making theatre on the fringe – it’s bits and bobs and taking chances, experimenting, and pouring out heart and soul to create something fragile and cherished and quite possibly frivolous but no less important for all that.


And then I go out, notepad in hand, and take a look at the work my colleagues are making.  Evaluating theatre (read: reviewing) is a tricky business when one is a theatre maker oneself.  It can feel a bit hypocritical – there is the constant danger of being too sympathetic and, on smaller fringe festivals, there is the certainty that one will find oneself in at least one social engagement with the object of one’s scrutiny.  Making friends on the fringe (fringe begets beer, beer begets friend, beer begets honesty, honesty begets enemy) can be tricky for the wayward reviewer.

Once, whilst waiting for a Rachel Mars show, I found myself sitting next to the Metro, and we got to chatting.  She asked me how I’d come to be writing (at that time I was a culture writer for The Upcoming).  I told her about the Central School, and about Wish Experience, and when I’d finished giving her my abridged (but not very) CV, she asked me when I reckoned I was going to decide.  Decide?  Whether to review or to make work of my own.  It was about that time the lights dimmed for the top of the show, so I managed to wriggle out of giving any meaningful answer, but as the show went on, the question burrowed its way into my skull and laid there.  Shrugging it off, I turned my attention to Rachel and her problems expressing herself and, after the show, my tormentor was out of there like a shot and the matter didn’t come up again.

But it’s been on my mind ever since.  When are you going to decide?  What you’re doing?  Because they’re uneasy bedfellows, reviewing and making work.

It’s easy enough on a larger fringe, like Edinburgh or Adelaide.  There are thousands of shows, and one can see three shows a day the entire festival and never run into a friend or acquaintance.  But in North America it’s another story.  A large fringe here has close to two hundred shows – a far cry from the city-wide orgy of anonymous fringe abroad.  And on an everyday basis, a city like London or New York offers a large enough pool of artists and work that one can cut a pretty wide swath through the scene before painting oneself into a corner.  But as we progress; as we work our way ever closer to the nub of the matter, refine our tastes, and establish ourselves as artists inhabiting a particular niche (which also happens to be the subject of our greatest interest, experience and, therefore, expertise) we find those circles getting ever smaller.

A conversation on the subject with Jem Rolls over drinks in the very excellent Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour a few months ago led to his admission that “you only ever really remember the bad reviews”.  A show can get all the good press in the world, but that one bad review will niggle at you and gnaw at your soul.  I know we’ve had a couple of lukewarm reviews.  Early on with The Awesome Show, we had a woman come out and give us one star.  It was sickening.  I still feel a bit queasy when I think about it.  I mean, it pushed our art; forced us to rethink the path we’d worn for ourselves – we overhauled the show.  Two days later, Donald Hutera came out and called us “inventive and enjoyably urgent”.  And we went on to get rave press from all the usual suspects in Edinburgh, but that one review…  Haunts my dreams.

Writing for FringeReview, it’s not such a hard road to hoe.  We only publish good reviews, so there’s not really the looming spectre of the show that got the slate.  But that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing.  When I go and see a show and don’t review it, there’s always the possibility that I didn’t write it up because I didn’t like it.  Sometimes, I do like a show well enough to recommend, but still must acknowledge flaws in the work.  Friends are always eager for a ‘friendly face’ to come and cover their shows and are occasionally put out when I hit back with our conflict of interest policy.

With such lions and bears out there waiting to pounce, and the constant sense of disapproval from the more conventional press for us and our ‘dabblin in watercolours’, I find myself pondering the words of that distant colleague and wondering when I’m going to have to decide.  The press can have a lot of effects, both good and bad, on a work, a company, an audience, and even a zeitgeist.  In another post, perhaps I’ll muse a bit on the topic of what the purpose of a review is.  For now though, I think I’ll put the matter to bed…  I have a review to write.

FringeNYC Opens Tomorrow


Well, it’s finally here – the opening day of FringeNYC 2014.  With almost two hundred shows, it’s claimed to be the largest multi-arts festival in North America but, then, we don’t really grow them that big over here…  This is the fifteenth year of FringeNYC and there are some great looking shows on the bill.  We’re hoping for a fantastic fringe!

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The (mini) Frigid North

I’ve got accreditation for Fringereview to cover miniFridge 2014!  miniFridge is a summer performance festival spinoff of Frigid New York set in the intimate theatre Under St Marks, in the Village.  Just seven shows, but it’s a good way to dip our toes in the water in NYC.  The first show is The Field,  on Friday.

Guilt and Sloth


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The bells outside are tolling but it’s not a dreary sound.  It’s a gay sound – a beautiful sound, which is dripping with life; with memory; with history.  I feel these strange items inside of my body.  Like bodies or mismatched pieces of muscle all failing to connect up the way they ought to.  I feel the pains in my back when I move like avenues that have been closed off to me; like dead ends that used to be avenues.  I feel my body stopping acting the way it should.  It knows I’ve betrayed it – knows I’ve behaved badly; treated it poorly.  And now it’s suffering at my hands.

The bells outside are ringing with song now.  It reminds me of christmas carols; of winter time and of church and of breath fogging up the air in front of your face.  I know each day is a treasure and yet I waste them eating crisps and watching the internet and wallowing in my comfort.  I don’t take advantage; don’t wring each day for every second’s worth of life like I know I should.

Sometimes I take perverse pleasure in it.  Like a kid that knows it’s doing something naughty and doesn’t care.  It’s short sighted, I suppose, but if this is the only life and if there’s nothing afterwards…  If this is it…  Then it’s all down to how we spent our time; how much we enjoyed how we spent it, and nothing to feel guilty about.

The Lines We Draw

I am a liberal.  A staunch liberal, I would say…  But these things can be so fluid, can’t they?

Democrats and Republicans

At the moment, Florida Legislators are on the brink of passing (or not passing) some bills that could seriously affect craft brewing in this state, and the blogosphere is all a-twitter, and everyone who has any sort of opinion seems to be weighing in.  Without getting into the specifics of the debate (you can find out all about it here and here), I will simply say that the lines are drawn around the issues of economic freedom and corporate back scratching.

Corporate Greed

First off, let me just put this out there.  It is my belief that the liquor laws (and most other morality laws) in the United States are outdated and prudish.  We tend to take such dim, conservative views on vice that basic freedoms most people wouldn’t even think of as controversial are prohibited (or at least seriously regulated and restricted) here.  It’s all in the name of public good, which is a very condescending way for lawmakers (and by extension, the voters who *may have* elected them) of saying that they know more than we do about what’s good for us.

Setting all of that aside, digging into the debate I quickly ran into a dilemma – to agree with a tea-partier or not?

Not only does @GvilleTeaParty‘s tweet happen to support my side of an issue, but I find myself politically aligned, at least in part, with the ideas behind the post while, in contradiction, simultaneously and diametrically opposed to them.  I feel *partly* dirty.  Like Kelli Stargel, I am for big government, but only when it suits me.  I want social services and public works (happy to pay taxes for these), but I don’t want government regulation favouring big business to interfere with the prosperity of the local and grassroots outfits I love and I don’t want the state to teach and enforce morals.

I have this knee-jerk reaction against publicly acknowledging agreement with a tea-partier, but maybe this is the real problem.  My being so hidebound – I am a liberal, and therefore anything a conservative has to say isn’t worth listening to.  I feel these bonds restricting me and preventing reason from prevailing (or threatening to) and I must make effort to overcome my ‘natural’ inclination.  That is, I must deliberately say to myself – I can break from the camp on this issue.  Here, on this topic, I do think government could do with a bit of stripping down.  This question (of political alignment) isn’t black and white – I’m not in it for all or nothing.

Aesop. FablesAnd this all sort of goes without saying, except that we get caught up in the labyrinths of battle lines we’ve drawn for ourselves.  We become conservative or liberal and people on the other side become the enemy.  Perhaps not always as dramatically as that, but this is how people become trapped.  We become brittle and inflexible and, like ageing rubber, we crumble and crack.  The drama can be delicious, but that way lies ruin.  Better to bend and flex.  To be able to see things from another perspective.  To view one another as people with points of view worth considering.  We need not agree with one another, but it’s worth listening before we assess.