When I was in college, the drama society put on Jail Diary of Albee Sachs. the true story of a white South African lawyer repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for his anti-apartheid views. Real triumph of the human spirit stuff. Great play and great performances. It sticks in my memory mostly for a comment made by Jim Young, the artistic director for Wheaton College theater at that time. When asked if he was satisfied with the performance, he said he would be satisfied when the audience was so overwhelmed that they held hands and cried, and then all got on a plane to South Africa, vowing never to depart until apartheid was dismantled. When apartheid was actually dismantled, he would be satisfied.
I have truly come to admire his high standards.
It is boring and wanky to write about what it means to be an artist and what the process is of art. This surprised me: I would complain to my friends about the small difficulties I experienced in Edinburgh and they would say in all earnestness (because these are European friends I am talking about) that they empathized with the artistic process. As if the suffering were mandatory. At this I would shake my head. Maybe an eye-roll. I don't believe in that stuff. I'm here to cut to the chase.
What play do I write that gets people holding hands and crying, and promising to each other that they will stand up for justice and democracy? What play is that? Because I need to write that play very quickly. I'm getting stressed out.
I don't know about you but I am completely freaking out here over ISIS, Ukraine, Gaza, Scotland, Ebola, NATO, the Ministry of Justice - like I can't even be on Facebook for more than a second before it all gets too much for me. World War III is in the air. People are terrified.
In this panic, in this deference to leaders and to war that I am sure is upon us, in the scourge of racism and fascism consuming England, I want to do the right thing by my children and I know you do too. I want to build a better world for them. For decades the middle class have looked only inside their own houses, to the welfare of their own children, the size of their own extension (I just had planning permission granted)... but now blood and tears are spilling out of Eastern Europe and out of the Middle East. It may be that we will not have the luxuries of our consumerist decades in the future. It may be that we will be forced by circumstance to look outside our own houses. It may be that we still can better the world. It may be that justice is possible.
And whether it is unrealistic to imagine the scourge of war, surely it is a sound use of time to imagine a better world, to plot against the panic, to see our way clear to the standards of democracy and justice set by our mothers and fathers. Remember our heroes. Remember the rule of law that stirred our hearts in law school. Show trials? Secret courts? Mass surveillance? This is what we have now? What choice do we have but to stand up for what we believe in? No one is more surprised than I am that this is the message. But it is the message.
If I'm not mistaken, we are all sleepwalking into WWIII. I hope I am mistaken, but it is a dim hope. I want like Jim Young for people to hold hands and cry.