Apparently this month is Blog Every Day in April. Or so a beautiful girl I half know on the internet has told me. It seems like the ideal project for me as I'm trying to ramp up my creativity and write more. Unfortunately I've missed the first week and don't at the present time quite have the will-power to commit. But I like their list of suggested topics and am planning to include several in my ramblings this month.
One of those topics is the subject of crushes. Currently I am worryingly obsessed with this man: Chase Whiteside.
He's intelligent, articulate, politically aware, switched on, creative, talented, interesting and really quite pretty. Sadly he is also 3000 miles away, unaware of my existence and gay. (Although not sadly for all those lucky gay guys in Ohio (and to go on a tangent, that “oh it's such a shame he's gay, what a waste” rubbish is fantastically put down here (01.06))).
Chase is, with Erick Stoll, one half of film-making duo New Left Media, best known for their (often terrifying) films where they point a camera at Tea Party supporters and let them explain their views.
This style of documentary appeals because while it's not directly aggressive and attacking, it is exposing the level of ignorance that people with very strongly-felt views often have about their subjects. And crucially it's not a one sided thing; the films they made at the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear showed that many on the left had similarly shallow understanding of of the politics they were willing to go out on the street and espouse.
It's film-making that makes you think, and question your own understanding of your views, opinions and beliefs. It makes me want to read more, learn more, understand more.
It also, to an extent, cripples me with the knowledge of my own ignorance. There is so much I disagree with but how can I be sure I'm right? The current government is, to the best of my understanding, attempting to dismantle years of progress and roll back the state to a level that would be deeply damaging to so many people that rely on it's services. And it would also, through widening inequality, be damaging to all citizens in the UK, including the 18 millionaires in the cabinet that never have and never will need public services. Two weeks ago, along with an estimated half a million people I marched through the streets of London to ask them to stop. There is a lot more I feel I should be doing: occupying tax-dodging shops with UKUncut, making a fuss about NHS reforms, waging war on an unrepentant banking system. But with so many issues around (the range of causes and banners at the march was heartbreaking) how can I possibly be knowledgeable enough to respond sensibly to all that I need to? I don't think handing over spending decisions to GPs and opening up the door to more private companies is a good idea but I've never dealt with unwieldy Primary Care Trusts and I don't work in the NHS so how can I possibly know? But I feel what's at stake is too important to not act at all. Ultimately I suppose I just have to accept my ignorance, do my best to remedy it and form my opinions based on what I can see of the world around me and my belief that people, not money are more important. And at the same time to try to listen to and not automatically not dismiss people with opposing views. While I am of course disappointed that the Lib Dem's role in the coalition seems to be to prop up rather than tone down Tory policies I refuse to give up on the idea that political compromise can work. I want to live in a society where people and politicians can work together and I need to make sure I'm trying to create that world.
I think empathy is absolutely key to the kind of world I want to live in. What's obvious from watching the New Left Media Tea Party videos, or reading BNP literature or listening to Cameron talk on multiculturalism is that a lot of the views I see as so distasteful come from people who haven't had the ability, opportunity or need to see life from other people's perspective, to be able to see past their own world and appreciate that immigrants or gay people or women have valid and full lives that should be equally valued. Meeting people from different backgrounds, reading about people who are different to you, television, film can all play a part in this. Another documentary from NLM and the one that first brought them to my attention was focused on the fight for marriage equality in Maine. It's a different style of documentary and it's all about the people. It is political but in a different way. It's about people and it's about the most universal of human experiences: love. My English teacher from when I studied in Maine features in this video. When he says “It hurts” how can you not feel his pain?
So thank you Chase Whiteside (and Erick) for what you do. Now if only I was a gay man in the Midwest...