“Not just ‘Other’”
John-Paul Flintoff I'm a journalist, film maker and author.
* NEW BOOK * How To Change The World is published around the world from May 2012.
My previous book, Sew Your Own, was variously described (by other people) as wonderful, amazing, funny, warm, inspiring, moving and utterly brilliant.
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I do like Lucy Kimbell’s work.
Her Physical Bar Charts allow people to assess their own participation as citizens by taking a badge indicating the closest description of how they did in the previous week. Thus:
Which would you wear?
I recently finished writing book on this big subject*, and will be coming back to it. I gave a talk immediately afterwards, at the wonderful Wigtown Book Festival. At the end, I asked people in the audience to write down:
a) the way they would like to change the world if they knew they couldn’t fail (ie, success was, magically, assured), and
b) what they would start to do, in next 24 hours ideally, to bring this to reality
I was really chuffed that so many did as I asked, and I decided to make a book to hold the tiny bits of paper they had written this on. (Thank you Colin Tennant for letting me use these copyright photos of the book, resting in my hand.) I became the custodian of their ideas, which were anonymous, so I can’t actually chase after anybody and say, ‘Why haven’t you done this?’, but by asking people to write the idea down I think I increased the likelihood of their actually doing something.
I was really pleased to see the wide range of ideas people have for improving things. They ranged from bright eyed and very earnest things like ending hunger around the world to narrower attempts to improve things in the individual’s own life (I should stress that I do not think these are in any way “lesser” aims). It really was rather moving to be left with them all.
I also liked the fact that the ideas were all brought together within one volume even though some of the people who submitted them might not have agreed with each other about very much.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t get a contribution from one of the other writers who was at Wigtown. Toby Young is a figure who elicits very strong opinions. Some people find him funny without agreeing with him. Some find him funny and agree with him. But quite a few just hate him, most recently because he has been prominent in his experiments setting up a so-called Free School, which they regard as an attack on the state system.
(On the first Saturday of Wigtown, visiting writers compete against each other and against more talented locals in a song and dance and comedy competition. Young performed a very brave and funny rendition of a rock classic (can’t remember which) but I was struck that some people watched him absolutely po-faced, and refused to applaud. (“Some of my friends are teachers,” one explained.))
The reason I wish that Young had written something in my book is that he absolutely is already trying to Change The World (though he may not use such a grandiose term), and he had (when I spoke to him) very specific ideas about what he needed to do in the next 24 hours. But I fear that a lot of people would refuse to accept that his particular project is “valid”, because it’s not an approach they share.
Are people only allowed to try to change the world if we agree with their approach? I hope not.
I should admit that one of the papers submitted after my talk took me aback. It said that I talked much too fast, and the writer, who identified him/herself as being hard of hearing, had not caught a word. For which I’m very sorry.
Also, would like to mention debt to the legendary handmade-book designer Hedi Kyle for the “blizzard book” I used to bind the loose papers.
*The book will be published by Macmillan, as one in a series from The School of Life
if you look at simple stone tools, before you get to systems and technology, they don’t require much specialization or division of labor, and accordingly you can see the potential for equality: anyone make this tool, anyone can use it, you don’t depend on an expert for using it. But as we move forward in technological time, the need for a lot of specialists and experts gives those specialists and experts total power over us, and that’s a disabling and de-skilling process. It involves everything you can think of; people used to work on their cars, but now there are hundreds of computer sensors that prevent a normal person from tinkering around under the hood of a car. Kids way back could make their own radio set. There was a time when you could still have some access or some agency, but now you need an expert. That’s not healthy. We have to re-skill ourselves in my view, or else we’re just sitting there passively waiting for the next thing to buy. (click through to read more)
(Source: The Atlantic)
Typically, they undergo a permanent spiritual transformation, writes Ran Prieur. (Click through to read more.) So now I’m thinking, is there any way to create this effect without such a high chance of dying?
What if we could do it with a low but still significant chance of dying? Would it be worth it?
Many tribal cultures put everyone through a dangerous ritual before becoming an adult. Our own culture is terrified of physical injury or death, to the point of being puritanical.
Eventually we might understand that when the death rate gets too low, survival becomes inversely correlated with quality of life, and we need culturally acceptable ways to face real danger.