Honour Bayes: We’re surprised by the election result because our view is too narrow
Let’s be blunt: this election result has shocked everyone. Even the Tories, who dealt the knockout blow to a blooded Labour, are walking around with bemused grins on their faces. It’s a nightmare. Although its nice to think that they’ll have kept at least one of their election promises at the end of this dark five year term – a majority government. So, you know, silver lining.
But for the arts community it’s been an even bigger surprise and despite misleading opinion polls, I think it’s because we’re choosing to be in a labyrinth of liberal echo chambers. For weeks we’ve been discussing the merits of the Green Party or a Labour/SNP coalition, seemingly oblivious to the oncoming storm of right wing support. The people we surround ourselves with share our liberal mind-sets. Both in real life and online our ‘discussions’ have really been ‘agreements’ – a self-perpetuating, and arguably self-deluding, circle of confirmation.
As the exit polls hit, The Stage’s print editor Alistair Smith tweeted:
That moment when you realise that your social media feeds are not evenly slightly representative of the country at large
— Alistair Smith (@smithalistair) May 7, 2015
While in the bleak light of the morning after the election writer and director Paul Duane wrote with simple but devastating insight:
I can’t be the only one realising I’ve constructed a social media world of decent kind people that’s clearly unlike the real world. #GE2015
— Paul Duane (@MrPaulDuane) May 8, 2015
The problem, as Duane seems to infer, with constructing a world of nice people is that it’s not real. For real change to happen we need to leave our nice worlds, break out of our liberal bubbles and take our heads out of the sand. It’s not that we don’t know that we curate our lives. As theatremaker Daniel Bye says:
It’s not like we don’t hear Tory voices, if we’re paying attention to the news.
— daniel bye (@danielbye) May 8, 2015
But we’re not paying attention, we’re not actively trying to see beyond our natural predilections and that’s the problem.
To engender change we’re going to need to take our work and our thoughts to the strongholds of conservatism, to the suburbs and the east coast. We need to make and show work and write about it in those places and engage in discussion with the people who don’t agree with us.
I’ve called for this before but now it’s more desperate than ever.
And I need to start with myself because I’m a culprit too. Forest Fringe recently put a crowdfunding call out to support its vitally important festival of artist-led work in Edinburgh. At the end of its email, it wrote: “[We want to] ask you to help us reach anybody else outside of our networks who might like to support us and the artists we work with.”
I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t think of anyone outside of the networks they and I orbit in – I was only able to share the link with those who had probably already seen it.
So I’m going to dedicate this terrifying Tory term to broadening my world to include people, communities and networks I would naturally eschew. I will do this in real life and online and any small connection or new relationship will be a win. It’s a huge task, but we’ve got five years to do it.
Let’s make those five years count.
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