I had to go to Reefton in the morning for St Johns training – always a bit of a boor, but necessary. It was still raining, with lightning and thunder – odd how we usually put it the other way around. On the way there, Denise talked about her deaf son. With cochlea implants, the deaf are disappearing, but her boy prefers to be deaf – to the world. When they switched on his implant he ripped it out.
The biscuits at Reefton were sweet, with one pack of those savoury nibbles that reek of chemicals. Over an early breakfast I had watched via democracynow an interview with Shailene Woodley. She’s a young Hollywood actress turned Sanders’ activist. She had two interesting concepts: one was the existence of ‘food deserts’ in the city – low income areas with no access to good food; the other a new sort of escapist art – those works that ‘escape’ into hope. It is good to learn from the young.
In the evening the Working Men’s Club held its annual murder mystery pot luck dinner. I talked to Gary, brought up in Blackball, now a successful Wellingtonian. Fifty years ago, when the mine closed, he was transferred from Blackball Post Office to Upper Hutt. He caught the bus to Stillwater, the railcar to Christchurch, the DC3 plane to Wellington and finally, the train to Upper Hutt. This November he’s going to do the trip again, as a commemorative journey.
Before we ate, Jeremy said grace, a new thing for the Club; Tina had decided I suspect. She’s going to a whanau reunion in October. The table of kids was a lovely image – faces still intense with possibility. The murder mystery was as silly as ever, but it’s good to laugh with people who have become family, one having slowly earned the unconditional acceptance that family offers.
From there to the Hilton where a singer was featuring, one of those people wandering the country playing gigs for food and bed, like medieval troubadours. He didn’t have a great sound system so I couldn’t really hear, but it didn’t matter, singing was taking place and that created an atmosphere. Some of the Greymouth and Coast Road ‘hippies’ had come, to make for a bohemian sort of crowd.
Mike the builder in his Lenin cap talked about how he and Tiger the scaffolder want to mount a GST strike. Why should we collect money for the government? From people who can’t afford it? I suggested he link the protest to a demand for a financial transaction tax. Sarah passed by and I wondered if she would stand for council, but the thought of trying to do business with those men made her nauseous. Somehow we began to talk of feminism and capitalism. I put forward the view that women politicians and executives seemed to exhibit the very same behaviour as men in those positions. For Sarah that was because capitalism had been created by men. ‘But it is not necessarily, as a system, patriarchal or homophobic or racist,’ I said. ‘Because it has been created by men, women imitate men when they get into power,’ she replied. I started to talk about the gender-lost boys teachers are coming across at primary school. ‘They’re in transition,’ Sarah maintained. ‘Women can wear trousers without feeling confused. Can boys wear skirts?’
But is that the real point? I’d recently been through a round of peer reviewing of an article I had written for an American theatre magazine and had to ponder anew Jerzy Grotowski’s notion of ‘the collective complexes of society, the core of the collective subconscious or perhaps super-conscious (it doesn’t matter what we call it), the myths which are not an invention of the mind, but are, so to speak, inherited through one’s blood, religion, culture and climate.’ According to Grotowski, these ‘representations collectives’ may be religious myths, biological myths or national myths which are difficult to break down into formulas but which ‘we feel in our blood’ when we read certain works. The task is to confront them with the modern experience.
What are these representations collectives for us males? Have we forgotten them? Have they been turned into video games?
Yesterday I had e-mailed support for Fiona in her fight to get a kid’s house for Stand in a Paraparaumu subdivision. Not in our backyard, some of the residents were saying in court, hiding their classism and racism behind the excuse that it constituted a commercial use. Healing kids is a commercial activity?
It had stopped raining so I wandered home to watch the end of the rugby. A group of teenagers passed, on a mission of some sort and we muttered hello. What I like about village life is the rhythm; there are still gaps between things. You can still see events unfolding, for they haven’t been prepared to the nth degree. Someone will eventually appear in the empty street. Who are they? What are they doing? Not a paranoid response, but an inquisitive one. And as they get closer the answer appears in the form of a brief dialogue.
The shadow hovering over the day had been the dreadful event in Nice, the level of alienation that lay behind it, and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to healing that alienation.
Perhaps, as Shailene Woodley said, ‘It is necessary to escape into hope.’