Yums, I love citizens!, conference doodles.
On our small island yesterday, in a still smaller room, a group of young islanders gathered for the second day of a closed door conference "Building a Community of Citizens in the 21st century". Elsewhere, the Thais woke up to the the termination of their "constitution, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Cabinet and the Constitutional Court".
These young islanders from the non-profit, corporate, arts, media and public sectors traded sentiments, plaints and opinions, bandying about terms like "equality", "public space", "shit-stirrers", "freedom of expression" and "dual citizenship" all within 2 hours to the ears of a Harvard professor and an island politician. Then politician picked up the mic and proceeded, with furrowed brows, to condense, stretch and contort the histories of nations and places with the rehearsed earnestness of a high school debater.
There was, however, amidst this tired series of soliloquies, one young man who lamented why it should be that us islanders must always retreat to the political when there is more outside it. I thought, of course he was right. Why only use the language of politics when alternative linguistic, literary and social strategies are more meaningful - and are certainly less predictable, less restrictive and less unimaginative. Why live on an island if you do not enjoy the sea and sky?
There was also a dinner speaker - a performing artist, educator and administrator - who spoke emotionally and movingly of religion as man's conversation with God, and art man's soliloquy of himself. The dinner speaker was also right, in some ways. But surely though art may often start as man's soliloquy of himself, it is not always so. It is also man's conversation with his fellow man/woman. Even if a soliloquy is the chosen form, it need not be about himself, but it could be about his island, sea and sky. And around these words and images, people may gather.