Tuesday, 14 July 2015

20.15 Blog #8: Ambition (or: Lex Luthor is Bad)

In another decade, a younger Henry wanted to be a famous writer.  The kind of writer they write about.  The kind of writer that gets studied.  The kind of writer that gets studied in their lifetime.

At some point, I lost that life goal.  I wonder whether it was because I lost self-confidence in myself, and asked:  “What makes me so special that people would want to study me?”  Sometimes I ask why people would want to bother listening to me at all.

But you’re here reading this blog, so you’re at least interested in reading what I have to ramble.

A lot of poets have built their careers on viral videos.  There’s a lot of hardwork goes into the construction and promotion of a poem that can go viral, and I’m not knocking those poets.  They’re reaching larger audiences and we’re riding those coattails.

But if all poets were able to go viral, we’d infect the world.  But we’re not going to go viral.  The very nature of a viral video is it exists in a sea of videos which do not get the same attention.  Bucking the trend and beating the competition makes the video noticed.  But (from where I'm sitting at least) they can make a career.

Ambition is the little cousin of Hope.  Left in Pandora’s Box, Hope is both the sin and the virtue.  Hope is a negative and a positive.  A trap and a freedom.

Ambition in our western society has two faces.  Climbing the corporate ladder to fame, riches and famous riches is seen as A Good Thing.  Within the arts, students are told making good work is seen as A Good Thing too (and so it is), but it doesn’t hurt if you’re on a nice salary or get healthy ticket sales from that work.  Even a decent job in a building.  Stream of funding.  Interview in The Stage/Guardian. Congratulations.  Us theatre-makers sell these dreams to ourselves.

But with the stroke of the same hand that pats your back, ambition can be seen as self-serving and self-gratifying.  The working class are sold the lie that we must be “happy with what you’ve got.”  The church has done this job for centuries with the Pie In The Sky lie.  The humbleness song is somehow in a positive key and should make us grateful for simple wages, simple benefits and a simple life.

Aspiration is another cousin to hope.  Aspiration is like ambition, but I see it as to elevate oneself beyond the situation you exist within.  Aspiration is about rising, ambition is about gaining.  The working class are told they should aspire, because the ruling classes have made the working class situation so unenviable

We live in such a vertical world, that it is impossible to be ambitious without clutching at the feet above you and stamping on the fingers below on this imposing ladder.  The competitive culture encourages self-serving attitudes.  Not only this, but an ‘eye on the prize’ perception means you lose sight of where you are (see Yoda’s wisdom for more information:  "This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless").

But I said ambition is a double-edged blade.  There are positive qualities.  There is a better world worth fighting for (see Sam Gamgee).  We should want will demand better.  Anarchism is about valuing yourself and defending your rights and as individual to never be a slave, but not as the cost at making slaves of others.  Lex Luthor (see Superman) has ambitions to become the biggest businessman in the world, the biggest power on the planet, the President of the United States.  Heck, he even tries to dominate all space, time and reality a few times.  But at the cost of controlling and ruling over others.  Ambition should be horizontal, am ambition to support yourself and others.  Ruthlessness is born from Luthor's vile ambition.

Love is born from another kind of ambition.  Ambition to better yourself the world.  To save it, to secure it, to make it more FUN.  If ruthelessness is born from negative ambition, then we should nurture the purposeful love that can emerge from positive ambition.

This world is so broken, so many flaws, so many systems that control, grind, kill.  But we can make a better world, every fight we lose, every fight we undertake, every fight we win is going towards a better world.  We are told this is the state of the world.  The Tories won a ‘democratic’ election.  Deal with it.  Find a job.  Wash your hair.  They say.

I want to build an inclusive and high-quality poetry and punk scene.  I want to challenge myself and make stronger work.  I want to tour, meet new people, make new friends, see and work with new artists.  I want to inspire someone that will inspire someone else.  These are my ambitions.

Be ambitious in valuing yourself.  Be ambitious to do what you want, however you want as long as it doesn’t harm someone else.  You are wonderful, but that wonder doesn’t detract from the wonder of your neighbour.

Be ambitious.  Demand the impossible.

Another world is waiting xxx