A while ago someone asked me why I write. I have been asked that question many times. The simple answer is because I have to. If I don’t write I go insane. And as melodramatic as that sounds, it’s never the less true. I write to sort out my own head, to organize my thoughts. And that applies to anything I write, regardless of whether it’s fact or fiction. I do it to sort out my own head, to understand. This time that answer wasn’t really appropriate though, the situation called for a bit more discretion than saying it was for mental health reasons. So I had to loop it in my head one more time and when I did the other side of it became clear. I write because I believe that story telling can change the world. And that statement actually applies to the mental health aspect too. I want to understand and that’s why I write, that how my brain works. But the products of my efforts, the texts, those are just as much about getting other people to understand. By sharing what I think I hope to get other people to embrace the same thoughts, to see the same patterns. Because I really do want to change the world.
We live in an age and a culture where this ambition is somewhat frowned upon. It’s not really the hip thing to do. It’s too pretentious, too serious, not cynical enough. And at a first glance it may also seem to lack that essential element of immediate satisfaction that we seem to crave more than anything. But I don’t really have a choice. I have to keep on trying. And there is massive satisfaction in doing so. Immediate and long-term. Because it’s all about passion, about actually caring so much that you just can’t help yourself. Of course I write because I love it, I love words and I love stories, I always have. That’s one side of it. The other is the hope of actually making a difference. And I think that’s the two elements of passion: love and actually giving a shit. That’s why you do it, what ever it is you do.
Because by no means do I think passion pertains exclusively to art, it applies just as much to political activism. You do it because you actually give a fuck. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and we were discussing the lack of questioning amongst the general public. That attitude of just accepting everything that comes from the state. The whole ‘you do as you’re told’ mentality. Again and again you hear people talk about reforms and legislation that they find questionable only to end the whole rant with resignation to the fact of the matter with a “but what can you do?” A lot. You can protest and speak your mind. You can rebel and ask questions. You can demand answers. You can exercise your freedom of speech. That’s what you can do. You can start to actually care. But very few people do. Because those that do are even more questioned than those who just stay silent and do as they are told. Those that protest are almost never hailed as heroes in the moment. It’s the future that will pass judgement. Resistance is never without danger, be it to limb or status. If you speak up you are bound to encounter some form of retribution. In the moment, in the here and now. But the moment is fleeting, passing, and tomorrow the situation will be different. Tomorrow is a different story, a new time. And if you want to pass the evaluation of history and be able to stand tall in the future you’d better speak your mind now. Because if you don’t you’ll live forever with the shame. To know that you could have done something and neglected to do so out of convenience, fear of losing status, that should be more than you could bear. Should be.
The conversation me and my friend were having was about Germany, we both live in Germany, and one would hope that the Germans, of all people, would have learned this lesson by now. That they would have learned that it’s essential, absolutely crucial, to question authority, but looking at German society today, it seems they really haven’t been doing their homework. And that scares me. But it’s not just in Germany that people do as they are told, not it’s a very global phenomenon. We are all just too eager to bargain away our freedom, selling it off for comfort and safety. But do we really want to end up safely tucked away in a prison? Comfortable as long as we do as we’re told. There are more security cameras than ever and yet crime shows no signs of decreasing. In fact, most studies show that the security cameras have had a very small impact on crime, if indeed any at all. But it has had a huge impact on our privacy. In most big cities in the western world you are being filmed pretty much every moment you spend in public spaces. So if the CCTV is not really doing anything to get the crime rate down, which is how its use is being justified, then why is it there? Ideas anyone? George Orwell anyone?
Sure, that last innuendo could be interpreted as paranoia on my part, but seriously, why are we putting up with this? Why are we still buying the bullshit about crime protection? Because we don’t actually care. We just can’t be bothered to reflect on it. We are doing as we are told. Going about our business repeating “if you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to worry about” just like we have been taught to do. Like good uncaring citizens. And, I suppose we really do it out of comfort. Out of a combination of laziness and fear. We don’t really want to think about this. We don’t want to be disturbed by it. We want things to remain calm and stable so we can go on not caring. Yes, passion is all about giving a shit. And it bothers me to see how few people actually do give a shit about anything apart from their consumerist lifestyle. But you can’t be passionate about a flat-screen TV. You just can’t. And if you are, you seriously need help.
I think this is part of why I love street art so much, because street art is all about giving a shit. Not only is it a lot of work but it’s also unpaid and very illegal. It’s essentially only about passion. About doing what you do just because you believe in it. Because you love it. Of course there’s nothing wrong with making money off your art, but that should never be the main reason you do it. If you let greed guide you in your creativity you will inevitably get lost. Art isn’t about finance, it’s about passion. The moment you start trying to please ‘the market’ is the moment you lose your edge. And I think all artist know this. Only by pleasing yourself can you ever hope to please someone else. Anything else is prostitution. And street art is not trying to please anyone. Quite the opposite. Street art in itself is political, its very existence is a political statement. You are not actually allowed to create art in a public space without permission. That’s actually a pretty sick law if you think about it. Especially considering that you can buy access to public space and put up enormous vocations to various financial transactions with the sole purpose of evoking desire for material obsessions in the general public. Street art just wants to make you think.
And I suppose that’s the problem, we shouldn’t be made to think. Because if we do, we run the risk of actually starting to give a shit. We may become passionate. Maybe even about things such as freedom, justice and equality. By no means am I saying that artists or political activists are somehow nobler than other people, all I am saying is that passionate people tend to reflect and reflecting makes you see the gaps in the logic of the things we are being told to do. And then you start to care even more.
A lot of times being passionate is seen as having some connotations of not being completely sane of mind. As if you through your passion somehow lost the grip on reality slightly. And I suppose in a way you do, but not in an insane way. You actually become more sane. You get a focus. Something that goes beyond mere distraction. You actually give a fuck about something.
The etymology of passion implies suffering, the passion of christ being the prime focus. The latin origins have to do with suffering and enduring. The dictionary will tell you that passion is all about strong emotions, in some contexts of a sexual nature. From the suffering of christ to strong emotions. So I suppose to love and actually give a shit isn’t a too bad definition. And I think our society is seriously lacking both.