Monday, 9 April 2012

Being Nowhere and Somewhere

So Assad continues to murder his own people, the man under Donald Trump’s toupee asserts that Obama is hiding the fact that he was not born in America and a man swims out into the Thames to disrupt the Oxford versus Cambridge boat race. This seems the default position of the planet, mad and mad and mad. But all of these acts have an agenda , hidden or otherwise, showing that madness is a term only used by those who do not grasp the benefits such acts can accrue. Assad gains ground before a potentially damaging ceasefire, Trump gets publicity for his TV show and plays to the Republican paranoia, and the swimmer gets a lot of air time for himself and a cause.

I often think the world is going to hell in a hand-cart and that we, as a species, are doomed to expunge ourselves in some gradual or spectacular way and leave the planet to keep turning and mend itself in any way it can. Yet such a feeling is of course defeatist and ignores all the good things our species can do and there are some good things you just have to look hard enough. Individuals can be kind, thoughtful, willing to help, some even sacrifice their own well being for the well-being of others. We may produce Mozart, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, the small pox vaccine etc but the small things may be the most important. I saw a man yesterday run after someone who had dropped a ten pound note, a young girl pushing what looked like an elderly relative in her wheelchair and laughing with her about something, the man in the corner shop letting a young man use his mobile because his had run out of money and he needed to phone someone to say he would be late.

Ok tiny things, small unimportant events, in great danger of becoming that twee ‘pay it forward’ scenario but on the whole I keep the faith that most people would rather do good than harm on a personal level and that all that needs to happen is that this feeling get translated to the bigger picture. Why am I pontificating about all this, because I have joined the Nowhereisland Community and I am thinking about how a new nation should be formed, what values it should hold as worthwhile. This is especially important when children get to think about those things in a way that grabs their attention and this project seems to be doing just that.

At present the American writer and poet Ben Morris is this week’s resident thinker and proposes that the constitution of Nowhwereisland should include a demand that islanders should have multiple careers, a state he describes as being Occupational Polyglots.

I qualify as being an occupational polyglot, even more so, if we factor in being a mother and a carer of elderly relatives. If the view from where you stand involves several points in the landscape it does make for a more rounded perception of where we are. I think one point I would make however is that perhaps occupation does not have to involve monetary exchange. I know many poets who would say they are poets but make no money from it and in fact the flow of money may well go the other way. I make my living by doing something can sometimes be equated with I live by making something such as poems, books, images, a community organisation of some kind.

Is someone in receipt of disability benefits for instance precluded from seeing themselves as having an occupation as a poet, writer, artist, web designer, carer? Their occupation is not being disabled but that defines how they are paid and often relegates anything else they do to a ‘hobby’ as the potential for some occupation being paid for will effect their benefit.

How we occupy ourselves surely is an occupation but I understand in pure economic terms it cannot be classed as such but with a new nation perhaps volunteering, producing beautiful art which makes you no income, should still be an occupation. When that space on the form says occupation, I am always tempted to write simply ‘YES' as I am more than occupied. I have a paid occupation but much else of what I do is just as important and feels like a career and not a hobby. Are only those whose income is solely from writing, art, etc, able to say this is their occupation? Most poets I know actually make their living from teaching creative writing, editing etc and not from the poetry itself but they would still say they are poets on a visa request form. I never actually write poet or writer as my occupation, am I doing myself down by just writing what constitutes the source of my income. I could of course put textual and conceptual imagineer and see what happens.

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