Online Exclusive: Culture Jamming

An Online Exclusive from White Crane

Culture Jamming
Bringing creative energy to Youth-adult partnerships

Every time we gather, we create culture.

It doesn’t matter how many of us there are… if we’re alone, with a friend/lover, or a community meeting, when eyes meet—we’re creating culture.

I became aware of this when I volunteered to help with a week-long Power of Hope workshop for teens and caring adults in 2000. When teens and adults consciously create culture together, a magical synergy of hope and experience, innocence and potency emerges.

I’m convinced that without creative partnerships between elders and youth, we humans will self-destruct. It’s part of evolution’s call that we co-create our future.

Yet, as Power of Hope’s co-founder, Charlie Murphy (yes, the gay singer/songwriter who wrote “Burning Times” and “Gay Spirit”) says, there’s a silent apartheid between youth and adults in today’s culture which makes true partnerships challenging.

“Adults project their despair about the future onto the young,” he says. “They smother them with material things and overactivity, which means they don’t get a chance to develop their interior side.”

I’ve been doing work with youth for many years—in journalism, in community service, and most recently in a series of youth-adult dialogues on Vashon Island, near Seattle, where I live.

The essence of the youth-adult dialogues, which we (a group of youth and adults from my community) learned from going to Whidbey Island and experiencing a Power of Hope dialogue, is creating a field of common creative play as a predecessor to conversation.

“Youth thrive in the company of adults who are passionate about life, alive to their own creativity,” Charlie says.  Gay men, in many cases, are ready to create these partnerships.

It’s not easy with all the built in stereotypes and prejudices we and they carry about the “other.”  This includes sexual stereotypes on all sides of the equation.
Why not apply some of the principles that underlie Radical Faerie culture to relationships between youth and elders?

For example, subject-subject consciousness. What does it look like when neither the youth nor the elder is an object—both are subjects…of their own lives, of the community, of their relationships?  Or as Tony Kushner might say, what if we look at each other (across the generations) as prophets?

“Adults need to pursue their own calling so youth can do the same, appropriate to their stages in life,” Charlie suggests. “Education could change from a dead one-way street—fitting kids into roles—to a vibrant conversation, where everybody is finding their calling.  We need to create a zone where we’re all on our creative edge.”

Using creative writing, theater improv, visual and verbal art, youth and adults can create together, raising their voices and putting out visions of a future that’s fun, heart-centered, whole.

Why not acknowledge the inner life? Of ourselves, of each other. A little silence welcomes those inner voices. The way of the heart circle—speaking and listening from a deeper place—can enrich even one-on-one encounters.

Charlie has found that “young people are deeper, more caring than we generally give them credit for. So much so, they don’t realize it themselves.” This is also true of the young parts of ourselves, which are awakened and enlivened by creative contact with youth.

Another faerie principle that might help with intergenerational communication is “askance” —looking at things sideways, from different angles, with a dose of humor.

I was amazed when I helped a group of kids at a Power of Hope summer camp create a “Zine” which they called “Rising.” Instead of asking people to write articles, they created graffiti boards around the camp, in bathrooms and other places, where people felt free to express themselves. The Zine was filled with wisdom and silliness from those graffiti boards—a new news source in the future?

As we reinvent various aspects of our culture that need fixing—health care, communication, transportation, governance, relationship to spirit—collaborations between those who’ve “seen it all” and those who “see a better way” will make it possible.

For more information on Power of Hope, visit their website.
Stephen Silha is a freelance writer, facilitator and communications consultant in Washington State. He can be contacted via his website.

2 thoughts on “Online Exclusive: Culture Jamming”

  1. When wealthy people in elitst settings like Vashon Island claim that their work is important, it smells terribly of pretense.

    How nice that they can afford to have children romp around and create.

    How they must feel themselves a vital cog in the spiritual journey that is humanity.

    Meanwhile, how many children of migrant workers could afford a day on Vashon Island?

    How many gay men who work in sweat shops or suffer the bombs of oil wars could afford such luxury?

    How many could take off for a few days and hang out at a faerie sanctuary discussing subject-subject consiousness? (Someone really needs to retire this phrase. It’s become the catch phrase of the wealthy elite who use it with the same dogmatic precision as a fundamentalist Christian. That is to say, it’s pompous, pious and meaningless, but always good to sell some religious scam to some sucker.)

    The faeries have turned into, (have always been?) a group of preening gay men. The faeries remain mostly white, mostly middle class or above and mostly full of themselves, thinking their meanderings about life are precious to the world.

    Most of the world lives in abject poverty. Wars for diminished resources rage daily. The population increases at three additional people per second.

    Meanwhile the faeries hang out in beautiful settings wearing drag and getting high, all the while discussing the smallest details of their endlessly fascinating selves.

    You want to teach these kids something about life? Take some of that extra cash you have and fly them to Beirut. Let them talk to the people there about creativity.

    Take Charlie Murphey and a plane full of faeries with you. See how long before you’re seen for what you really are – a bunch of pampered consumers with over-inflated views of your value to the world.

    The image I got from this article was like the movie, “Metropolis.” While the wealthy children play games and revel in their narcissism, the impoverished, war torn people of the world suffer.

    Yet play the children do, ignorant of their role in the misery.

    However this takes it further. There’s this guru mentality that your games and your narcissism actually improves the world. Not only is that demented, it’s dangerous and ugly.

    You walk through the world using people as servants to maintain your wealth, then you attempt to cover that over with “spiritual” PR.

    Humanity is on the brink of extinction because of such ignorance and blissful corruption.

    White Crane should spare us further tales of these self-appointed gurus and actually discuss hheterosexist paradigms which lead to population increase, wars for resources, civil rights among the world’s poor and respect for the environment.

    Elitist, wealthy people living in protected communities have had their say. We have heard their tales. They may think themselves great leaders in a particularly privileged position to make decisions.

    But the mess were in politically directly relates to their elitism.

    Time for some new tales, beyond Vashon Island and all the other white, rich communities of the USA.

  2. what a great comeback mr. q!
    as for me i’m hoping there are still places in this world where some of us can dream (create) together,
    these dreams may or may not initally make the big difference to the injustices that you are trying to point at, but it’s definitely this kind of dreaming that does sparks hope and seeds such change,
    i am one of the priveledged few that you speak of (have lived off a mental disability check of about $600 a month from the government for a number of years now) and yes have been dreaming and playing for a long time now,
    yet i do believe that somehow, with all the volunteer time that i have, that i am slowly making some changes in my neighborhood, in this city and the world around me…

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