Being tolerant is a duty – an ethical duty, a historical duty, a political duty but it does not demand that i lose my personality –  Paulo Freire

A theatre project where the real time virtual space is the theatre.

Addressing racial profiling and discrimination or even collective prosopagnosia in the wake of COVID- 19.

Keeping the virtual space free for dialogue, facilitating democracy and global citizenship.

”         For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. But, as the passage now presents no hindrance To the spirit unappeased and i peregine Between two worlds become much like each other, So i find words i never though to speak In streets I never thought i should revisit When i left my body on a distant shore. Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us To purify the dialect of the tribe And urge the mind to after sight and foresight ” – T . S. Eliot

Background

In India, emerging as we were from serious communal polarization and large scale discontentment caused by the Citizen Amendment Bill and National Register of Citizens , which led to protests such as Shaheen Bagh and the post Delhi elections riots, we were caught unawares by this phenomena of COVID – 19.

Much of the template used by the dominant party and its supporters , which has sought to prevent the dissenting voices from expressing themselves in the open public forums through abuse and even threats of physical violence resulting from labeling them as anti national, communists, sickular, pressitute, etc, spilled over into their response to COVID – 19 scenario. Without proper assessment of the emerging scenario, the dominant forces ( the one in power or supporters of those in power) seek to keep all dissenting voices silent by not allowing for their expression in public forum, fearing that this crisis will dilute their stranglehold on the virtual space.

The resultant lockdown has of course been made into an excuse to instill the fear of persecution of dissenting voices with threats of legal action, arrests and imprisonment.

The causes maybe more than political – it could be the exploitation of  collective prosopagnosia.

example of facial recognition shows that there may be a clear connection of a function to a particular inherited structure of the cortex, but how this neuronal area reacts may change as it is used, so that it becomes accustomed to responding to particular qualities, features, and forms repeatedly encountered in its environment. We may be hard wired to react in specific ways (to recognize faces, for example, and to look for similarities between them), but this wiring may in turn be genetically disposed to getting structured in a manner that reflects our personal and social history of cognitive experience. Here and elsewhere, our inherited cortical architecture seems to be universally open to individual and cultural variation – Paul B Armstrong

Hence there is a need to address this personal and social history of discrimination against Chinese based on the various folklores and myths which have been circulating in the world for quite a few decades which can be attributed to lack of understanding of the other (Chinese) as they have been in most parts of history been behind the ‘veil’ and most of the people in the world have been subjected to the interpretation or mis -representation of Chinese identity through Western propaganda and biases.

Intervention

The following post on facebook . You can click on the image to follow the live feed from FB. Performance : Say No to Racism

There is rapidly growing hatred growing against Chinese nationals and its getting directed at all people with features of Chinese origins. Politicians like Trump and the likes have started attributing to the COVID- 19 virus a political agency ( China virus) to deflect criticism from their own inept handling. Caught in the cross fire once again is humanity and the liberal ideals of Democracy.

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spiral-of-silence-communication-theoryOnce again we try to stop the downward spiral of silence and to free up the space. Through handling of the various threats, using a non violent communicative commitment and process, it was possible to keep the conversation going and to gain the support of the maximum people who engaged with the post who in turn turned into the actors to helped to fight the illogical stance engaged participants who spewed hatred against China and held all Chinese people responsible for the evolution and spread of COVID- 19. What could be observed in this act is that the defending party to the proposition applied logic, authenticity  and peaceful means while the parties opposed used misinformation, references to fake news, racial bias to counter he proposition, in a tone which was abusive and threatening.

It is not to say that the opposing parties concerns about the role of the Chinese government is not without merit- it was discussed. However our submission was and is that whatever may be the point of view, people must be allowed to speak without fear of retribution and abuse.

The voting results so far .

Screenshot from 2020-04-12 08-15-04

The Future

The future of this theatre project is to disrupt the normative thinking – biases and prejudices cause by 1. the existing image of identities and places caused by personal and social history which has been formed due to conscious propaganda and 2. the lack of  understanding the other identity thereby attributing their existence to a large group termed as such an such and seen as an alien or enemy causing or able to cause harm. In all this the position of the individual other s ignored and hence racial discrimination continues to exist and assumes dangerous proportions in times of crisis.

Arts and Creativity can play a critical role in overcoming this problem as it works in a holistic manner which address information access as well as emotional responses to such issues.

The challenge would be replicate and reach out to larger number of people to make the learning of this project stronger and to have significant impact on the global society at large and impede the march of the illiberal thoughts and ideologies which are threatening to damage democracy.

Some snapshots of the act are displayed below.

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WhatsApp Image 2.020-03-30 at 11.50.40 PM

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We hope you’ll participate in the next episode of Theatre + the way you make me feel. The details will be posted on this website and also on the Culture Monks facebook page.

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