Thoughts From a Museum

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I just attended an exhibit at the V&A Museum entitled "You Say You Want A Revolution". I spent three hours walking through 1966-1970, listening to music and the voices of those revolutionaries who saw injustice and stood against it, whether it was through protest or art. With that era, we saw the rise of movements which are still alive and pushing for change today- the multicultural movement, feminism, LGBT liberation. In walking through the exhibit it is impossible not to notice the similarity between that time and now, not only for the movements which it created but the dissonance which is growing around the world.

I recently saw on the news that Donald Trump and his compatriots were complaining about a protest at UC Berkeley. However universities, even specifically UC Berkeley, have been an integral and long-standing part of revolutionist ideals- this is not a new concept. Young people are the backbone of revolution in this country- the most passionate,
forward thinking, refusal to take shit from a government who never cared, type of people. To imply that they should cease their protests at the anger of a man who represents everything they stand against is laughable. In the exhibit, there was a whole room devoted to university students fighting The Establishment. Not only those at Berkeley but those at Columbia who locked themselves inside university buildings in protest while teachers threatened to resign if the police tried to invade. Those at
Kent, Ohio who were killed while peacefully protesting on campus. Universities have always been a place where political activism thrives, and I don't expect that to change in the near future, nor should it.  Universities encourage the exchange of ideas, the practice of critical thinking, and it is the first time many people experience the world outside of their comfortable bubble. 
Universities have for decades been an integral part of meeting and organising not just for students but for communities as a whole. I find it frightening the idea that Universities should be at the whim of governmental agencies attempting to discourage students from questioning the world around them. Regardless of these attempts, I don't believe it will work (unless the goal is to make University students angrier and more passionate).

While inside the exhibit I was struck when I remembered people I constantly see criticising musicians, artists, filmmakers, and writers for "being political". They claim they just want their entertainment "without all the political crap". But that's the thing- these forms of communication have always been political. The songs we love, the movies we watch, the books we read. They change us, they make us think- whether we want to or not. The music festivals you attend today like Burning Man or Glastonbury, have significant ties to the political activism of the 60's, something we can't ignore or force away. You cannot enjoy a song by the Beatles and say you don't want your entertainment to be political, it's a hypocrisy which shows the world that you would rather not think, but live in ignorance to the reality around you. For generations, entertainment has been a driving force for awareness and change, and it's not something we should ignore or push down for our own convenience. 

Politics and the arts have always been linked

The saying "history repeats itself" has always seemed so trite to me, but once you have an understanding of history, you start to realise it's not that history is doomed to cycle itself forever, but that people and society are simultaneously never changing and always changing. We repeat ourselves, take 10 steps back before we can take 3 steps forward. While we may have new technology and new fads, the issues and arguments which plague our society has not changed all that much for centuries. 

What we are seeing today has been coming for decades. It's the culmination of thoughts and movements, of the pull between freedom and power. It's not a new concept, it is one which is traced throughout history over and over again in different times, different places, different styles. This won't be the last time the constant tension between people in our world comes to a fight, as it certainly is not the first. A revolution is coming, the proverbial writing is on the wall. And while I fear what that may mean, I take solace in the notion that we are entering an age of creativity and innovation. An era where new ideologies can take flight and change the world. I know many people are fearful that we won't win this fight. I realise that it will be difficult, however, the past few weeks alone we have proven that we do not stand alone, but next to millions who are also ready for change.

Someday it will be our story in the museum exhibition, and I hope we give them something inspiring to write about.

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