May 1st or May Day was originally a pre-Christian northern Hampshire pagan celebration of the first day of summer, tradition include dancing around the Maypole and celebrating the “queen of May”. Since the late 19th century May Day had become the day of the Laborer and celebrated worldwide as the International workers’ day, a celebration of Marxism, Communism, Socialism and Anarchism. I thought it’s a good occasion to write down some thoughts I had recently about Karl Marx, Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal, and creativity versus productivity. I am a keen supporter of the idea of an egalitarian society as suggested and predicted by Marx and I have great appreciation for the efforts and successes of the socialist movements since Marx. But as Marx was a promoter of critical thinking I will take the liberty to have a critical look into Marxist thinking and practice and the model it has of the road towards a more equal society. I see no point to criticize without showing another possible way and for me this other way arises from the humanistic and thought provoking legacy of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal.
The problem for me arises from the idealization of the concept of work and manual laborer over let’s the painter or the writer, the “unproductive” creator. In my perspective, preferring the productive over the creative diminishes the importance of creativity and artistic creation in the human experience. It is this materialist concept of that bothers me most in the way Marxism is interpreted many times (in it’s symbolism and discourse) ; I see this perception to be risky as it suggests the supremacy of the world of physical power over the world of mental, spiritual and\or emotional powers. I don’t think any idealization of one world over the other is useful; Romanticism thought for example that puts the world of thoughts and emotions over the physical world of the body is equally destructive. For me there has to be a balance in the triangle of body-mind-soul. For this interconnection of those elements that draws me to the philosophy and practice of Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed; where human beings are the experts of their own life they act through the senses and the body in the chose their own believes.
I think many of the failures of socialism and other practical Marxist schools came from not recognizing the importance of creative thought and the celebration of “unproductive” creativity. Our hunter-gatherers ancestress had “unproductive” members of their tribe, like the story teller, the magicians\healers and the wall painters. Recognizing the “unproductive” creativity is crucial to the recognition of the physical work as creative work, the different crafts and the farming activities are originally and firstly acts of creation. I believe that it is the creative spirit the drives and inspires humanity to ever develop and reflect upon itself.
The first half of the 20th century was productivity driven; productivity was used to justify the system of capital. In the 60s, it was the revolution of creativity, of the unproductive thought that challenged this system. This have shaken the system for a short time but in a cruel maneuver this revolution gave birth to Neo-Capitalism, that recognized the importance creativity and managed to use it in order to create the economical nightmare that we are living in today. Creativity of creating profits and the individualistic creativity of consumerism had become ways to preserve and embed the capital system. This has created an absurd reality in which the snake of consume and produce is biting its own tail. This absurdity is connected to the obsession still embedded in the society of productivity as a value.
Even though only 10-20% of the people need to work to produce what we really need the system is panicking when more then 10-20% are unemployed. Most of the jobs today, especially in the “developed” countries, are not really productive anyway, there are only there to maintain the system of capital, which as we said is baiting its own tail and therefore doomed to self-destroy.
So what do I think can come after?
It is very symbolic that May 2nd the after May Day is of the passing of both Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal; Great thinkers and activists that in their teaching i see a way forward beyond the idealization productivity. They present a model of an egalitarian society not of labor workers but of thinkers and creators, artists, musicians, the society of the unproductive, of the free and open minded. I see this most clearly in the practice of Theatre of the Oppressed that connects the reflection and action of the mental to the physical and also to the spiritual.
This is of course my thoughts, my reflection, I hold no eternal truth just my own temporary perception of reality; and I am always happy to reflect upon it with others and maybe even change it completely…
Uri Noy Meir