Training in service march 2010 - Emancipation is self-expression?
by Juliàn Boal
There is 2 things that I would like to talk about before I start.
The first one is that I would like to publicly greet the initiative of InterAct of having open such a space for the subject that we are going to talk about tonight. I believe that by doing it they show at least two very appreciable human characteristics: the respect and the courage. Respect for others people points of view and the courage to expose their points of view and face the criticism that can perhaps come when you do so. I will try also myself to be respectful and courageous and hope that all of us will be.
The second point I would like to address is why am I here. I mean if there was a roundtable which title was “Can we work for the benefit of the racists or the sexists? A controversial question” I would not be here. I am here because it’s unfortunately not as clear for most of us that capitalism is a crime as racism or sexism.
You can object me that racism and sexism, by domestic violence or hate crimes, do kill people, so does capitalism.
I would like to quote Brecht on this one: there is many manners to kill someone. We can stab him with a knife, we can take away his bread, do not take care of him if he is sick, to force him to live in a slum, to drive him to suicide, to put him in a war, etc. there is few of those things that are forbidden by our State.
It was true during Brecht time, it is true still today. United Nations just gave a report saying that 1 billion people in the world are starving, one out of six. The UN says that most of them are in the most poor countries, I disagree. They are in the countries in which the population is the most exploited. Working conditions driving people into suicide is still very actual. In France, in one company alone called France Telecom there was 25 suicides in less than 2 years. 25 at the working place itself. We don’t have the numbers in general. The French factory workers have a life expectative rate that is 10 years shorter than the executives. And I am talking about France, the first world public health system in the world.
Those that work with TO for the benefits of the corporation could easily say that they do so precisely to avoid those problems, to make a better communication exists inside the fabrics, to make the working conditions easier. I cannot say anything else that this is an illusion.
Let’s imagine for a moment that it is possible to create a “clean capitalism”. Even knowing that capitalism was born out of slavery, that his crisis made most of our grand parents starves, that he was the motor of colonialism, the reason for the rise of fascism in Europe, let’s take the supposition that those things belongs to the past and will never be repeated. Let’s imagine capitalism is not destroying the planet, or have any relationship with the wars and undemocratic regimes that we have now in our planet. As you can see, we need a very strong imagination to imagine a “clean capitalism” but let’s suppose we have this strong imagination. Even thou capitalism would have his foundations in an unequal relationship between human beings. The capitalist production demands two basics characters to be exist: the capitalist and the worker. The private owner of the means of production and the one that only owns himself and therefore have nothing else to sell than his working strength. That’s the basic relationship that instaures capitalism. Yes, in a capitalist society in this relationship one needs the other but the capitalist needs the worker to increase his capital while the worker needs the capitalist to be able to pay for his food, his rent, raise his children, in order words to survive. There is no equality possible between the two, therefore there is no dialogue that is possible, no freedom. Between the two the only thing that is possible is an antagonism. The production creates wealth, the wealth will go to the capitalists or to the exploited. That’s the bottom line.
I am well aware that this antagonism can take many different shapes. A boss can use the power that he have in a very enlightened manner, it stills do not mean that we have an equality in power. In front of a situation of slavery, it would be unwise to ask if the slavemaster is a good one, if he uses his whip or not. We have to ask ourselves why is their an inequality of power between the slave and his master. Why the boss should have more power than his worker?
A worker can love his boss as a part of an inferiority complex that does not mean that he have the same interests than him. Workers can struggle in order to have more of the wealth that his produced but not daring the capitalism production itself. They also can work to try to achieve to have a different system of production, one in which there would be no private means of production and people would receive according to what they need and not to what they can afford to buy.
By opposing myself to capitalism, I am not trying to make a contradiction between the private sector that would be the source of all evil and the public one that would be a kind of heaven on earth. Last crisis showed us as clear as possible that the State right now is not a counterpower to capitalism but his helper. States banks gave billions and billions of euros to save “our” banking system, “our” car industries but they always says that our health or our education is far too expansive. A big part of our education is to educate ourselves to become little workers. Armies are used to defend the interests of the Capital. I guess that I am not teaching anything that the armies coalition that is right now occupying Afghanistan and Irak are not doing so for reestablishing democracy.
What I want to oppose is not the State against the Capital since they work together. I don’t want to oppose places where we could or could not work, the schools against the working places for instance. What I would like to oppose is logics, dynamics. I would like to oppose disciplinarisation and emancipation. By disciplinarisation I understand the logic that rules interactive theatre or others techniques that are at the end aimed to make their public incorporate rules and attitudes that were decided as being beneficial by a dominant group. The problem is presented as something that can be solved within the four walls of the room, there is no longer oppressors and oppressed, just partners which have misunderstandings, which solution would be beneficial for both. This approach will necessarily have to present the problem as something subjective, that needs some good will and a little efforts to change. It will prioritize the change in the way of seeing things instead of changing the things themselves.
The logic of emancipation is completely opposite. No fixed solutions are there before hand and there should be no limit to the possibility given to imagine solutions, the oppressed will have the right to convene all the society to a sort of tribunal in which they will analyse their position as oppressed not as unlinked to the rest of the world but precisely as a result of the way the world is. Changing the condition of the oppressed will therefore be articulated to the change of the world itself. This logic should make all the divisions blur little by little by a practise that will make progressively disappear the need for facilitators and facilitated, actors and audience, searchers and subjects. The logic of the social division of work will no longer prevail and we will be in the path towards an effective equality.
I would like to end with a quotation from my father that I translated myself:
“ The elites says that it’s not possible or desirable to have a popular theatre. We say that not only theatre should be popular but also everything else: specially the power and the State, the food, the fabrics, the beaches, the universities, the life.”
That’s what should be our aim. Expression alone is not a synonymous for emancipation. We want to do Theatre of the Oppressed because we want the whole world to become of the Oppressed.