So here’s a thought that I just thought of whilst sitting on the train. By now, some of you will be familiar with my constant companions, Jasper Mountbatten III (my ego), Derek Bluebottom (my depression) and Colin Shitsmearer (my envy). It turns out that my brain is not ethnically diverse or gender neutral. I took a moment this morning to put these three in a police line up and when looking at them I found some similarities…
Whilst they may represent very different aspects of my personality, one thing was abundantly clear. Jasper, Derek and Colin are all straight, white, male and painfully middle-class (although Jasper clearly has unrealistic aspirations towards the aristocracy).
There is a very obvious reason for this…
That being (for those of you who don’t know me personally) I am also straight, white, male and painfully middle-class. But what I find interesting is that even when taking into account the endless power of my imagination, I somehow restricted myself when thinking of all my alter egos.
Is society’s power over us so immense and unyielding that even our imagination is held under its thrall? Isn’t it supposed to be a place of boundless invention? And if it’s not, why not? And how do we free it from the shackles of cultural norms?
Is this why I feel uncomfortable at the thought of telling a story with a black person or a gay person or a poor person or a woman at the heart of it? Because, even when given the opportunity, EVEN inside my own mind, I am subconsciously marginalising them?
Given that almost all aspects of the society we live in are constructs of a collective imagination, I suppose it’s not surprising. The economy is based on a worldwide agreement that tiny numbers in bank accounts are actually worth something and Southern Rail would continue to exist (unfortunately) as an imaginative entity even if all of their trains exploded. If we live within the boundaries of our collective imagination, then surely our individual imaginations are going to be limited by those same agreements? I wonder if the collective imagination of the world has infected our reality to the point where you can’t see where one begins and the other ends.
I hope I won’t be misunderstood… the pain and horror that racism, sexism and misogyny have caused for countless people are real. Which is why it makes it doubly awful that the base reasons for BEING racist, for BEING sexist and misogynistic are entirely imagined.
And they have gone beyond imagination. Imagination should be flexible, creative and free. But these view points are anything but. It’s like someone has built an incredibly space ship, the most powerful in the world and then chained it to the earth.
I know that minds are notoriously hard things to change. But sometimes our minds aren’t even aware that there is another option, we’ve been programmed to think a certain way.
I suppose the first step is being aware…