This by my awesome colleague Bridget Liang. Very important read!
So I know I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been super busy with the holidays, school and the podcast, not to mention a housing hunt! But I wanted to post this for Valentine’s Day because it’s about love, though not of the kind conventionally understood as romantic.
For the past couple of years now, there’s been a vigorous debate within the world of climate activism over the best way to motivate people to take action. In particular, there has been a vigorous debate over whether positivity or fear is more effective. Do you emphasize the positive – the fact that we already, now, have everything we need to transition off of fossil-fuels, and thereby build up people’s hope and enthusiasm? Or, do you emphasize the danger – the increasingly dyer scientific warnings, the horrific visions of the future if we don’t change, and try to scare people into “waking up” and taking action? I would argue that both sides of this debate are, with all respect, wrong. Neither positivity nor fear is what’s needed. Positivity alone is too weak a motivator for the kind of massive, whole-scale transformation called for by the climate crisis. The crisis literally requires that we change everything – our economy, our agriculture, our transportation and travel habits, everything. And change that sweeping can be as scary as exciting. It will therefore require something stronger than just positivity about the fact that it can be done to help people push through the fear, leave behind the devil they know, and become active in the transformation.
Using fear, meanwhile, can backfire in two distinct ways. First of all, as has been frequently pointed out, it can have the effect of shutting people down, so that they become even more inactive and disengaged. But also, though far less discussed but of equally great concern (or it should be) to activists, is that while fear can powerfully motivate people to fight for their survival, it can motivate people to do so in very nasty ways. Because, when people are afraid for their survival, unless they already have a very strong, very well developed and embodied ethic/politics/spirituality/practice of radical compassion in place, they tend to fight ruthlessly, doing whatever they feel they must in order to assure that survival. It tends to create a “lifeboat” mentality, in which those other than “their own” are felt to be in competition for survival resources and thus a threat. And so people fight xenophobically and cruelly. This is a big part of the reason why times of crisis provide such fertile ground for fascists and other right-wing demagogs. And I don’t think we want a “life-boat” mentality to inform climate politics!
Rather, as Naomi Klein beautifully shows in her three most recent books – This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate (2014), No Is Not Enough (2017) and The Battle For Paradise (2018), by far the most courageous, determined, but also generous and open-hearted struggles for transformation come neither from positivity nor from fear, but from love. Often, they come from love of place, love of animals, love of children/grandchildren and their future, or love of cherished ways of life (farming, fishing, subsistence hunting, Indigenous traditions). These struggles tend to invite allies in to help defend what is beloved rather than seeing strangers as threats, and to forge common links with others engaged in similar struggles. This has even allowed groups once antagonistic to each other (settlers and Indigenous people, ranchers and Vegan activists, BIPOC and white allies, youth and elders, etc,) to come together to resist extraction projects and demand climate justice (see Klein for some amazing examples). And this has even lead to the beginning of powerful processes of healing from historical trauma (see again Klein,)!
To some extent, the role of love in motivating struggle has been understood by activists as campaigns to get people to “fall in love with nature” show. What has not been grasped yet, it seems to me, is the necessity to activate people based on what they already love rather than trying to get people to love what you think will activate them. We need to not only meet people where their knowledge is, but where their hearts are. We need to not only help people see how what they love is endangered by climate change, but how what they love can be transformed through politicization, and thus be carried forward into a new, just, sustainable world. Because, if people believe that the transformation will destroy what they love every bit as much as climate change will, they won’t fight. They’ll go into despair instead. And they will cling desperately to the old civilization even as they know it’s destroying the planet, preferring to “go down with the ship” then to loose what they love dearly – basically, nihilism. And/or, they will join the struggle, but half-heartedly, held back by ambivalence.
I struggled with this myself for a long time. Because, although I deeply believe that Phantom is a story about social justice, I feared greatly that the aesthetic, especially of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage-show, could not be continued without the big-city, capitalist infrastructure that originally produced it. But that aesthetic is part of what I love about Phantom. And oddly enough, I feel a deep connection between the aesthetic and the social justice (more on that in future posts). I felt very much on my own, however, in finding my way out of this impasse, because I did not feel that I could talk about it with fellow activists. Most of the activist I know express their politics through aesthetics of simplicity, and so I feared that they would not be any too sympathetic to my love of the high-romantic aesthetics of Phantom (an attitude with which I do have prior experience, so that fear does not come out of nowhere). Thus, although my Phanship and my anti-poverty and Disability activism have been a strong fit with one another right from the start, for a long time I feared that my Phanship and my climate activism were incompatible. Because, I feared that the necessary social and economic changes to transform us to a degrowth society would destroy Phantom just as much as climate change itself would. I wanted to believe that there was a way to carry it forward – that that destruction wasn’t inevitable, but I couldn’t see how yet. And the message I felt coming from climate activism was, not meeting me where my heart lies and helping me figure it out, but “put away childish things, leave behind such a relic of white, heteropatriarcal, bourgeois consumer-capitalism, and fall in love with nature instead and thereby embrace simplicity”. Not that anyone has ever said this to me directly, but it seems to be very strongly implied in the messaging of much climate (and other) activism. But I have never found that terribly helpful, and I suspect I’m not alone there! Because, you can’t just stop loving what you love because some one says you should, even some one you admire and respect. You love what you love for reasons, even if those reasons don’t always make sense to others!
Now, I have recently begun to see a way out of this dilemma, and not by renouncing my Phanship either! I have begun to see a way that Phantom, in all, or at least most, of its high romantic splendour, can be transformed so that it can be carried forward into a post-carbon, degrowth world. Though, no, I won’t give away what that is just yet! And certainly the time and energy spent wrestling with this issue didn’t stop my climate activism. I worked for a habitable planet and a society based on climate justice, and hoped that Phantom might be preserved even as I feared that it wouldn’t. But it did hinder my climate activism. It made me ambivalent, and therefore less effective then I might otherwise have been. And I suspect that there are lots of others out there in a similar position – knowing that climate change is a crisis, wanting to do something about it, wanting to make the world a better place, but fearing that the things they love will be lost in the transformation.
I think, then, that we need to do four things if we truly want to get people mobilized and active:
1. We must learn to tell the difference between love and consumption simply to fill the void of an alienated life. For example, a lot of people would likely read my Phanship practices as mindless, addicted consumption. And they certainly do involve a fair bit of buying stuff I’ll unapologetically admit! But there’s so much more to it than that, as anyone who reads this blog or listens to my podcast can hopefully tell! I would argue, then, that the difference (or at least one of the key differences) is that, like for so many Phans/fans, my/our love for Phantom/whatever our passion is inspires me/us not only to consume, but to create as well – blogs like this one, Phan/fan art, Phan/fanfiction, Phan/fan crafts and jewelry, etc,. (I haven’t yet done Phan art or crafts, but I know lots of people who have! And the same most definitely goes for folks in other fandoms, too.)
2. Help people understand how what they love is endangered by the climate crisis itself, and by the underlying societal problems that created and drive it.
3. Without dissing, shaming, talking down or condescending, help people politicize what they love by making the critical tools available in a friendly, safe and supportive way. For example, although I had an instinct that Phantom was inherently political from the beginning, I couldn’t articulate why or how until I almost literally stumbled across intersectional Critical Disability theory. But once I did, that opened Phantom up to all kinds of explorations of its political possibilities that I wish I’d had access to years earlier! Also, though, support those who already do have a politicized understanding of what they love, even if it’s not yet well articulated. “Jedi Knights for Justice” (no, sadly that’s not actually a thing that exists that I know of) should be welcome at any climate rally or march, as should be “Phans for Social Justice”! (No, that latter doesn’t actually exist either, but it’s something I’d love to start!) Yet all too often, pop-culture fans see activists as super-serious people who’ll give them dirty looks if they come in their fan/Phan regalia, and activists see pop-culture fans/Phans as frivolous, narcissistic and juvenile – a highly unproductive impasse! So we really need to move beyond those stereotypes and start coming together to discover how all the things we love can power us into a just, equitable and sustainable future.
4. Get really super creative, and help facilitate people’s being able to imagine the things they love transformed so that they no longer depend on the fossil-fuel economy to exist. This will require a lot of creativity and “outside the box” thinking, because many things seem so deeply imbedded in the current system that it is hard to imagine them any other way (film, television, fashion, big rock ’n roll, etc,). But if I can figure out how to imagine a post-carbon ALW Phantom, then surely it can be done for other things people love as well!
These four inter-related recommendations are by no means the final answer to how to mobilize the world for the struggle for climate justice, though I hope they are at least a start. But certainly the task they’re components of is a significant part of that answer! Because, as we all surely know, there is no more powerful motivator than love! It can change lives, and it can change the world. People don’t sell out what/who they love for a better deal no matter how “irresistible” that deal is made to sound – as various fossil-fuel companies have found out when trying to get Indigenous communities to agree to let pipelines and other extractive projects into their lands (see Klein). And this position baffles and stymies the power-structure who only understand greed and competition (see Klein). Moreover, people will risk and sacrifice everything for what/who they love, up to and including safety and even life (see again Klein’s work for amazing and inspiring examples). As Naomi Klein says in This Changes Everything, “love will save this place”. Indeed, I would argue it is the only thing that can, but only if people believe that their love can carry them forward into a world transformed for the better. If they believe their love is doomed, though, then they will feel doomed as well and act accordingly. And that would be a vast and unnecessary tragedy when, if we can but activate the great love people already have for their particular piece of the world, we really do have the power to change everything! But as has been said at every climate march since the massive one in New York City in 2014, “to change everything, we need everyone”. So we’d better make sure we don’t exclude anyone!
Naomi Klein (2014). This Changes Everything. Simon and Schuster.
Naomi Klein (2017). No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Penguin Random House (which division varies by country).
(Note, outside of the U.S. it’s published as No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.)
Naomi Klein (2018). The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists. Haymarket Books.
Note, all of these are available in unabridged audiobook as well.
I came across this a while ago, and it was what really, finally made me think/allowed me to think that I might, actually, be somewhere on the Autism spectrum. I’d never thought so before, because all the Autism stereotypes – being hyper-logical, being extremely literal, being unable to grasp the concept of self and other, etc, – didn’t seem to fit. But this piece really fits a lot of my experience! Like, 90 percent or more of it’s right on! As in, I can’t think of the number of times I’ve been in many of the situations described here. So yeah, really helpful!
Source: Meltdown Bingo: Autistic Edition
So I know that, once again, I’ve been away from posting for a really long time! Really sorry about that! It’s been a really busy couple of months with school and, of course, extra-curricular political activities. But I’ve been meaning to get back here for ages! It’s just taken me a while to have the time and the spoons.
Anyway, before going on to all the current stuff, I wanted to finish my “coverage” of the World Social Forum from back in August. Because, I definitely didn’t cover everything before! Warning, though, that might make this post a bit long. Sorry about that, but there’s a lot to pack in!
So we did actually make the workshop on Friday morning that we wanted to, which was the one from earlier in the week that got rescheduled on “The Fight for the Global City”. And boy was it awesome! There were three panelists – two from Latin America, and one from India. And they talked about various struggles for social justice in their cities, but also about various initiatives to make their cities more just and sustainable. Unfortunately, it’s been such a long time since the workshop that I can’t remember the details. But I’ll look them up as soon as I can, and post links if possible!
The most interesting idea to come from that workshop, though, and the one that’s really stayed with me as something to think about, is the idea of struggling against and resisting what they called “urban extractivism”. They suggested that, under the current neoliberal capitalist economic system, cities are looked at, not as places where people live and have community, but as resource-deposits from which profit can be extracted. So, for example they talked about real-estate markets as a form of extractivism in which land and housing are viewed as resources to be “mined” (not the exact wording, but a similar analogy). Similarly, they talked about how, in this paradigm, urban populations are looked at as a resource to be extracted – as labour, as advertising recipients, as statistical data, as heads to be paid by the number of (as in hospitals and prisons where funding as allocated according to number of patients/inmates, so more bodies = more money). It was a really interesting way to think about those processes! We tend to think of extractivism as something that happens “out there” – in mines and oil and gas extraction sites, but not as something that happens in cities. If anything, we tend to think of cities as the beneficiaries of extractivism. So I thought it was really interesting how these speakers showed how it’s not that simple! And, of course, they noted that this urban extractivism is applied differently to different urban populations, falling hardest on the urban poor.
Then, in the evening (LOL if there was an afternoon workshop I don’t remember what it was), we went to the last of what they called the “Grand Conferences”, which were basically panels of speakers on various issues that had been focussed on throughout the forum. We’d already heard one on neoliberalism and health, which was interesting if depressing, and one on LGBTQ+ struggles around the world which was really cool!
The Friday night’s, though, was on ableism. And it was fantastic! The first chap who spoke did an absolutely brilliant run-down of what ableism is, and of the difference between ableism as individual prejudice and what might be called structural ableism. I really hope his talk was YouTubed, as it’d make a great “ableism 101”! I’ll try to find it and post a link. In fact, I’ll try to do that with as many of the talks as I can, as they were all fantastic!
Then, my friend Laurence, who’s a colleague from way back when I was doing my MA, gave a really great talk on Disabled struggles in the Francophone world. She spoke about the struggle to find a way to define the issue in French without simply borrowing either the English terminology or that coming out of the academy in France, as it may not translate well since different words, with slightly different connotations, are used in different French-speaking regions. For example, she talked about how slightly different terminology is used in France vs in Quebec. And the point is, as has been done so effectively in English with the word “ableism”, to find a term that takes the presumed natural superiority of the able-body and turns it on its head to show how it actually supports a hierarchy. So it was a really interesting talk!
Then the final panelist signed about the emergence of Deaf culture and Deaf arts, and her own emergence as a Deaf poet. Again, really interesting! And I was really thrilled to hear the issue of ableism given such a prominent spot in the WSF. Because, as the title of the panel pointed out, it’s the one system of prejudice that’s all too often forgotten, even among those who are trying to organize for justice and change! So it was good, and refreshing, to have that recognized and an attempt made to do differently. Granted, the attempt could have been more successful. Sure! But, A, at least it was there, and B, that just means there’s more to work on. And the logistical challenges – of making an event like that accessible with all volunteers, a minimal budget, and an organizational structure that tries to be as horizontal as possible – are formidable! So I certainly didn’t get the sense that the access failures that there were, and there were, came from lack of trying. And they certainly seem to be open to learning how they can do stuff better in the future!
Anyway, the next day was the closing events – a sort of wrap-up conference to summarize and assemble everything that had been decided through the week in terms of actions going forward, and then a big closing concert. Mom and I didn’t go to that stuff, though, because, by then, we were both pretty exhausted! LOL We did try to go to the concert, but got seriously rained out! It was a great week, though. I’m really glad we went, and so’s Mom (LOL kind of in spite of herself)! And I very much hope I’ll have the chance to go to another WSF in the future now that I have a better sense of how the whole thing works. I think I’d get much more out of it next time, and be much better able to contribute! We’ll have to see, though. But I hope that might be possible, as, for all that it was incredibly exhausting, I had a really awesome time!
So the next workshop we went to at the World Social Forum was on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 12). LOL Again, we meant to go to one in the morning too, but sleep intervened! But we made the afternoon workshop we wanted to get to, and, again, were really glad we did. It was another great one! Though, at first, I wasn’t sure it would be. But it turned out very effective and productive!
So the workshop was on building what it called “cosmopolitan solidarities”. And the way they were using this language was to mean building solidarities between groups who do not necessarily share the same agenda, goals, or even underlying beliefs/political orientations. We seemed to focus on building solidarity and, ultimately, allyship among diverse groups and people. And it’s an extremely important topic! Because, if you want a broad-based movement, you need to build that kind of solidarity. And it hasn’t always been easy!
What was great, though, was that many folks in the workshop had a lot of on-the-ground, hands-on experience with doing that kind of organizing, so they were able to share a lot of wisdom. One guy in particular had some fantastic stories from the collective he had been part of! And another woman had a lot of insight from her days as part of the collective running a Feminist paper. And the woman who facilitated the workshop had a lot of experience, too, organizing with refugees and around the refugee crisis in Germany where she’s from, and where she’s, in fact, doing her doctorate on this very issue. So it was really great!
In the end, what we arrived at was not a set of best practices, because the one thing that really came through loud and clear was that there is no “one size fits all”, but rather a set of best attitudes or best mindsets. And I hope I can remember all the “ingredients” we came up with! Because, we ended up thinking of it as kind of like a soup – a recipe that could be blended differently depending on the needs of the situation. But we decided that the basic ingredients were: respect, flexibility, real listening, humility – being willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers, awareness of and responsiveness to the needs of the situation and the particular people in the group, reliability, but also awareness that people have to contribute according to their abilities, a sense of humour and an ability to have fun, creativity, and an ability and willingness to adapt. If anyone else who was there reads this, have I missed anything?
Anyway, although the above definitely isn’t news or anything Earth-shattering, it was still a really great, productive workshop. It was really fantastic to hear about everyone’s experiences in actual organizing so that it wasn’t just a theoretical discussion! And I really liked the list of best approaches we came up with. I thought it really useful as something to think with going forward into future work!
So the first session we actually made it to at the World Social Forum was on Wednesday afternoon. We meant to go to one in the morning too, LOL but it got moved to Friday morning amidst a great deal of confusion! At least we made the afternoon one, though. And I’m so glad we did, as it was really fantastic!
The workshop we attended, then, was called “Decolonizing Our Faiths”. It was presented by the Community of Living Traditions, which is an intentional community living just outside New York City. They are a community of Jews, Christians and Muslims working to live together in peace and fellowship while staying true to their faiths, and also while working for peace and justice in the wider world. It sounds like an amazing community, and the people I heard speak from it were awesome! I went because interfaith organizing is something I’ve been interested in for a very long time. I practice as a Christian, although I would definitely describe myself as a “cafeteria Anglican” LOL. And I know for myself what an important role my faiths, both as a Christian and as a Phantom Phan, play in informing my work for justice and peace! And I know, too, that that’s so for many others around the world. Yet, of course, I also know that one faith alone doesn’t have all the answers and can’t do it alone. So having different faiths work together for change is incredibly important! But it can also be incredibly hard because of all the histories of war, forcing conversion and other imperialist crap that has gone along with the institutions of our faiths for so many centuries, and which has built up a shit-load of mistrust, especially of Christianity because of its historic role of providing the ideological and theological justifications for Europe’s colonization and exploitation of the rest of the world. And this workshop was about exactly that – how faith communities can become aware of their histories of privilege and oppression, and how we can begin to work against them in our own traditions and beyond. It was really inspiring! The Community of Living Traditions are doing great work in that struggle!
So we talked about what decolonization meant, and how it plays/might play out in each of our traditions. We talked about the importance of recognizing the role that economic exploitation plays in driving inter-religious conflict, and, therefore, of being involved as people of faith in struggles for economic justice. We talked about traditions, not as dead continuations of history, but as living processes in the present – that it’s important to respect our traditions, but also to give them room to evolve. And we talked, which was cool, about how other things besides faiths can be living traditions! For example, we talked about how social movements, such as those of and for Black liberation, can also be living traditions, and how important it is to recognize and honour this. And we talked about the importance of having the really tough but necessary conversations, both within our own faith-communities and between them – the conversations about race, Zionism, gender, white privilege, Christian privilege, economic privilege, etc, – and of sticking with those conversations, but in a loving, respectful and supportive way. And we also talked about the importance of communities like the Community of Living Traditions as incubators for new ways of living together, which struck me as a really awesome idea!
For me, one of the most useful and powerful things to come out of the workshop was the concept, not of safe space, but of courageous space. I heard that and went “Wow!”. Because it’s true that, while we need to create spaces where people feel safe to speak their truths knowing that they will be respected, loved and supported, those spaces can’t be so safe that one is never challenged. Those spaces also have to be ones where we are able to have/find the courage to have those tough, uncomfortable conversations referenced above, and to have our comfort-zones pushed toward greater justice and inclusion. So that’s one I’m going to be thinking about a lot – how we create and nurture such courageous spaces!
Well, this is my first time trying to post from my new iPad, LOL so we’ll have to see if it works! I hope so! Anyway, so Mom and I just got back yesterday from the World Social Forum, which was held this time around in Montreal. It was really awesome! LOL Though now we’re both totally exhausted. It was fantastic, but very intensive! Wow! But it’s the first time a WSF’s Ben held somewhere we could actually get to, so we really wanted to go!
So, as you may already know, the World Social Forum was originally conceived of as an alternative to things like the WTO, OECD, G8/10/20, etc, as a global forum for ordinary people – activists and social movements – to come together to build the future we want. And hitherto, it’s been held in the so-called “global south”, most famously in Cochabamba Bolivia. But this time, in order to challenge and start to break down the north/south divide, they decided to hold it in a country of the so-called “global north”. Thus, it came to be held in Montreal Canada. The cool thing was, though, that it really was global! We had people there from all over the world, and the issues covered truly reflected the concerns of the whole world! Obviously, the refugee crisis, the climate crisis, and global concerns around corporate grabs for land, water and seeds were in particular focus since those are so hugely urgent in so many places. But lots of more specific, regional issues were addressed too, including those from here in Canada and those specific to Quebec and Montreal.
LOL Unfortunately, because of time and energy, or rather lack of the latter, we only barely scratched the surface of all there was to do at the Forum! But we did manage to get to a bunch of really fantastic workshops and panels. And we did also manage to make the WSF Cabaret each night, which was totally awesome! They had some super-talented musicians there! Wow! 🙂 And we met a lot of really great people there too. That was one of the best parts – the networking! We met new folks there, and I also got to see colleagues I haven’t seen in years except on Facebook!
Anyway, I think I’ll post about the actual events we attended separately. LOL Otherwise, this post would get really long and I’d get really tired! But that’s at least the intro. LOL So I hope this works and that this post shows up!
So I’ve been meaning to post this for a while too. I started it over on my other blog, but it struck me that it’s relevant here as well! So I thought I’d post links to the posts I did over there so the discussion’s accessible here too. 🙂 Hope you all find it interesting and useful!
Anyway, as those of you who are Phans know, probably the most controversial thing ever to hit the Phantom community is the so-called Gerik, aka the 2004 movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (Gerard Butler, who played the Phantom in the film,+Erik, the Phantom’s name in the original novel = Gerik). LOL Phans either love it or hate it! Though, all of us do have to give it credit for bringing lots of new young Phans into the Phandom. And thank goodness they don’t stop at the Gerik but, with the typical rabidity of new Phans, quickly familiarize themselves with other, better incarnations of the story – the Leroux and Susan Kay novels! LOL You can probably tell from the above which camp I’m in?
Yes, the Gerik bothered me immensely from the very first time I saw (heard) it, but it would take me years – literally – to fully unpack why. What struck me most was the contrast to the way I reacted when, after seeing the Gerik, I saw the stage-version again! The Gerik brought me down. It deeply depressed me. Whereas, the stage-version gave me the same powerful sense of what the Eastern Orthodox call “bright sadness” – sadness, but with the uplift of a powerful message of hope – that it always has. But, as I said, it would take me a long time to process why I reacted so differently – to begin to articulate what it was that bothered me so deeply about the movie. And I have to give my Mom huge credit for helping me finally work that through too! She really likes the Gerik! And it was in arguing with her, struggling to articulate why I increasingly disliked it, that I was finally able to put the problem in words. Actually, to put it into one word: ableism. For, what I ultimately realized was that the Gerik, through the changes it makes to the Phantom’s and Christine’s back-stories from the stage-version (among other things), takes the critique out of POTO, leaving the 2004 movie to present an almost Disney-like parable in support of a cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, sanist normate (to use Disability scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s term for that construction of the Western ideal subject). In effect, the Gerik took POTO and made it ableist! And this was a horror to me because, for me, Phantom, and especially the ALW musical, has always resonated as a call to exactly the opposite – a call to resist the normativity that allows society to get away with excluding people like the Phantom!
So I did a comparative analysis on my other blog to show, from the texts of the two works, how this is so – what it is about the changes in the Gerik from the stage-version that make it ableist. And I thought I’d share that analysis here, because it strikes me as very relevant to what this, my main blog, is about too! 🙂 Feel free, though, to ignore/bracket off the overt Christianity if that’s not your thing. I am a Christian (though admittedly an eclectic and, by some standards, heretical one), and my understanding of the Gospel message very much informs my Phanship and vise versa! But I totally get that that’s not so for everyone. So this first post simply compares the Gstage-version and the movie, focussing on the ways in which changes to the Phantom’s back-story serve to deflect the social critique so powerful in the stage-version of the musical. Then, in this second post, I focus on what those changes, as well as alterations to Christine’s back-story and to their joint back-story, do to the love-story that is at the heart of Phantom – in particular, at how they tame it from the radical power that it has in the stage-musical. Finally, in this post, I explore what those changes do to the Final Lair – the final scene of the stage-version and the penultimate scene in the Gerik (from the end of the song “The Point of No Return” to “It’s over now the music of the night”) – and how they alter its meaning. And no, that’s not a typo! The posts really do skip from “Tale of Two Phantoms part 2” to “Tale of Two Phantoms part 4”. No fear, you haven’t missed one! I skipped ahead and wrote part 4 so I could get it posted without having written part 3 yet because I felt it was so important. So stay tuned for part 3, either over on Phantom of the Cross or here! Actually, stay tuned for it on both, as I’ll definitely post a link either way.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post that for a while. I hope it’s useful, and that it gives you all lots to think about – whether you’re a Phan or not, a Gerik Phan or not, or an old-school stage-version Phan like me!
Yowch! Sorry for not getting this posted sooner! Though I had an awesome time at the conference, 🙂 and I did, it was really, really tiring! And school’s not over yet! So it’s taken me a while to get rested and get my shit together.
Anyway, the rest of the conference started at 10:30 on Saturday morning. They provided breakfast, thank God! 😦 But the coffee-maker was broken, which didn’t start the day off auspiciously. Though, thank God, that ill omen didn’t pan out, as the day ended up being awesome! LOL And, thank God, I was able to get at least one large coffee so I wasn’t in withdrawal. Huge thanks to the person who dashed over to the coffee-shop for me! LOL You’re a life-saver!
Btw. You can find fuller descriptions of all the panels/presentations here, including the ones I didn’t attend.
So we started off with a really interesting panel on accessibility and/in urban planning. There were four speakers, all of whom were either practicing professionals in the field or were studying to be so. They spoke about their research, and/or their experiences in trying to bring accessibility into the planning process. And some of the projects were really interesting! In particular, one of the students was doing her doctoral research on how to plan spaces so that they are accessible to people with dementia. I should say, in fact, that the whole theme of the panel was to take accessibility in urban planning beyond simple “ramps and lifts” checklists to really think about how spaces do or do not serve those who use them.
After that, the sessions broke up into three separate streams – Places, Spaces and Histories, with different panels/presentations in each one. So then you had to start deciding!
I was originally going to go to a different session. But, on the spur of the moment, I ended up going to a session entitled “Putting Life Into Law”, whose focus was on getting the AODA (Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) actually implemented in a serious way. I hadn’t originally planned on going to it because, as some one who’s not really that into law and policy, I’d feared it would be boring, depressing, or both. But boy was it ever neither! First of all, both of the speakers were fabulous. And second of all, it turns out there’s a lot of really great and creative organizing going on around this issue!
In particular, I learned about two amazing campaigns. The first was a mapping project called Access Now, which allows users to rate different spaces for their accessibility or lack thereof, and also to search locations to see how they’re rated. It uses an interactive map, but, apparently, it does have a screen-reader friendly option. Thank God! I’d be pissed if it didn’t! Though I haven’t actually had a chance to check it out yet, so stay tuned. Then the second campaign was one called “Picture Our Barriers”, in which people can take photos or short videos whenever they face an access barrier, physical or attitudinal (like people with service dogs being refused entry by cabs or restaurants), and tweet them using the hash-tag #AODAfail (or, if you’re not comfortable taking photos or doing videos, you can just tweet a short word-description of the barrier – which should be done anyway for those of us who can’t see the pictures/vids). Then, those tweets can be tweeted or re-tweeted ad infinitum, including to all our provincial politicians! Can we say awesome? Because, it’ll both make the barriers we face more visible to the general public, and, hopefully, generate pressure on our legislators to implement the law they passed. Needless to say I’m really excited about both of those!
So after that was lunch. And I have to say that I liked the food much better than last year! LOL Mostly because they had non-Vegan options this time so I could actually eat meat. LOL Thanks hugely for that people! Much appreciated!
Then, after lunch, I went to a really interesting presentation and discussion on intergenerational trauma. The speaker used her own family history to analyze how recent trauma (her grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust) had lead to the adoption of dominant ideologies – of race, class, ableism, and what she called “sanism” – as a coping strategy to create a sense of security. She then explored how this coping strategy had lead to further violence within the family as members who deviated from this adoption of dominant ideologies and values were punished and repressed for “allowing” the effects of intergenerational trauma to manifest as madness/disability. And that presentation lead to a really interesting and fruitful discussion around how to heal from intergenerational trauma, both individually, but also collectively and culturally, and the importance of coming to understand how individual family histories fit into larger structures of oppression. Many of us are hoping to be able to keep those discussions going beyond the conference, as we all felt there was a lot more to say and to work on!
So then, the last session I went to was called “Self-Care for Skeptics”, and, again, it was as much discussion as presentation. Basically, the presenter had created a zine in order to explore, in a Feminist participatory research way, the issue of self-care. Because, although she recognized the necessity of taking care of oneself to avoid activist burn-out, she was also becoming significantly uncomfortable with the way self-care culture was becoming individualized and commercialized, and was playing into really problematic discourses that glorify the young, fit, able body/mind. So she showed us some of the pieces – essays, poems and artwork – that ended up in the zine, and we all had a really interesting discussion of the issues around self-care and collective care.
After that we had dinner (which I didn’t like nearly as much as the lunch because the chicken was way to spicy for my admittedly wimpy comfort-level), followed by a really interesting performance! It’s become customary in the past couple of years to have a guest-performance, either on the Friday night, the Saturday night or both, and this year’s was by an artist named Lana K. I’d love to hear her entire show! She performed excerpts of a monodrama she’s working on all about challenging ableism and industrialized education by rediscovering alternatives buried in ancestral memory. It was really cool! And it gave me some really interesting ideas for some of my own future performances.
Then, sadly, we closed out the conference on Sunday afternoon, though, we did so in a really delightful way. Just as on Friday when it opened, the conference closed off with a potluck and community fair so we could all connect and hang out one more time. It was really nice! And I got to hang out with a friend whom I haven’t seen in years except on Facebook! In fact, that was one of the best parts of the whole conference – reconnecting with current friends whom I haven’t seen in ages and meeting new people. I made a lot of really great contacts!
🙂 And, I’m happy to say, I did have more people come up to me and tell me they liked my performance on Friday night. So that was a delightful little ego-boost too!
Anyway, LOL I already can’t wait for next year. I had a fabulous time, and I know the next one will be just as awesome!
PhantomFemme is a Queer-Crip, intersectional Feminist riff on the story and character of the Phantom of the Opera. It is the name I’ve (finally) come up with to describe my gender/Disability/Deformed identity, so I took it as a stage/pen name as well. I’ve loved the Phantom since I was ten, because his story, especially as told in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, spoke powerfully to my own experience of being different as a Disabled person. But it also spoke to my desire for creative resistance, and gave me a powerful example and a rich symbolic language as well! Thus, Phantom was a key catalyst in inspiring my activism. But it/he also gave me a life-long love for music and the performing arts, and an abiding awareness of their potential for transformative power.
It also, however, sent me on a long, and definitely on-going journey of thinking/feeling through gender. Because, deformity/bodily difference is very gendered in Phantom, and, at least on the surface of it, in some very heteronormative ways. The masculine figure of the Phantom gets to be deformed, but Christine, the feminine figure who is his love-object, doesn’t. She is conventionally beautiful. But that leaves a girl who’s Disabled and Deformed in several kinds of dilemma, especially if her particular deformity (or one of them anyway) is more than usually? disruptive of her ability to perform normative femininity! LOL Oops! Yeah. Look up the term “female hirsutism” and you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, clearly the story needed/s some creative Queering in order to bust open that dynamic without loosing the magic we all love so well. Or rather, the Queer possibilities already implicit in the story, especially in the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage-musical (ahem, as originally staged by Hal Prince and designed by Maria Bjornsen, contemporary redesigned productions not withstanding), need/ed to be creatively brought forward and explored. So PhantomFemme is my on-going attempt to do that through my own music and writing, and hopefully through other media as well!
My art as PhantomFemme is also how/where I explore the connections and interconnections between different forms of othering and oppression – gender, sexism, racism, environmental racism, ableism, classism, etc, as I very much understand all those systems as being inter-related. But don’t worry, it’s not all serious :-)! Resistance is just as much about creating joy, fun and celebration as it is about calling out the bad shit, because that’s how you create hope and the space to imagine new and liberating possibilities. So there’ll be plenty of just plain entertainment too. After all, I enjoy a good party as much as the next Femme! 🙂 Although, I generally prefer my parties to involve black capes, organ music, and lots and lots of candles.
All that being said, not every single song/story/poem I do is obviously or explicitly Phantom-related/derived, or even implicitly so. LOL I do have other interests/sources of inspiration as well! Although, many of those other fandoms/interests/inspirations have themes and/or traits in common with POTO. It does mean, however, that Phantom provides much of the symbolism and imagery I use in my music, lyrics, poetry and other writing, not to mention in my costumes and staging when I’m lucky enough to perform live. 🙂 But, yes, there will, of course, be a significant number of pieces that are explicitly POTO-related! Naturally! LOL Like I could resist? Though, obviously, I can’t actually use material from the show itself, as that would piss off the powers that be. Yeah, I know!
As for what you’ll find on this site, I’ll mainly be posting life updates and updates on my creative work, along with essays analyzing different aspects of Phantom through the intersectional politics described above.. 🙂 And, of course, reviews and squees whenever I manage to attend the show live, which, imo, is not nearly often enough!
So that’s who the PhantomFemme is and what she’s about. Feel free to check out my Facebook, and/or follow me on Twitter at @phantom_femme. And, of course, do check out my work and enjoy! (Sub-pages for my music and writing coming ASAP.)
Note: the term “healing justice” in my tag line comes from the organizers of Black Lives Matter as heard in the On Being podcast’s interview with Civil Rights icon Ruby Sales. I use it here because the term seems to me to also beautifully describe the kind of transformation for which Phantom calls!
P.S. If you feel that PhantomFemme describes your political gender/ability identity too, then absolutely feel free to use it! I cannot exclusively own an identity! Indeed, part of the reason I use it as the name for my artistic practice is so that the term and the idea are out there in the world and available to others. 🙂 Maybe just add a number or your location or something to it on social media so the world can tell us all apart?
P.P.S. A word about my use of the word “Deformed”, as I realize my describing myself that way may shock some folks. I use it here capitalized to indicate that it is more than simply a descriptor, although it is that – a word that describes the lived experience of my body in this culture. But it is also a word that I’m claiming as a political identity, like Disabled, Femme, Queer, etc,. I was inspired to do this by Mia Mingus’s absolutely amazing blog-post “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability”, which has been hugely influential in helping me think through the PhantomFemme!
P.P.P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Really Useful Group, or anyone officially in charge of Phantom, and I plan to keep it that way. LOL I don’t think they and I would dig each other’s politics, especially with regard to copyright and intellectual property!
P.S.4. That being said, one of my dreams in life is to participate, in some significant capacity, in the mounting of an ecologically sustainable, fair-trade production of Phantom, not to mention one that’s made as inclusive and accessible as humanly possible! After all, since, to me, POTO is a story about the need for justice, it’d be awesome if it’s staging could walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Plus, I’d just love to show that it can be done!