HOME | VOICES BETWEEN – MOTIVATION
MOTIVATION With extremism on the rise globally, and social and political safeguards under threat, the spaces between us are being flooded with intolerance and shouting matches, further driving us apart. It is in this space that the potential for either peace or violence reside.
Writers and artists are used to dwelling in these spaces between us. We are a radically-untapped creative and social resource. We highlight and dwell on complexity and nuance rather than try and erase or overcome them. We work to preserve the humanity often eradicated by intolerance. Our voices are often and mistakenly viewed as “soft power.” But in times when communication is changing the destiny of nations, rhetoric and storytelling are among the most powerful tools in the world.
By necessity, writers and artists often work isolated from one another. However, there are times when the skills learned through this solitude can be utilized as a community. Right now there is a need to join hands with other actors and to use our influence and talents to defend our values and freedoms and occupy that space in between. Doing so, we believe, will generate societal resilience in times of division.
MORE MOTIVATION At the dawn of the 21st century, western liberal democracy and the world order that supported its spread is in retreat. Something new is emerging, but we are uncertain of what. The ecology of forces motivating this breakup is complex. Technology is obliterating old economies and giving rise to new ones, opening up new opportunities, at the same time leaving fear, dissatisfaction and mistrust of governing and business elites in its wake. The depletion of the earth’s resources-water above all-and climate change are straining populations everywhere, inflicting famine upon the poorest, and creating the largest diaspora in human history. The nation state appears to have met its problem-solving limits, while scepticism of cross-boundary solutions hasn’t been higher since the end of WWII. Among the many divisions that have opened up, one of the most consequential is between those who are willing to engage the complexities of a future-oriented and global community, and those who are so fearful of the potential loss of identity and associated power that they are trying to retrench or resist those same forces, by clinging to an often mythological place and time in the past.
Amid such breaking times, turning inwards to one’s group or tribe is an increasingly common perceived solution. While “localization” can be a positive force - in some cases we see renewed interest in grass roots politics, artistic forms, cohesive cultural practices, and a new-found respect for social identity - it can easily turn destructive, focusing on perceived internal and external threats. Today we see an alarming rise in intolerance through a hardening of attitudes, indifference, and cynicism; the negative side of the same trend. We believe that we must find ways of encouraging the positive dimensions of localization, while at the same time, immunizing our societies against its negative ones. Together, we need to build a bridge to a global sense of responsibility and belonging.
This seismic shift in the world order comes as the generations that experienced the horrors and the immediate aftermath of the world wars and the Holocaust become centenarians or pass away. Throughout the post war period their distinctive voices have warned against what will happen if democracy, human rights and the rule of law are not strenuously defended. They have contributed substantially to the bulwark against authoritarianism provided by civil society that has frequently checked the abuse of leadership in the post-war decades. With those voices passing away, we are left with a gap in moral leadership based on history, evidence, and truth. And the results are written in black and white: Recent statistics show that, despite decades-long efforts to educate, a collective amnesia about the past may be setting in, caused by factors ranging from lack of knowledge to a sense of irrelevance to revisionism. Whether caused by ignorance, apathy, or malice, we now risk the continued rise of dangerous leadership that threatens to take advantage of the vacuum left by generational change and moral confusion.
We live in a time when society needs to build and sustain its resilience to attacks on its core and sustaining values of tolerance, pluralism, liberty and democracy; and to reinforce its commitment to freedom of speech, the exchange of ideas, and the cooperative spirit needed to unite us as a polity.This resilience depends on recognizing the warning signs, always standing up for the dignity and inviolability of all human beings, and striving to uphold truth, no matter how elusive or challenging it may seem at times. We recognize that creativity and innovation are needed in order to secure this dynamic. A range of civil society actors and actions will be needed, and one of them is the mobilization of the creative and artistic communities.
This is the context in which we conceptualized and now situate Voices Between: Stories Against Extremism.