(image by Arlene Goldbard)
My guest tonight is Arlene Goldbard. She is a writer, speaker, social activist and consultant who works for justice, compassion, and honor in every sphere from interpersonal to the transnational. Her books include Crossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture, New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development, Community, Culture and Globalization, and her novels, Clarity and The Wave. It was her new book, The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future that inspired me to invite her to be a guest on this show.
A.G.: Well for example, let me give you an example that's developed very fully in my other book that was companion volume to this one, The Wave. One of my characters is a member of the Storytelling Corps at Bellevue Hospital in New York, twenty years in the future. So when you have to go to the hospital, instead of having the kind of horrific intake experience that many of us have despite the goodwill of individuals who work there where we're made to wait for a long time, there's someone with a clip board who treats us like a number, we're in distress but there's nothing there to assist with our distress. In this new model, Lulu and her fellow members of the Storytelling Corps are the intake system at Bellevue Hospital. When you come in, a Story-
Teller sits with you. That person elicits a story of your illness from the perspective of the understanding of healing as a process in which your history, the resilient factors in your past,
all of those things are going to help you along with your healing.
The person is going to listen to how you feel and be present to how you feel and some times prescribe something. A particular story. They're going to listen to the lullabies that were sung to you when you were a child and make sure you have an iPod to look up music on it. They're going to make a piece of art with you that you can hang in your hospital room and will help remind you of what it is in your history that makes it likely that you'll get well. So that's a really developed example of connective tissue but what I mean-
R.K.: I have to tell you that listening to you describe that, I've got tears in my eyes. I mean literally you just ripped right through me, because what you're describing is a system where the idea of giving a diagnosis, a number and pathologizing whatever is going on with a person is mostly gone, and it's replaced with such a different totally different fabric of handling and embracing and enveloping a human being. In all the dimensions, wow. I love it. I just, wow!
A.G.: Thank you, Rob, I'm so glad you do. And that's an example I think to sit down and say to someone, what if a hospital was like this and then in their own minds they're comparing it to the actual reality, the present time reality that they've experienced. That gives you a big glimpse of what we mean by paradigm shift, huh?
R.K.: Yes, it sure does. It's, you know, it's so different and there is so much money invested in and continually funding the old Datastan model, your Datastan way that you describe as Datastan which is the industrial complex way. How do you see it changing?
A.G.: Well, I mean of course that's the zillion dollar question. Me, my guess is that the change is going to finally be actuated by two things: the total breakdown of the old system because it's not doing so well, you know? Even though there's a lot of propaganda being generated saying the market is the model for all things and business really knows how to do stuff and government doesn't, we shred ample evidence every way of the untruth of that.
And I think people are beginning to see through some of the claims for competence and primacy of those systems as more and more of their suffering leaders fall. So that can be one factor. The other factor feels to me like it's important, underlying realization that's like the switch, that will toggle us into the new reality and that's recognizing for example that there is a zillion more of us than there are of them.
That the people who actually control and benefit from the current social arrangements are very small in number in comparison to all the people who are subjected to their choices. There are just so many ways to look at the question of people power in twentieth century and twenty first century history. I saw Arianna Huffington on the Daily Show this week and she said there are two traditional forms of power.
Excuse me, two traditional forms of value, political power and money. And that the third form is the value of whatever we do to effect the well-being, and driving the human subject, our ability to sustain and thrive in the future. And it feels like there's a lot of different writers, thinkers, activists, who are coming to this realization at the same time. So I don't think this is something that we actually make happen, like there's a ten point program and then Ah-Ha! the paradigm shifts.
I think it's more a question of our vision right now. If we can bring into focus all the ways in which this emergent truth is growing stronger, we're going to wake up and see that in fact it's taken the high ground. It's taken center stage. So right now I want to focus people's attention on re-reading reality. On seeing a different version than the consensus reality of the dominant media that's being beamed from the center to the margins all the time, to pay attention to what else is going on around us and understand that that mainstream story is neither the only story nor necessarily the truest one.
R.K.: I love it. I love it. Now the title of your book is The Culture of Possibility; Art, Artists, and the Future and this is an incredible book. I have to tell you that one way in which I gauge a book is by how much I mark it up and put notes and underlines and asterisks and stars and what have you next to parts of it and this book, it's really really marked up. I started reading the digital version and I realized I had to have a paper version. I had to put some marks on it.
A.G.: Thank you so much.
R.K.: A lot of the book is about the artists. So you kind of vaguely alluded to it, let's get into that. I'll start off throwing a quote at you, from you, you say art is the practice of freedom. Culture enlarges our spirits, connects us to our past, our future, and each other and enables the imagination and empathy that support individual and collective resilience.