If you want to be religious about it, you could pray for the death of idealism in theatre! If you simply want to be real; then just kill it! Idealism needs to die. Recently, idealists have instructed women to ignore potentially threatening situations regardless of the dangers. Anyone who suggests otherwise is targeted as being some kind of bigot or enemy of the people. A woman was raped and murdered walking late at night through a park in Melbourne. Of course no one should be murdered for walking through a park at any time day or night. But should young women be encouraged to defy the danger? Being alone in a potentially hostile environment with potential deviants lurking is to consign innocent people to unnecessary threats.
Idealist “should be”
Such is the want of the idealist who chooses to live by what “should be” rather than WHAT IS! Artists work to create visions through windows of reality and dreams. However, we need to be careful so as not to support fanciful and idealistic notions that deny the experience of a dangerous and uncaring universe! Idealism needs realist considerations. I might once lived in a kind of SHOULD BE reality. But it’s a bit like saying one should be able to trust family friends NOT to sexually molest one’s daughter! One’s daughter should be able to feel safe in the company of anyone in her family’s environment. In reality, the main culprits in sexual molestation are in fact people close to home. So what SHOULD be no problem needs to tempered with a reality grasp on how the world actually operates. A young woman should be able to walk and feel safe when passing through a park at night. In reality, caution needs to be exercised.
Is it real to suggest “all men are rapists”?
While it might be a slight exaggeration to suggest that “all men are rapists” as Marilyn French‘s character in her novel “The Women’s Room” suggests and some academic lecturers in 1980s women’s studies (notably Catharine MacKinnon) seemed to infer, it is certainly true that there are mentally and emotionally deficient men who seek to rape and hurt women. Furthermore, while most men find the concept of rape and murder as abhorrent, there are some men who have it in them to be rapists and even killers. This is an irony. ALL men should simply change so that ALL women SHOULD be able to walk and go where-ever they wish and whenever they wish. The monsters who prowl must change. This will happen by simply changing an attitude? It won’t. No amount of good will or faith will change anything. The monsters will still exist. It is dangerous to suggest otherwise.
The Narcissistic Trend in Idealism
“SHOULD BE” becomes a narcissistic trend in art and postmodern thought. This results in a crises when things simply are not as we might wish them to be. Is it really enough to scream in a void that it SHOULD BE when the universe doesn’t revolve around my vision or ideal of what might be? I am thus NOT a god, if GOD is the ultimate Narcissist! Belief is the cousin of Narcissism. The idealist works from fixed beliefs. These beliefs shape their reality. This shape or paradigm determines all assumptions about reality. The idealist takes this further. Everyone would benefit from these belief systems, paradigms and subsequent assumptions. Idealists can become lethal when they imbue this with an unbreakable sense of rock-solid belief. In 2008, I wrote an essay on belief that suggested “to believe is to kill“. Unfortunately individual worlds are created in the image of one’s beliefs. They form an extended narcissism! Cultures then try to embed narcissism on a collective scale enforced through art, sacred texts, fear, law, social ritual and ideology etc.
Theatre realism limits the ability to probe and challenge cultural paradigms and narcissism. It assumes an objective reality in its formation and contrivance. The creators of the works determine the paradigm. Their reality is still a particular kind. Theatre needs to move beyond realism to break through this walled cultural perspective.
Absurdity Paradox in Theatre and the Real
Whatever your political or religious alliances, your art must supersede and even challenge personal affiliations. Art is more than an expression of feeling or ideal. It is more than personal expression; though often prescribed as some kind of definition! It provides an opportunity to really expand on visions and ideals. It draws from deeper recesses of what it is to be human and thus it goes below the platforms of culture and agendas constructed by flawed intellectuals and flawed idealists. If we examine the themes of most plays presented in the last twenty five or so years, how many fit neatly into idealist paradigms that conform to social trends of thought? Alternatively, how many actually stand up to the dominant trend and provide any kind of alternative or devil’s advocate to the prevailing world views? How many plays challenge the notions of identity and culture as being the primary source of human existence? How many challenge the image in the mirror? So embedded are these notions of identity and culture that to break through their strait-jacketed belief systems one needs to appoint an absurd or distorted form of artistic expression. The shutters will come down on the moment when any form of challenge to belief system becomes evident and audience minds will be lost. The Narcissist only wants its own image or identity presented as the truth!
Yet we know such truths or at best only half truths and at worst LIES. The idealism presented in so much well-intentioned art and theatre is lost when conforming to dominant world visions and belief systems. It is a form of narcissism on a larger scale.