Sunday, 3 March 2024

Cultural Change = Political Change

One of Jason's recent poems together with accompanying artwork. This appeared in issue 155 (Summer/Autumn 2013) of Fourth World Review.

IT’S OFTEN been said that any political change (or revolution) has to be preceeded by a cultural change (or revolution.)

One man who articulated this view in great depth was the Italian anti-fascist Antonio Gramsci. According to the well-known and popular Counter Culture (1) web-site:

“Gramsci had been a Communist opponent of Mussolini who was imprisoned by the fascists. During his imprisonment he formulated many of his ideas and wrote them down in what were to become his Prison Notebooks. Much can be learned from a study of his work.

He put forward the view that the Fascists had come to power because what we would now call the ‘cultural landscape’ was favourable to the development of their political position. We can now take this concept further – the key element in the forthcoming struggle will be a battle for domination of key ‘concept’ areas. We do not intend to lose.”

To date the National Liberal Party has largely concentrated on political education and outreach. This is because we’re a relatively small and new organisation (and sadly, we can’t do everything at once!) On saying this, we’re acutely aware that we must start to do more on the cultural level. Indeed, it’s vitally important that we also view, analysise and deconstruct any art forms which attack values and positions which we support.

With this in mind, we’re glad to say that a small start in the right direction has been made by the NLPs (and Fourth World Review’s) resident poet, Jason Jesuthasan. For Jason’s first book of poems – Poetic Affusion – has just been published by Fast Print Publishing, Peterborough, England. At over 100 pages it seems to cover every subject under the sun! This is recognised in the Introduction to Poetic Affusion:

“His poems of dreams, romance, infatuations, disappointments, rage, fear, guts, wit and scepticism were all shaped by the people, places, predudices, pleasures, values, beliefs, tradition and faith into which he was born, lived, dreamed of and aspired for.”

Speaking to the NLP web-site, Jason, who has obtained Public Administration (B.A. Hons) and International Relations (M.A.) degrees from Essex University (1978-1982) and a MBA in Health Management programme with Hull University (2002 – 2005), noted:

“An immigrant always leads a dual and divided life. Despite tremendous struggle faced and strides taken to integrate into the host community, one half of his mind and soul looks back to the homeland and loved ones he left behind. This life of turmoil acquires a special dimension and added agony when the homeland he left behind and people he loved dearly drawn into a bloody civil war for more than three decades.

When one’s village of birth gets 24 hours notice to vacate and the people therein overnight become permanently displaced as wandering refugees, homeless and starving; with infirm elderly and babies having no access to health care and the youth living in constant fear of being taken for interrogation, detention and indefinite incarceration for being an ethnic minority; then an immigrant who was part of the very nest which being dismantled violently gets hurt, bleeds profusely within and finds an avenue to share that agony; and if possible bring that agony out into the open and attempts to globalize it for a single reason: To prevent it ever happening elsewhere.

Roots of my poetry lie in that tiny, agony filled coastal village – my ancestral village – which today has no trace. In 2001, with a help of a military escort I was allowed a 30 minute peep into my once beautiful village. What I saw that day, I penned into a poem the very same night. That is how the poem Travel of a Baby Cloud was born.

But soon followed many poems of similar sentiments, not just rooted in the conflict of my own country of origin, but wherever there was war and armed conflict in progress, my poetic brain began to relate to them much quickly, in blood and soul. Hence born poems like War Widows, Children of War, Behind Barbed Wires and many more.

Once I recognised the poetic instincts within me, I let it travel with the wind, with the sun rays, with ocean waves to reach the parts thus far I never envisaged to reach and capture the sentiments, issues and fears into a poetry form.

To be a real poet, one must master the art of balancing sentimentality and resultant emotions with a detachment approach to what is being captured in poetry. So, soon followed many poems on governance, sources of human sufferings including poverty and hunger; violence against women where the ideal state I would like to live in was put on parade.

The world of today revolves not just around the sun, though that may be true from a solar system perspective; but the real world we live revolves around some of the age old issues which for lack of human focus to tackle them for good, keep coming round us, such as: hunger, poverty, epidemics, state violence, wars, violence against children and women, the list goes on.

A poet cannot simply close his eyes and script poetic interludes of sun, sky, moon, the gentle breeze and snow covered mountain and the wintry chill. Poetry must go beyond them to bring odes of human sufferings and the inability of humanity to address such recurrent issues. Such a noble vision must always be kept at the heart of poetry and literature, not just in English but in all cultures and literature.

If I want to encapsulate my dreams for tomorrow poetically in few verses, it will read like this:

Let a new era begin,

Be it free of famine,

Let a new day dawn

Be that free of killing zones,

Let a new season bloom

When we bury all gloom!”

We would specifically like to wish Jason well and hope that Poetic Affusion (2) sells well. He has offered to contribute to the party for every copy you buy! Generally we’d like to encourage all NLP members and supporters to engage in cultural activities of all types.

As Antonio Gramsci noted all those years ago we need to ensure that the ‘cultural landscape’ is favourable to the development of our political position. Let the cultural war begin!



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