Flexing My Creative Muscles - A look back at what brought me to Groundswell

This week's post by Spencer takes us several weeks back to the summer, before Groundswell's Fall Session began.  Spencer contemplates the journey his critical mind is taking, rediscovering creativity and taking action. A few months ago, my partner at the time and I were spending a Friday night in and wanted to watch a movie. Neither of us keeps up much with pop culture, and we struggled to pick a film. She suggested Ratatouille, a childhood favourite. I had no other ideas, so a decision was made.
We settled into the couch and watched as Reny, an anthropomorphic rat, escapes the filthy existence of his species to become an elite Parisian chef. I made it about halfway before falling asleep. 

The next morning, my partner asked me what I thought of the film. Having a bit of fun, I set about ruining it for her by exposing how one of her favourite childhood films perpetuates everything that's wrong with the world. Reny's upward mobility really only justifies the continued exploitation of all the other rats. They just aren't as talented as he is, and in any case don't appreciate the finer things in life. The rodent protagonist deserves his new life cooking Paris's finest food, and they deserve theirs picking through the city's trash. And the strong-willed feminist character? Well, she chills the fuck out as soon as the writers put a man in her life.
Later that day, I started thinking about how easily that critique came to me. I could deconstruct that movie for sport before my morning coffee. But could I create a different story, one more true to my values? That's a lot harder.

                 Superman needs to hit the squat rack.

Like many progressives, I think my creative capacities are underdeveloped compared to my critical ones. Sometimes I feel like that dude at the gym with the massive upper body and the stick-thin legs. If I want to help build up an economy that reflects my values, I'm going to need a more balanced physique.
For me, that has meant pushing myself toward greater openness. When I encounter a new initiative, I've been trying to ask "what can this contribute?" before I ask "what can go wrong?" I've been picking up books on solidarity economics, fair trade and social enterprise rather than reading yet another attack on capitalism.
But here's what I'm not saying: that the lack of a positive vision ever invalidates critique. Too often, people will say "that critic should offer solutions" when "their critique makes me uncomfortable" would really be more honest. I have no desire pull any punches, and I certainly don't want to pervert the argument above to shelter myself from other people's feedback.
And providing an alternative is not always the criticizer's responsibility. Don't ask migrant labourers to re-write Canadian immigration policy before listening when they say, for example, that the Canadian state has created "modern day slavery." Don't ask theUnist'ot'en for a blueprint of a clean-energy economy before respecting the "no" they've given to pipelines crossing their territory.  
And I'm definitely not saying that critique isn't important. It's just right now, I'm more interested in flexing my creative muscles. Leanne Simpson writes 'we have debated whether Audre Lourde's "the master's tools can dismantle the master's house." I am interested in a different question. I am not so concerned with how we dismantle the master's house... But I am very concerned with how we (re)build our own house, our own homes.'(1) Our contexts are quite different, but it really resonates.
That's why I'll be joining up with Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives this fall, a training network for young people starting alternatives-to-business. I'm hoping to meet some folks interested in collaborating on an enterprise that's working towards economic transformation. What sort of enterprise, you ask? Well I've got ideas, but I'm not settling on anything yet.

That's not me, but it could be.
While I'm at it, I'll be working part-time with Shift Urban Cargo Delivery, an inspiring worker-coop that does last-mile goods delivery on cargo trikes. Yep, I'm getting paid to ride a tricycle (and de-carbonize our transportation system, and further the collective ownership of workplaces).
Of course, it might not work out. My enterprise might fail, I might not meet the right people, I might run out of money, I might discover how horribly misguided this whole plan was to begin with, etc. These are risks I'll have to take, but this work is too important to delay. Bring it on.


1. Leanne Simpson, Dancing On Our Turtle's Back, 32

 

Read it on Spencer's blog here: http://yougotabetteridea.blogspot.ca/2014/08/flexing-my-creative-muscles.html