A Problem of Translation

Is there a voice for the junkies and the homeless and the lost in contemporary literature? In theatre? And not a patronizing middle-class “oh look at the poor folk” voice, but one that takes the time to live in that world, to respect the lives of those in the streets and trenches that make up our war on drugs and who live the poverty that makes wealth possible?

Is our contemporary theatre anemic, in part, because we write and produce only for a middle- to upper-class demographic? Would they be interested in seeing something that is not a reflection of their world or a perspective on other worlds (ethnic, economic) that serves to ease their conscious and make them feel like they are part of a solution through voyeurism?

I don’t think so.

I sit here in a bus station, listening to fragments of lives that are full of pain and anger and fear and resignation and a strange strength that is both alien and frightening to my middle-class, highly educated, white and male privileged life, and I wonder who writes for these people? Is it even possible to tell their stories without exploiting them, without stealing them?

Our culture fantasizes, in books and movies and comics and tv, about various post-apocalyptic scenarios. All the while ignoring that many people are already living in a world that is constantly hostile and where each day is a battle to merely survive and who understand that the smallest joys can be the biggest of victories, but that victory is a perishable commodity and there are no guarantees it will come ’round again.

I sit. I do not listen to my music through noise-isolating earphones. Instead I listen to the people around me. I wonder. I have no answers, no solutions, only questions. I have learned nothing. But I have heard, if only in snatches and only for an hour, the language of another world.

In the end, I also wonder just how much privilege and pretension is apparent in these wonderings and questions.

On this day..