Breaking the Cult of Passivity

Julian Rose
Activist Post

If it’s true that ‘All the World’s a Stage’ then our role is to create a change of scene and a new play. Our role in this play is to join with other members of the cast in unearthing and exposing the deeper significance of events being played out on the global stage and helping to unveil a new way forward. A way forward which explodes the cult of passivity holding back the emancipation of a large portion of humanity.

The global stage currently more resembles a battlefield than a cultural arena framed by a proscenium arch. War zones today are defined as ‘theatres’ and the real action is supposed to be happening there: amongst the killing fields. Meanwhile our halls of artistic expression are mostly treated as useful distractions from the ‘real business’.

Its time to reverse this ill contrived distortion and to rewrite the script.

‘The script’ is a key part of any drama and provides the actor with his/her frame of reference, without which the action soon loses its way. So we who contribute to the blogosphere seek to establish contact with our audience via our scripts. Our hope is that those who engage with our words will also become Actors (‘those who take action’) and not merely ‘spectators’. We hope our words will be received as ‘calls to action’ not merely as some form of entertaining diversion.

If we are about trying to inspire a revolution, which we are, this becomes critical indeed.

In the theatre, the word ‘revolution’ may be used to describe the turning of a revolving stage, a device used to depict a scenic evolution of events. However, a revolution is more usually associated with an event which alters the socio-economic course of history; breaking the hold of the status quo; fomenting a new direction for all concerned.

For such a revolution to succeed on both the world stage and the theatre’s stage, a strong script and a perceptive director become a necessity. But from the outset, recognition must also be given to the abilities and skills of the actors. There must be the desire to share the creative task of bringing the drama to its full potential; not simply using the players as pawns in a process of achieving a desired result. Bringing the drama/revolution to its full potential is a shared creative task.

Writers, directors and actors therefore have clearly defined roles – but what about the audience?

In the traditional theatre, the audience witness the drama from a removed and largely passive position. We in the audience, are ‘absorbers’ of the action but are not participants in its outcome. Revolving the stage into the outside world, we see that this represents an exact mirror of the state of society. A large proportion of our society are essentially onlookers and, as in the theatre, we share the ‘frissons’ but do not deem it our place to become involved: to affect a shift in the standard pattern of events.

We talk excitedly, or gloomily, about the various scenes being played-out on the world stage. We react in horror when someone who we thought was a good guy turns out to be the bad guy. We berate those ‘in control’ for stealing our money and poisoning our food. We despise their myopic attempts to run the show, resulting as it does in so much self indulgence and outright destruction. We curse them for so brazenly exploiting our dumbness and passivity. In short, we put our own hypocrisy at centre stage. We, the audience, singularly fail to realise the part our passivity plays in the shape of the drama being played out on the world stage.

It is surely this, more than anything else, that provides the single greatest obstacle to change.

So long as ‘watchers’ fail to become ‘participants,’ no major shift in the status quo can take place.

Yet you are reading this on the pages of a site which seeks to bring about change, so can I assume that somewhere inside, you are yearning to take action . . . and if not, why not?

As the writer of the script, I need you to fill this role so as to give this writing meaning. Without your creative response to my creative input, these words will be as dead matter. Of course, if you deem this to be a poor script, a poor response is only to be expected.

However, if perhaps you are already an Actor (activist) you will know what I am talking about and you will know that unless the audience (the public) is somehow motivated to get beyond receiving your endeavours as simply ‘a nice performance’ your labours will fall on stony ground and the change being called for will not come about.

Thus the issue of ‘the audience’ finding a completely new role within the unfolding of the drama becomes of paramount importance in fomenting genuine change.

The traditional theatre, as we have noted, separates the auditorium from the stage – often with an orchestra pit in between. The seated spectator is given the role of an onlooker, while the actor has the role of action maker. Put another way: the audience are cast as ‘the many’ – who applaud ‘the few’ – who are presented on a raised platform and, in turn, bow to those who applaud them. The theatre, in this form, thus apes the social status quo with its man made divisions of ‘poverty’ and ‘privilege’, ‘people’ and ‘elite’, ‘obeisance’ and ‘arrogance’: the split society which still to this day holds humanity back from achieving some form of common forward dynamic.

So the necessity is to forge a new role for ‘the audience’ which changes this hopelessly static position and fosters instead, a two-way link to the action. A link in which the audience’s energy input interfaces with that of the performers in sharing the common goal of bringing the drama to its full realisation. ‘Full realisation’ could be described as that which produces a transforming effect on all present. In effect: realising a new dimension.

This breaks open the hypothesis that the best we can expect from all who tread the boards of the world stage is that some will achieve notoriety while the rest provide the applause . . . and the boos.

The touch paper for revolution is lit when a critical mass of ‘we the people’ are motivated to change our role from passive onlooker to active change maker.

Historically, the problem with revolution is that it usually only succeeds in eliciting a reversal of roles within the framework of the society in which it takes place: those on the bottom rise up, while those on the top sink down. But the division itself continues as before, just in a reversed order.

Revolving this scenario back into the theatre: the audience become the actors and the actors become the audience, but otherwise nothing is changed. The architecture of society and the theatre remains essentially confrontational. Thus the so called ‘revolution’ fails to bring about the profound change we are looking for; instead, it merely alters the pecking order.

Throughout much of the 1970s I worked with an experimental theatre company engaged in seeking to address this issue, by setting in motion a new phase in the evolution of the theatre, both humanly and architecturally. In this work, the writer, director and actor recognise that they are participating together in an attempt to re-engage and to re-frame their relationship with both the man-made and the natural environment, as well as with each other.

Architecturally, the focus point is the establishment of a new design in the spacial and height layout of the area occupied by the audience, bringing about new sight lines relative to the performance area. The objective: to evolve a non-passive, dynamic relativity between the observer and the action. Turning a slack energy interface into a dynamic one. Now the spectator is positioned so as to optimise his/her participatory involvement in the realisation of the performance: thus acquiring the attributes of ‘an actor’.*(see end)

The working climate of this innovative experimental theatre is exploratory: to give expression to the underlying vibratory pattern which drives, and is common to, poetry, movement, music and the spoken word. Its an exploration which is open to all ages, having the effect of stimulating and awaking untapped human resources and re-engaging the innate connectivity between areas which are typically treated as separate disciplines. A holistic process.

In this, it follows parralel discoveries made in the field of Quantum physics during the 1950s and 60s. In Quantum theory, even the minutest subatomic particles, upon inpection under a powerful microscope, are found to be in a constant state of flux. Their appearance changing between a spec, a wave and what Quantum physicist Neils Bohr once called ‘a dance’. As in Harvey Grossmann’s new theatre,* the subjective relationship between the ‘viewer’ and what is ‘viewed’ also turns out to be critical, affecting both the dynamic and the shape of the process of change taking place at both ends of the spectrum.

During the course of this experimental theatre work it became possible to discern ways of channeling creative energies into the active pursuit of an awakened, revitalised and redirected aspiration to challenge all that stands behind the deeply destructive materialistic idealogies that dominate our planet today . This suggests the great value that could be gained from bringing into much closer proximity ‘activists’ and ‘artists’ in pursuit of fomenting the much needed revolution alluded to earlier. Artists and activists are probably misleading delineations anyway, since the aspirations of each have much commonality. Nevertheless, thousands of performing artists contribute next to nothing towards efforts to prevent the auctioning off of our planet by the purveyors of darkness. Instead, they allow themselves to become beneficiaries of the stolen assets which keep the cabal in business.

Yet there are millions who still feel drawn to live performances of the dramatic arts, so this is clearly a highly appropriate medium in which to be introduced to a new way of engaging in an active process of change. Especially if its one which can radically alter the perception and reality of how we live our lives; lifting us out of the ‘passive audience’ scenario and into the ‘active change maker’ role.

Almost daily, we hear a new story about the horrors being enacted by those who manipulate the levers of the top-down control system and their seeming determination to inflict untold damage to our lives and to our planet. Yet, even as these horrors are enacted, millions of new children are born onto our planet and millions of young people are passing through their adolescent lives in the hope of finding some creative outlet for their youthful energies. The fact that this hope is stymied again and again by a tunnel vision, money-obsessed status quo, means that most will never find their way into avenues that could channel their positive energies into helping to bring about a process of deep creative change.

It is a conspiratorially corrupted system which has changed ‘education’ (latin: ‘e-ducare’ ‘to lead out from’) from a potentially exciting process of discovery, into an exam factory designed to fulfil the demands of a terminally sick consumer society.

Exposing the control system’s desperate attempts to keep the lid on human potentialfor creative change makes big demands on all of us so engaged. The need is to counterbalance this work with a process that leads to a deepening of our lives and an expansion of our vision of what ingredients to pour into the mould of the new society which it is our prerogative to bring to birth.

We can only gain insight into what to do about the multiple problems thrown up by a civilisation moving into the advanced phases of collapse, by drawing ever deeper upon our God-given artistic/creative abilities: here lies a fountain of life whose capacity for positive change is infinite.

By reviving the role of the creative arts as a key tool for activism, we can catalyse that largely pacified divine energy flow and pour it into the task of ousting the life paralysing regime that occupies the seats of power, putting in its place something of infinitely greater worth.

Deep down we are all ‘artists’. In the newborn child is contained the seed of all potential. Its just that (for most) at some point in the evolution from young child to grown adult, the vital spark is downgraded and its potency neutered. The genius in humanity is subverted into conformity with the banal: the sub-human level that underscores today’s status quo.

Yet deep down in all of us, the child genius remains present and the open canvas of innocence with which childhood is associated, retains its potential. This lifeline is always present, however dimmed, even if we fail to recognise it. It is the child in us which expresses the instinctive, spontaneous desire to participate in the drama of life. In this, the child is the original Actor. Why should this instinct be cut off? Is it not our lot to give expression to the genius we inherited?

Only by breaking through the cult of passivity can ‘we the people’ shift the momentum of society away from its present fatal trajectory into full alignment with the life affirming forces that are the Divine’s great gift to humanity.

* This new approach to the realisation of the art of the theatre is the life work of theatre director Harvey Grossmann and poet Ruth Mandel: The Institute for Theatre Research, Antwerp, Belgium.


Julian is a British pioneer organic farmer, writer and activist. He is currently president of the ‘International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside’ which is leading the fight against GMO in Poland. He is author of “Changing Course for Life – Local Solutions to Global Problems”

Read other articles by Julian Rose here.

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