It seems to be the place where i’m getting the bulk of my intellectual discussion lately, although it’s not always ideal. 140ch, even carried over a few tweets can get really confusing when you’re trying to debate someone or actually discuss things. It’s some kind of glitchy forum . However, it’s still the medium of choice for me for some serious brain food.Somehow I came to follow David McQueen. He’s an amazing man – involved in youth education, business mentoring and empowering people to really do what they do and be amazing. From what I can tell from his twitter output, he’s involved in a range of really interesting, worthwhile and actually helpful ventures, mostly talking to people and encrouaging them. And his #SundayReads are always impressive and provocative.
He’s also a tall, black man with 2 daughters, a gorgeous wife he’s been married to for 18 years and incredibly invested in seeing change around education, agency, race and principled people. I know this because, with measure, he didn’t deny his personal effect within his professional adventures.
That’s probably how he ended up in my timeline (I follow some pretty rad people, you know).
For example, he didn’t pretend that it didn’t effect him when Travyon Martin’s killer was acquitted, he didn’t pretend that the media blow-out wasn’t influential during the Woolwich murder of a (white) British soldier and the ensuing EDL can-can, and he posted an opinion which I respected about Mos Def’s intense video undergoing the Guantanamo Bay force-feeding regime (which I personally related to and valued the discussion, having done an artwork about the audio torture on those same detainees).
This was the scope of a professional life of a man living in London, with the connected joy and connected prejudice.
Anyway, about a month ago, David announced that he was going to set up a separate twitter account for his more-personal musings, rantings, humour and introspections. And keep his David McQueen account for professional discussion.
And it’s probably the right decision.
Because his clients don’t necessarily want to acknowledge that issues of race, poverty, education, homophobia, religious extremism, media sluttery (my words, not his) influence the business of running businesses or educating young people.
But I continue to nag on him for it.
Because – to my mind – culture and privilege and media and bigotry do effect the world of business owners. I like hearing that a successful, powerful man invested in education, with great results, is affected by these things, but continues to educate children, empower people with businesses and talk to people daily about how to overcome obstacles in achieving what they desire: regardless, because, despite and in spite of.
They’re real things that happen.
And for me, it enacts the business of doing what you need to do in order to contribute to the world, without pretending that you’re not in that world.
So what is the political balance between personal and professional?
I retch at the industrialist idea of a person solely being a unit of labour, a denial of the social or personal effects on their work and vice versa.
I do believe they’re interwoven – with the best and worst aspects of those effects (see under Roman Polanski, Catholic Priests, etc)
I have to acknowledge that I have a privileged position in this. I was raised by women who kept reminding me that the personal is political. I’m also white, middle-class and really don’t struggle (except financially).
When I go on about something, I’m not expected to be speaking for all of ‘my people’ and if it affects my professional capacity, it’s unlikely I would have wanted to work with those people anyway.
And even if I did – as an artist, writer and creative business owner, it’s also kind of expected that I might be outspoken.It reminded me about the criticisms of Barack Obama during the Zimmerman acquittal (and other recent changes to American life that were influenced by race). He was criticised for denying his race. For acting as though he was separate from it when calling for calm or whatever. For separating his personal priciples from that of the Head of State. The suggestion was that to deny that the political was also personal, was, to some people, also a crime against other persons.
But is this unfair pressure on someone to be 100% accountable all the time, whilst I am as C-grade as it comes on the same scale? And if so, whose responsibility is it? How do artists marry the similar fine line between professional practice and their capacity to challenge authority.
Does this not just set up a sliding scale (and/or slippery slope) of behaviour in a public life heirarchy – a disconnection between what you do and how you feel?
Or do we just need to accept that this is the nature of contemporary times and multiple egos, where we have the need and skill to distance ourselves from others in a variety of ways and that there’s nothing actually wrong with that.