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Owen Jones And Kate Tempest: Wake Up And Love More

12/12/2016 11:39

"too concerned with their own thoughts to think about the weather
But we see clouds like furious ink
Thick liquid sinks and whips the wind
Pitch shifted rumble screams from a swollen grin
There's a big storm rolling in"
- Brews, Kate Tempest

At a panel discussion last week, political journalist Owen Jones compared today's sense of resignation at the world's injustice to Britain's acceptance of the weather: it is outside our control.

Jones spoke as part of a panel on the future of social justice at the University of Bristol, an event by Bristol's Festival of Ideas. This was three nights before spoken word artist Kate Tempest performed her new album Let Them Eat Chaos to a sold out crowd at the O2 Academy.

Tempest's album drops us in on a group of strangers united by being awake at 4.18am, just as the sky splits open and a furious storm breaks out. Let Them Eat Chaos is at once an aching rage at the world and a measured consideration of the human psyche. Tempest's command of language is delicate whilst her fury, underscored by Dan Carey's music, rips the world's wrongs apart.

Though Jones and Tempest's professions are contrasting, they both ignited burning hearts and minds in Bristol this week, calling for a kind of revolution. Jones spoke alongside Melissa Benn, Danny Dorling and Kayleigh Garthwaite who in turn talked about the damage being done to our education system, the housing crisis and food banks. Spitting devastating facts and stories, the panel tried to find a glimmer of hope in the darkness of our time. But it was Jones, by far the most considered orator of the group, who gave real examples of ways we can be active in our anger. He and Tempest both spoke of the value of kindness in this age of outrage.

"you're more than the three or four you go to war for
You're part of a people that need your support"
- Don't Fall In, Kate Tempest

It is easy, this year more than ever, to sit back and look on hopelessly as the headlines continue to roll in, where it is surprising if breaking news notifications are anything less than devastating. At 4.18am, when the world feels like it will never wake up, isolation and resignation are like a gulping black hole. It is easy to think there is nothing we can do and be sucked into the empathy fatigue of our time.

"When we gonna see that life is happening?
And that every single body bleeding on its knees is an abomination"
- Tunnel Vision, Kate Tempest

Ordinary people like us- the ones without the political power- can't stop what's happening in Aleppo, or Aden, or Mosul. We can't get rid of Assad or Putin or Trump. We can't save Samia Omar, Aya Krenbe or Aylan Kurdi. We can't shut down ISIS, halt the rising of the alt-right or stop all gun crime. Jones says that there is an illusion of every age that now is the way it will always be, but that history continuously proves that wrong. We can still make a difference on a smaller scale, and the value of that should not be dismissed simply because we can't solve the enormous Rubick's Cube of the world's issues.

"Top down violence, a structural viciousness
Your kids are dosed up on medical sedatives
But don't worry bout that, man, worry 'bout terrorists"
- Europe Is Lost, Kate Tempest

We can buy a homeless person dinner, or volunteer at a shelter, or stop for a chat as everyone else speeds on past. We can go into politics, we can stand up to discrimination and we can teach our children that eventually good will triumph. We can write to our local MPs, we can volunteer at a food bank, or we can go out to a refugee camp. We can look people in the eye in shops to make them feel valued, we can ask people how they are and actually listen for the answer and we can be kind to those struggling at the loneliest time of year. In her rage at the world, Tempest calls for us to "wake up and love more."

There has been a lot of talk of echo chambers recently. Both Jones and Tempest argue the need to get out of this cycle of searching for confirmation bias then being surprised when people disagree. Jones asserts that Labour have a responsibility to be inclusive and to have a vision that resonates beyond the bubble. Tempest insists we need to expand our tunnel vision.

"In the future they will ask us what we did in this time," Jones declares. Both speakers have shown that it is our responsibility to make sure we have a good answer.

Tempest is emotional at the end of her set. It is as if she is saying the words for the last time. The weight they carry slumps her head down, her shoulders down, her body down past her knees. She uses the push of the crowd to stand up straight again, determination radiating out of her and flying from her mouth like electricity. Urging for change, her performance truly stands as testament for the value of the arts, and the power performance can have.

"What we gonna do to wake up?" -Tunnel Vision, Kate Tempest.

Jones said we see the world's injustices as uncontrollable as the weather, but perhaps we need to look at it differently. Perhaps we need to see the thunder and the lightning, and the sky breaking open at 4.18am as a call to arms. Yes, the rain may be uncontrollable, but we can still hand someone an umbrella to help weather the storm.

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