Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A New Dionysia? Could a Play Contest Transform Cultures?

Many inner city cultures continue to be shame cultures. We see this in the demand that one be "respected" whether or not one has in fact acted in a respectable manner. The problems with having a large shame subculture in a more complex culture involve such things as discounting education and a kind of rebelliousness that leads to criminality. This is less of a problem if one enters into the shame culture as a young teenager and exist it in one's later teens than if one never exits the shame culture at all.

Of course, one cannot force others to emerge into a more complex psychosocial level. But that doesn't mean that there cannot be institutions which can move things along.

The Great Dionysia of Athens might act as a model for such an institution. This play competition was a product of the Greek shame culture, and was also at the same time an institution of the transition from the shame culture into the guilt culture. A new Great Dionysia as a model for an inner city community project would make use of the positive aspects of the kinds of psychologies that create the shame culture, while hopefully moving people out of shame and into guilt as a social regulator.

One of the main features of the Great Dionysia was that it was a competition. This taps into the competitive aspect of this psychological level. A New Dionysia would thus have to be set up as a set of competitions wherein the audience votes and prizes are given.

We could even set the festival up as the Great Dionysia was set up. There could be a day of songs and poetry -- sort of a combination of poetry-slam, singing and rap contest. Then there could be a day (or two or three) of serious plays, with the hope that shame-to-guilt culture tragedies would be written. Finally, there would be a day of comedies in which local leaders were made fun of by the plays (similar to Aristophanes' plays). This would allow for a combination of artistic expression and cultural/political criticism that was typical of the Great Dionysia and which helped drive cultural evolution in Athens.

The New Dionysia would also need to be set up financially in a similar way as the Great Dionysia. The entire thing could be funded by various nonprofits, but it is also important that there be patrons of the artists themselves. There would need to be a selection process to select the slate of plays, songs, raps, and poems, and it would have to be early enough in the year that the playwrights could get the actors they needed and have time to practice. This could end up being a community project, with many people involved in creating sets and costumes. It could thus make our inner city communities more like communities, which would only benefit those communities, since a community of people who see themselves as a community don't put up with crime, etc.

Now, all we need are New Dionysias to pop up around the country in our cities. Who wants to get started?
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