Democratic dialogue in times of war
pic by @kativagloria
In the presentation at the Uferstudios in August 2023, we had the privilege of experiencing the Forum Theatre production, NEIGHBOURS with a new cast for three day on a row. Under the skilled direction of Bárbara Santos and Till Baumann, NEIGHBOURS delivers a message: dialogue and organization are essential tools to combat the rising tide of fascism
NEIGHBOURS takes its audience on a journey through the complexities of contemporary society. It weaves a narrative that explores individualism, fear, and social isolation, ultimately leading the characters to overcome these barriers. As they engage in a choreography of encounters, agreements, and disagreements, the audience witnesses the discovery of affinities, diversities, and differences within the community.
The heart of NEIGHBOURS lies in its stark portrayal of the dangers over democracy. The play paints a picture of an orchestrated invasion of propaganda, fake news, and manipulations, which threaten to polarize the characters and create authoritarian dynamics. This disturbing portrayal serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of democratic dialogue in the face of these pervasive threats.
NEIGHBOURS is a metaphorical exploration and a question to the audience about how to protect democracy against visible and invisible invasions. The performance engages the audience in profound reflection through a collective search for strategies to change the presented situation. Strategies that we can be replayed in daily life, outside the theatre.
The audience tried out interventions that served as reminders of the importance of collective action. They underscored the critical role that civil society plays in shaping the destiny. The characters’ struggles resonated with the audience, emphasizing the urgency of addressing inequality as a means to confront the looming threat of fascism.
A noteworthy aspect of these interventions was their timing. Many occurred before the arrival of the “plastic wave,” a symbol of external forces attempting to manipulate and disrupt the community. This timing conveyed a profound message about the proactive nature of civil organization. By taking action and addressing underlying inequalities before they escalate, societies can build resilience against the forces that seek to undermine democracy.
Moreover, the practice of dialogue emerged as a fundamental instrument. It was showcased as an essential means for building understanding, forging connections, and finding common ground. Dialogue became the antidote to the divisive tactics of the “plastic wave” but, how to create space for the dialogue?
As the performance concluded, the strategies of the audience left us with more inspiration and questions about democracy:
- How to Educate Into Democracy: how we can educate individuals about the values and principles of democracy. It underscored the importance of instilling a sense of civic responsibility and a commitment to democratic ideals from an early age.
- Setting Horizontal Practices: the interventions encouraged us to explore ways to establish horizontal practices within our communities and institutions. It pushed us to consider how we can create spaces for equal participation, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued.
In summary, NEIGHBOURS is a provoking performance that not only entertained but also challenged us to reflect on our roles in defending democracy. The interventions, timed to perfection, emphasized the need for civil organization, the transformation of structural inequalities, and the practice of open dialogue as essential tools in our ongoing battle against fascism. These reflections and questions will undoubtedly continue to resonate with us as we navigate the complexities of safeguarding democracy in our ever-changing world.