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#42 Matthew Carey — Talking About Listening

My guest on this episode is you. It’s just you and me today

I didn't feel right releasing an episode today that didn't acknowledge the pain and frustration many of us feel as we try to come to terms with the racism and division that keeps showing up in our culture. Here's how I'm trying to process what's going on and how I might respond.

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Links and show notes from this episode:
The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh


Hi, and welcome to Studio Time. I'm Matthew Carey, and this is a podcast about the big and small ways in which artists can change the world.

My guest on this episode is you. It’s just you and me today.

I hope that you're staying healthy in body and spirit at this time. I know that some listeners are in places where the pandemic restrictions are easing, while others are in cities that are not out of the woods just yet.

I didn't feel right releasing an episode today that didn't acknowledge the pain and frustration many of us feel as we try to come to terms with the racism and division that keeps showing up in our culture.

I believe that we can all do our part to help people understand and connect with each other. Even if it's through one person at a time, we can grab hold of the unraveling threads of our culture and weave them into a new, more resilient fabric.

To do that, we need to show up as leaders. In our households, in our social groups, in our classrooms and workplaces. We need to own our own voice within our communities - be they offline or online. There are people who follow us whether we acknowledge them or not, so it's worth being intentional about which direction we're taking them.

As people who believe in creativity, we know that there isn't just one right way to do things. We are all about finding new ways to express ourselves, to connect with one another and to put old ideas together and make something new.

Current events highlight that many of us are feeling insecure about our future. Things we took for granted about our work changed overnight. Things that we took for granted about the health and wellbeing of ourselves and loved ones were threatened. Many have had their way of life upturned over the past few months and it's left us shaken.

I saw the Covid tsunami approaching for a few weeks before the show I was working on shut down. We finished work on a Sunday night not knowing that it would be the last theatre performance any of us would be doing for who knows how long. I was faced with a situation that I could have planned much better for if I hadn't just assumed that things would always be good for me, because they always have been.

I'd been on tour for 4 years and when the show shut down I didn't actually have a place of my own to return to. But I have a wonderful and loving family who made sure I had somewhere to go. There was also something of a social economic safety net for people like me who found their world turned upside down overnight. I've always had that confidence. I've never had to worry about not having a roof over my head or having enough to eat. Even on my worst days I happened to be born into a system that always looks out for people like me.

I've never been a minority. I've never been persecuted. I haven't spent my lifetime feeling the oppressive weight of society keeping me pushed down. Me being proud of who I am has never threatened someone so much that they felt the need to put me in my place. I've never experienced the fear that my neck was getting perilously close to the ground.

That's what I see right now. People I love and care about are tired and fed up. Tired of having to do more and be more, just in order to get the basic respect others are given as a birthright. Fed up with seeing their brothers and sisters dying needlessly. While people who look like me have a safety net, the net that's being held out to others looks very different right now. The systems that are supposedly designed to protect people are killing them.

White men go to war to protect their rights and their entitlements. Time and time again, persons of colour have shown up to put their lives on the line and go to battle on behalf of white leaders. It's time for us to get organised and fight for the rights of everyone in our culture.

It's not new. When straight white men raise their voices they justify it as speaking their minds and exercising their right to free speech. When anybody else speaks out - I'm thinking of the current protests and the women's marches - they are characterised as public nuisances and disturbing the supposed peace. Who's peace are we insisting on protecting, and why?

I'm very conscious that when I speak up I risk contributing more to the problem than the solution. But I can use my voice and putting these thoughts together challenges me to clarify my own position much more than reposting the words and images of others.

I've been motivated here on Studio Time to make sure this is a platform for a diverse range of voices. I learn so much from the conversations I have with guests on the show and I'm pleased to do my part in sharing their voices with you and the world.

I'm not a particularly political person, but one thing I've discovered is that listening to someone in order to understand them brings you closer together. You feel closer because you see what you share in common and what makes them tick, and it makes them feel closer because they feel heard.

I like to think I'm not a particularly disagreeable person, but I've had my share of disagreements and I've learned that talking louder than the other person doesn't settle an argument. Nothing is going to be truly resolved until all parties feel heard. That requires listening, not talking.

People are protesting right now because they feel like they've exhausted all their ways to be heard using their inside voice. They're using their outside voices right now because they need to be heard (and paid attention). As law enforcement, government, friends and allies we don't want to speak over those who want to be heard. We want to listen to hear and to understand. Then we want to amplify those voices - finding ways to actually make them louder, and by adding our voice to theirs. Singing their melody. Adding harmony. I know you know how to do that.

Jen Waldman inspired me to embrace what I can learn from diversity and recommended a book called "The Person You Mean to Be" by Dolly Chugh. Dolly wrote this book for people like me - who want to be good in the way we approach our fellow humans, but sometimes mess up. She wrote it for you, too. explained it like this:

Many of us believe in equality, diversity, and inclusion. But how do we stand up for those values in our turbulent world? The Person You Mean to Be is the smart, "semi-bold" person’s guide to fighting for what you believe in.

I read it in February and it contained moment upon moment of realisation for me. I feel changed by it, but I didn't take time to create notes or a plan for how I wanted to implement what I'd learned. So I'm going to re-read the book this week and share what I learn in The Infinite Creative newsletter. If you'd like to join me in reading or re-reading - bookclub style - email me and we'll make it happen.

Now I'm going to go back to listening, and I invite you to do the same. If you want somewhere to start you could browse back through the 41 previous episodes of Studio Time. I'm proud of the diverse range of voices that have already appeared and I'm always open to recommendations from listeners of voices that you'd like to hear featured on the podcast. The podcast isn't just a conversation between the guests and I. I've always thought of this podcast as a conversation that includes you, the audience, too. I'd love you to share you voice, by typing or even recording a voice memo on your phone and emailing it to me.

Until next time, I wish you the best of health, hope and understanding. Go out and connect, lead and create. As always - thanks for listening.