Indoor Public Space

is what we make of it.

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Hobbies let us connect publicly if politics must be kept private


I am currently reading Bonds of Civility by Eiko Ikegami.  It is fascinating.  But one claim is particularly timely right now.

In Pre-modern Japan, under the shogunate, political associations were forbidden.  But this was a market economy, leisure and cultural consumption were on the rise and very profitable.  Japanese people at this time connected with each other around poetry, tea ceremony, ikebana (flower arranging), and many other cultural pursuits.  The shogunate allowed this — because entertainment was considered a private concern.  Poets were able to travel across Japan by staying with people they met through these cultural networks.  She compares this with the ‘public sphere’ that Habermas identified as an important factor in the formation of modern democracy.  Importantly, journals from participants in these networks show that while these networks were outwardly and publicly about entertainment, their internal spaces allowed people from different classes and social backgrounds to enjoy these hobbies AND ALSO TALK ABOUT POLITICS.

Freedom of speech is still mostly a reality in America and, for now, people should continue to use social networks to organize politically in explicit and public formations.  However, just in case things get worse, or if you are already concerned about the police tracking activists through social media (which certainly does happen), consider organizing hobby networks with activist and progressive friends which will allow you to use social networks for planning spaces that are publicly cultural, but privately political.  Dinner parties.  Book clubs.  Poker groups.  And while you’re at it.  Make those dinners and read those books and play those board games because we could all use some self-care on the side.