‘Social Actions to Control Addiction: Reviving Community Art’ by Bruce Alexander

rsz_slum_151210_fct951x585x28_t460In my humble opinion, one of the great thinkers in the addiction field is Bruce Alexander. In his excellent book, The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit, Bruce talks about addiction arising from people becoming disconnected (or dislocated) from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times.

In the closing chapter of his book, Bruce describes some social actions to control addiction. What he describes are social actions that will NOT necessarily reduce addiction directly, but will help counter some of the adverse effects of our free market society and globalisation, factors that are leading to marked increases in addiction of all kinds.

In this blog, I’ll look at one of these suggested actions – Reviving Community Art – quoting directly from Bruce’s book:

‘The arts are more than just entertainment. They also provide part of the imagery that holds communities together, contributing to people’s sense of identity and shared meaning. 

Artists from local communities played a major role in psychosocial integration before their function was largely usurped by mass-produced entertainment, with its glossy professionalism, instant availability,  and its eerie capacity to create the illusion of local reality – people often discuss media personalities as if they were neighbours.

Like the news media, mass-produced entertainment is richly subsidised by commercial advertisers. Community art struggles to compete with those high-budget production standards.

If dislocation is to be brought under control, community art must assume its central function again, enriching people’s awareness of their real neighbours and their own local issues.

At the beginning of the 21st century, successful community art projects are being launched in many parts of the world with this aim in mind. Local granting agencies provide funds to support these ventures and local people participate enthusiastically.

Community art if not art therapy. It is art integrated with community interests and concerns, leading to productions and events that celebrate, commemorate and educate.

Unlike art therapy, it does not put people into the roles of providers and consumers of psychotherapy, but into the role of community members who nourish important ideas and social connections through the medium of each other’s creativity.

Thank you Bruce for highlighting this issue. You’ve left me inspired!

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