“Spread Love, it’s the Brooklyn way”, Fort Greene, February, 2018

A year ago, last August, I read a piece in the Guardian discussing “The Politics of Love” as a platform for governance and I suppose, cultural and political reform.

The authors I discovered were New Zealanders, so I reached out to one:  Philip McKibbin expressing my interest to possibly collaborate on an art project. 

Over a coffee, we traded our understanding of what the Politics of Love meant to each of us. How it could embody policy, and direct decision making.

Both of us were aware of the possible criticism such an idea would pose to some critics. In this emergingly harsh political and cultural landscape, the idea of “love as policy” felt out of place. Fringe.

A year later, living in New York, and after sitting with the idea for this time, I have begun to form some ideas. This time can be characterised as a “War of Ideology”…

- Right vs. Left

- White Supremacy vs. People of Color

- Economic Nationalism vs. Democratic Socialism

- Open Borders vs. The Wall

….and so on…these are all ideas…philosophies…

I don’t think anyone thought that the power of ideas could motivate as we see it in practice today. Beliefs are more important apparently, than loving your neighbour. 

“More Love”, Soho, summer 2018

These days the world has focused it’s anger and hate. Extremism swirls, like clouds forming storms, all over the world. And at times it feels hopeless.

As I walk around New York, I have noticed that the principles of love are not taken for granted. Despite the reputation this city has gained over the years: of being inhospitable, dangerous and abrasive, my experience has been the opposite. People are always surprised when I say this is the most polite, most well mannered, most human of cities.

Sure this is a city that demands everything from you at every level. Just getting your groceries, or navigating the commute, can feel like a mini war of logistics and one you only win with every drop of energy and determination you can find. And yes: there are abrasive people. But less than you think. Most don’t mean it: they are just having a bad day.

Because of the shared challenges, most people recognize that you can only survive, with the generosity of your neighbours, the help of your friends, and spontaneity from strangers.

Like signposts, and public advisories, you will also see statements almost everywhere (if you look) demanding our best. To love. To love thy neighbour. To be kind. 

Even the subway has statements embedded in its tile work reminding you that humanity is what makes this city.

“Man Kind”, L Train subway, summer, 2018

It’s not just words. I frequently see acts of generosity and charity and physical support. I see very old women giving away cold drink to workers in the hot sun, waiting to be picked up by construction crews. I can’t count how many times I have seen people help others with heavy bags and trolleys down stairs in the subway, or how often someone has given me a hand to carry things up several flights of stairs. I remember when it was late at night, it was snowing, and a guy was pulling his heavy food cart down the road. It seemed like the most natural thing to walk up and wordlessly help him push it along. This is more than Karma. It is a way of life. 

I was thinking about the polarity between Liberals and Conservatives in America, and how there is no apparent middle ground. We seem to have forgotten that we cannot be all one, or all another. The human condition needs both boundaries and freedom. We need conservative principles as much as we need liberal ones. We are a sum of all parts.

“Free Apples”, East Williamsburg, summer, 2018

In recent months we have had to endure an eviscerating news cycle.  After the Kavanagh hearings, and final confirmation I could feel a collective depression fall on anyone who did not agree with his nomination. It was as if these people had run a marathon, and lost, and they had nothing left.

Is there hope? My feeling is that we are at the beginning of a conservative, partisan cycle that will last a decade. Much like the conservative Bush era set the tone around the world in it’s time. So…we should settle in. Confront this new truth. 

“Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind”, Williamsburg, summer, 2018

New York is widely recognized as the world’s greatest melting pot. And in it’s way it is a perfect example of how humanity can progress. We are all intricate, imperfect, people. And somehow we find a way to coexist peacefully. Sure, we yell, and honk our horns, and loose our temper from time to time…but we are also kind, and generous, and loving. And we mean no harm. 

I fear we have to go forward in this atmosphere of hate a few more years, before we collectively realize that it will destroy our innate humanity. 

My hope is that over time The Politics of Love will be recognized as vital. Where every decision is weighed based on whether it helps, or harms. Where policy is inclusive and acknowledges the unarguable diversity of life.

A personal hero of mine is Christopher Hitchens, widely considered to be one of the greatest minds of our time. He is a famous atheist, but also a proponent of “The Golden Rule”, most well known as the principle of “do unto others, as you would have them do to you.” He removes the noise of religion’s dogma and perversions, and demonstrates that man still needs a belief structure, but one that is based in humanist philosophy, and not worshiping a man in the clouds. It is very pragmatic, if nothing else, and I think simplifies the concept of the Politics of Love to it’s most fundamental principle.

“Resist”, Bronx, three days after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic congressional nomination in NY, covering Queens and The Bronx. 29 June, 2018

© Adam Custins, 2017