The Fourth Wall

Submitted by You in Guelph on March 14, 2013 - 8:23am
Relfections on the Do So Much Conference

With endless volunteer and community engagement opportunities, why is citizen involvement so low? What is preventing people from becoming involved in the events and decisions of their community? I had the opportunity to hear activist Dave Meslin speak at Guelph’s Do So Much Weekend and he brought up some interesting points regarding this topic.

“The Fourth Wall” is a theatre term used to describe the imaginary barrier that separates the audience from the cast of a production. This barrier is also present in our individual lives and our community, as observed in lack of citizen participation. Take a moment and consider what is holding you back from being more engaged. It might be fear, lack of motivation, or laziness. Everyone has a unique Fourth Wall.

In theatre, the Fourth Wall is broken when the cast speaks to the audience, or the audience interacts with the cast. The same goes for us. In spite of the barriers separating us from involvement, the fact of the matter is, if we want our voices to be heard as citizens, we need to speak up. Many of us have been spectators in the sport of local politics, watching decisions being made that will affect us, but having little input. I would like to encourage everyone to be vocal about the things that matter to you! We need to stop building Fourth Walls and Fifth Walls and Sixth Walls that keep us separate from our community, and begin to tear down these barriers, even if it means feeling uncomfortable.

Citizens of Guelph, this is a call to you. If we work together, collectively, as one voice, we can build the city that we want to live in. There are endless opportunities to have your voice heard and to become involved! Do not underestimate your ability to create positive change and have an impact in your community.

What if?...

Thanks for this post. This is a really interesting topic to dicuss.

As I consider walls for myself or for others, there are some complex issues that make "bringing down the walls" really challenging. The first- busyness.

I am a person who has always struggled with being too busy. But, I feel like I am getting better at living more a balanced life- where I can pursue my passions (which would fall within work and outside of work). The reality is- our economy is shot. In the next few years, we will start to see the repercussions more and more. Thirty to forty years ago, a family could live comfortably on one income. Now, you need two incomes to get by. People are working more and more and as a result, have less time and enery to invest elsewhere.

We so often see work as seperate from pursuing our passions... but, what if we changed our attitudes and really invested in our work places, and/or co-workers? This could be a place of discussing politics at lunch or building deepened relationships with those we work with.

Another barrier is that sometimes it feels like there are too many options... and it's overwhelming! Too many charities, too many places to volunteer... how does one choose? Where do they start?

What if we started where we are at: where we live, where we work-out, where we get our hair cut, the buses we take.... If we began to build relationships and approach each situation trying to brighten someone else's day?

In summary-- I don't think we need to take on more- we might need to change our attitudes and intentions where we are at now.