Matt Atkinson, 33, Southampton, England is a poet and marketing director which he finds gives him the creative outlet that he desires. Matt lives according to his personal ideals; he explains:
“I like to stay very calm and make a conscious effort to follow what I believe is a positive existence. This means not giving in to material tendencies, not lying, being supportive, respectful and listening, things that many people seem to think are not necessary. I also meditate and try to maintain a good level of clarity. I also don’t eat meat.”
Matt finds his main motivation to be striving to improve the quality of life of people as a whole and believes this to be his driving force in creating. While also being interested in acting, singing, playing piano and public speaking Matt predominantly shares his poetry with the public. We are very happy to feature Matt’s submission and interview:
We Were Told Many Things
When we were young we were told many things,
like who won the fights and the power of the gun.
Which things are bad to think
and which things are good.
The clothes that we are handed give us identity and
we are grouped with others that share our tastes
Of course we can change our clothes but then we would be altered,
a different person in a sea of similarity.
More and more are taking off their clothes,
standing next to each other arm in arm.
Black, white, male, female, Jewish, Muslim, Christian… human.
The key to our success lies in this truth.
Every person is unique yet we share our humanity.
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
I find the state of the world to be a very upsetting and unfair in many ways. Things don’t seem to be getting better and so my poetry tackles some of the more difficult issues that we face.
What is your process when creating?
Often I don’t set out to deal with a specific subject. I find inspiration in many different places. From my everyday life to philosophical concepts and existential considerations. I simply have an idea which I feel that needs to be aired and over periods of days and weeks I contemplate the thought until it can be written down.
Who inspires you in general?
The Dalai Lama has always been a source of inspiration for me. His attitude to life and overcoming its difficulties. I once went to a Buddhist retreat and lived in silence for a period of time. the monk that I met there was very wise on and he taught me a lot about how you should be. I’ve also been influenced by my father. He was always a gentleman and taught me to respect all people but also not be a fool.
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
I believe that all people deserve the opportunity to live a fruitful existence however this may transpire. As you will read in my poetry, it is clear that I believe that this is the main focus of my existence; to give people the confidence to express themselves and to know that things are ok. I also currently work with the Hampshire Wildlife Trust and help them with their websites.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
To me, ‘art saves lives’ and ‘art creates change’ are truths. If someone is given the opportunity to express themselves and to communicate whatever it is they are thinking about at that time it may give them an outlet. It’s something that more people need to realise, everyone can create.
I think that some people are put off, perhaps at school when they’re told that their creation is not good enough or people just don’t have the confidence. Some people don’t have the clarity to create a representation of their inner dialogue.
I think it’s key here again to think about the idea of giving people a fruitful existence. For people to consider themselves and the world through art is a great outlet. Paulo Coelho talks about vitriol, he says that it is something that is created when a person experiences something which is less than what they were hoping for. This feeling of disappointment can eat away at you and show itself in unforeseen ways, such as anger, depression, hatred etc. When people can express their feelings whether they are happy or sad it helps for them to communicate and share their problems with others. That helps deal with issues and improve their mental well-being, a positive experience for nearly all I would say.
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in any way and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?
If you consider the damaging effect of vitriol on people’s mental well-being and you consider the ability of the creative arts to reduce the vitriol within an individual then it is not too strong to say that art has not saved my life in some way. I may be in a very different situation if I was not able to express myself.
It’s easy for me to lose myself in music and thoughts. With regards to my poetry I feel that I only write about things that are there to help the world, to help people to understand how to live better lives, more in tune with themselves and those around them. Sometimes people just need to hear something different, something more positive in order to change their lives.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
I have no present or future goals for my art. I have present and future goals for my capitalist work. I like to separate the two so that I put no pressure on myself to create and thus ensure that the creation is pure and not affected by the demands of money or time.
In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Why (not)?
Is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Clearly not. Capitalism relies on continued growth, growth which is unsustainable in a finite world. Capitalism helps to keep competition healthy and to mop up areas of inefficiency which is does very well.
Capitalism helps those running the system in many ways. Through the use of things like money creation and inflation it ensures that people in general have to work to survive.
Capitalism as a whole is a disaster. I suppose you want me to say what is a better system a very hard question. I have thought long and hard about this and for me there are some large changes that have to be made in the basic philosophies of the system. the things that make it tick. The system is currently based around the strongest winning and actually needs to focus on the well-being of the masses.
What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?
As I said before, capitalism mops up areas of inefficiency. Where there is money to be made you will find people and where there is no money to be made you will not. Capitalism does not care about you or me and often an individual’s ability to thrive is based around the sovereign government that they live under. If that government doesn’t care for them and is ineffectual in their business dealings on a global scale then there is a high chance that the individual will not succeed in terms of wealth or opportunities. That being said there may still be opportunities. Often these will require an individual to make sacrifices and there is a higher chance within poorer families for individuals to have issues like poor education etc.
If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete? For example, to people with physical or mental disabilities?
As I said often an individual’s ability to succeed is governed by the government’s ability to compete on the world stage. If the government has money and is keen to look after its citizens then an individual may succeed even if they have physical or mental disabilities. On the other hand If an individual is a citizen of a poor country, the chances of them being able to have a happy life in terms of their opportunities and wealth are likely to be very, very low.
What are your views or suggestions on an alternative economic system?
I believe a potential replacement system would have to combine an element to deal with some human’s latent greed and aggression whilst benefiting those who care for others and ask for very little themselves.
Has capitalism affected you in any way in your life?
Capitalism has affected all of our lives from the day that we were born. From the hospital in which we were delivered, to the school which we attended and the path that we now follow.
In your opinion – who benefits from poverty, and how?
There are people who benefit from poverty and have done for many years. If there was no poverty it is likely that the lives of the elite would be worse. If people are struggling to feed their families they will do anything. They would kill the last orangutan and chop down the last tree. This is something that needs to be focused on in any new system, the people who run the world know this and utilize desperation in their factories, armies etc.
How do images/videos/news reports of people in poverty influence society in different countries? What is your country like?
I believe that there are many good people who will work to improve the lives of those less fortunate. I live in the UK and there are issues with homelessness and a great many other injustices. Images of poverty encourage many people to help by sending money and becoming politically active.
To what extent does stigma contribute to the experience of living in poverty in your country, and in your opinion what could be done to address this?
This is a very interesting question. There are a huge number of people in the UK who live beyond their means through debt and there is a significant stigma attached to being poor. For many people there does not need to be a stigma but it is clear through people’s spending habits that they feel that there is.
If you subscribe to the heights of the American dream and the lives of those in music videos on MTV you could feel a stigma. These images are contrived to sell records and to manipulate people. One way to avoid the perception of stigma is to simply stop watching, to realise what is actually important in life and to seek that rather than the acceptance of others.
What in your opinion works in reducing the negative impact of growing up in poverty on a child’s life chances?
There are negative elements of growing up rich and growing up poor. The main feature of anyone’s existence should be that they are given the chance to live a fruitful life.
Even if children do not have the latest toys it is clear that the importance of living in a stable loving environment is essential. Access to clean water, education and good food is also essential. With these things in place it gives people the highest chance of living a fruitful existence.
Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day. How does this make you feel and is this something you think about and actively try to change, and if so how?
The poverty that exists in this world today is in many ways a direct consequence of the capitalist, realist tendencies of the strongest nations. In a dog eat dog world someone has to lose. It is time that this changed. I am currently working on a plan to help people in my area to achieve the basics of existence that I mentioned a moment ago
Do you think war is ever necessary and why?
Of course war is sometimes necessary. Take WWII for example. We had to fight, otherwise chances are we would be living under a Nazi government now.
Who profits and gains in general from war, in your opinion?
Weapons manufacturers gain from war. Countries can gain from war. The Western nations have made an art of gaining from war in general. The Victor gains from War.
In your opinion what motivates war? Is it capitalism, patriarchy, the standing of a country or revenge etc?
There are clear reasons for war. In a realist society war is a means of improvement in many ways. It can be a positive thing. It can make you stronger. It can make your life better. It can remove your problems. War as with violence is a legitimate action in our existence and it is only through the laws of people that we try to control this truth.
Do you think enough is done by the global community to help the people affected by the ongoing occupations and wars globally? As well as the aftermath; leaving people with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, homeless, and often completely destabilised in general.
What people need to understand is that in a dog eat dog world the victor is the strongest or cleverest. They enjoy the spoils and do not care about those that have been vanquished. This is the world that we live in. It does not have to be the world that we live in but it has been created as such and if you look at history it is clear that the global community does not care about those affected by war it just cares about appearing to care about these things.
If things are not brought into the open they will not bother with them and often even if they are brought into the open they will only bother with them if directly affected. You can see this evidence clearly everyday with the treatment of refugees in terms of the way in which government’s talk about them. The way in which they are treated is despicable.
How do you feel about the media’s use of propaganda when discussing war and the rhetoric of the “good guys and bad guys” being fed to the masses?
When the media paint the picture of a bad person or a good person I have learnt to take everything with a pinch of salt. I studied international relations and have seen the patterns which appear in the behaviour of the ruling elite and their hypocrisy. I have dealt with this by simply switching off my television and removing the ‘fear porn’ from my psyche.
Lastly we would like to know of your own experiences with either war or poverty or both. Have you or anyone in your family been affected by them and how are you now or are you still affected?
We are all connected in some way or another by war and poverty. I have family members who have been to war and others who struggle to survive in this capitalist society who with no means of support are pushed into careers which are unnecessary to our well-being and actually negative as a whole.
To find out more about Matthew please follow him on Google +
Matt’s final thoughts:
“I would like to add something that I have realised over the last few years, we live in a world of consumption where we have to consume to continue our existence. Life is hard for many people; some people use others to make this existence easier for themselves and the system congratulates them. Things need to change into a world where greed and dominance is not encouraged.
If we look outside of ourselves we see this world of consumption, greed and desperation and sometimes we believe that this is the only way.
It is not – when we look inside of ourselves.
If we do not give in to the difficulties of our existence we will find peace and true love. We can utilise this love to improve the lives of those around us through mutual cooperation and respect. This is how the world must be changed. Love has the power to transform the world and for those who are in control, they know it.”