Notes from a Small Island
NextDayBetter lands in London
An English Heritage blue plaque in Primrose Hill commemorates Dr. Jose Rizal, a famous writer and national hero who lived there. He travelled to England in 1888 to study Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas by Antonio de Morga and research other historical documents at the British Museum.
Fast forward to the present day, to press reports about a certain member of the royal family, who has a tendency to make awkward remarks about foreign nationals. During a visit to a British hospital, the Duke of Edinburgh told a Filipina nurse:
“The Philippines must be half empty — you’re all here running the NHS!”
These two people, the scholar and the nurse, illustrate the duality of the Filipino identity – immigrants to countries across the globe, yet also local citizens, depending on the passport or generation.
We are a diaspora; scattered or dispersed populations, who are both home and away, here and there, local and global.
London is a bustling melting pot of internationals, foreign locals and multi-generational communities, a true world capital of the 21st century. The exponential creativity made possible by intense human friction happens in cities like London, which is uniquely eccentric, because its residents are miscellaneous and cosmopolitan, and not because of its location in England or the UK.
The same could be said about being Filipino. It’s a mash-up racial identity of different tribal ingredients. My version for example, comprises of being born in Manila, with Southeast Asian physical attributes, a Spanish name, a weird North American accent, and British citizenship. Filipinos are like their dessert halo-halo, which translates as ‘mixed together’.
On visiting the Philippines, the actor Bill Murray observed:
“This is like ‘Mendel’s garden’ because it had been invaded by so many different countries over the years, and you could see the children shared the genetic traits of all their invaders over the years, and it made for this beautiful varietal garden.”
However, many of us define our lives and identities more by the values we want to stand for, rather than just the signifiers of our ethnic group. This is why my fellow curators and I accepted the challenge to transplant NextDayBetter in London.
We want to be part of something that encourages our peers and younger generations to go after what they are passionate about, and by doing so, make a truly positive and meaningful impact in their community.
We believe that real change in society results from the small steps we all take individually to improve ourselves, and collectively this will affect the lives of those around us. NextDayBetter hopes to facilitate this process, by connecting people, to exchange ideas and activate projects through partnerships, with the intent to tangibly solve issues that matter.
Coincidentally, London also offers freedom, where people choose their own adventures, experiences and social connections according to taste rather than the dictates of a tribe. It’s a culturally rich soil for diverse people and ideas, both old and new. The city is buzzing with creativity, as we witness pop-ups, start-ups and technology hubs multiplying. Some of these festivals and street feasts with artisanal novelties even remind us of our Filipino sari-sari stores.
The possibilities for making a better future lie in the various ways that society attempts to address human needs, but not simply material goods for consumption.
We agree with the combined ethos of More Like People, New Citizenship Project, and TheHappy Startup School for example, in pushing for a more genuinely participatory culture, and reinstalling a sense of humanity in the ways we organise ourselves for a better world.
To return to Dr Jose Rizal and our immigrant nurse, they were individuals who wanted to make the next day better, for themselves and for other people. The desire for a brighter future is universal, and we move around the globe to find whatever it is that will solve our problems to make us flourish. Given the opportunity, we are all tourists and travellers seeking to improve ourselves.
My favourite map of the world is the Fuller Dymaxion projection – because it shows that we all are human settlers in a one-island earth planet. There is unity in diversity, if we choose to see beyond the limitations of borders and institutionalised nationhood.
The interwovenness of our lives is the source of our solidarity and the solutions we seek. We want to dig deeper into what this means, by exploring the cultural ‘invasions’ that are native, imported and indigenous.
How NextDayBetter evolves will depend on the humans who want to be involved. As a speaker series, we’re interested in the fusion of people and projects that present a work-in-progress account of what is being done. We want to steer a collision of #firstworldproblems with #thirdworldproblems.
If you are interested in connecting with people, exchanging ideas and activating projects, then we look forward to meeting you!
PS. We are including a food tasting session at our launch. By attending, you get to experience the flavour of what we are trying to do, and then decide whether you want more of it.
NextDayBetter + London | #ndbLDN
Saturday 29 November 2014
11AM – 4PM
9th floor, 207 Old Street
>> Written by Rina Atienza — NextDayBetter + London City Curator who is radically scheming to make the world a nicer and more human place.