Personal, political, fight against oppression
Matthew Dineen (IMA ’14) created a very personal and political, Music & Work Project and related blog. Included in this music and labor/employee activism project is a nationwide tour and the publication of a zine: Not for You?
Matthew is “a Massachusetts-born writer, musician, activist, and service worker. For the past 6 years, I’ve lived in Philadelphia working as a freelance publicist, sandwich-maker at a natural foods store, barista at a culinary college’s pastry shop, delivery driver for a corporate catering company, and dishwasher at an independent coffee shop. During that time I have also volunteered at Wooden Shoe Books & Records–an anarchist bookstore where I help coordinate events programming. I recently earned a master’s degree from Goddard College in Vermont.”
His project shares the story of how he quit his job as a dishwasher at a coffee shop, celebrated this as a liberatory experience, and then went forth to explore the connection of music and work as articulated through personal narratives, including his own.
Matthew shares a passion for storytelling with the editor Scott Nikolas Nappalos, who writes in the introduction of Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance:
“In the eyes of dominant culture and the opinions of political culture, stories play second fiddle…Maybe the idea here is that stories are outside of social and political life. We make and use them in the course of things but only really acknowledge them when they help us get things done…Looking at stories in that way is out of step with working life. The lives of working class people are filled with stories people share every day about their struggles, perspectives, and aspirations. Working class life is woven together with the stories people share every day…Working class experiences of story telling have not been taken seriously enough among those of us who try to organize and build a better society. On a human level, that world of story telling is a deep mine of culture and struggle that all of us should seek to understand, grapple with, and participate in…Even further though is the idea that the act of telling our tales of work and struggle can change people” (Introduction. Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance. Ed. Scott Nikolas Nappalos. Alberta: Black Cat, 2013. Print).
Matthew writes in the July, 2015 edition of his zine:
“As the summer faded away and the leaves began changing colors, I found myself sitting at yet another evening staff meeting. This time there was tension festering between the owner and us worker bees. Her impossible expectations of perfection and ultra-efficiency clashed with our all-too-imperfect humanity on the clock. She rattled off a litany of improvements that needed to be made immediately including issues with the music we played on shift. She explained that it was a privilege for us to choose our own soundtrack and then emphasized, ‘The music is not for you. It’s for the customers.’ It was a revealing moment, exposing the antagonistic dynamics between management, customers, and those of us that must sell our labor to survive to the beats and rhythms of the service industry.”
Through the power of his own story, and by leveraging the strength of sharing and witnessing the stories of others, Matthew is able to offer inspiration through recording his knowing, being, and doing in the world.
Matthew’s travel-based storytelling communicates his belief that others can be elevated from the constraints of a potentially limiting and oppressive unmusical work life into something more imaginative and self-fulfilling, in part, guided by a lyrical freedom.
Note: an abridgment of this story appears in the article, “Is Activism Dead?” in the Clockworks Fall/Winter 2015 issue on page 8.