— From the Fool —
So I thought if the President has to tell Congress stuff, then I should too. Help carry the ball, as they say.
The way I see it is, well, take a look.
Somebody says that eighty fools own more stuff than three billion fools. That little bunch must worry about that. People might be starve to death and get mad.
One victim of wealth complained he was being bad-mouthed. The liberals would do like Hitler did to the Jews, make all the rich guys wear yellow dollar signs on their suits and put them in concentration camps.
I don’t see why. You can tell the suits are expensive without the dollar signs, and they already lock themselves in gated communities. They feel like people don’t appreciate them enough, and even though they throw parties to appreciate each other, they still don’t seem content.
My friend Marge said something. “A society is in grave danger when its upper classes are discontent.” Maybe she heard that on the news.
But it’s not all about jobs and money. It’s easy to get a job if you don’t need money. A job with money besides is asking a lot.
It’s a free country. If you don’t want to clerk at Walmart you can be a movie star. Or finish high school and be a brain surgeon, at least while people still think they need brains.
The main thing is, about those eighty fools with the money, at least they know how to take care of it. It’s called a green thumb. You don’t want huge bunches of wilted money.
— From EF —
Rest well, Pete Seeger, although I doubt you’ll do that. Not if there’s a banjo anywhere near, and a crowd to sing along. That shiny tenor voice, it only took two seconds flat to know who that was, and if you’re like me, you’d grin and join in.
The arts are considered to be a frill, a silly luxury, and they’re the first thing that gets cut in school budgets. People are starving, getting killed, the earth is being poisoned, and you want to sing? I have had more than a few snuffly, bleary late-night squabbles with CB about the relevance of what we do to the awful challenges we are facing as a species. We can only do what we know how to do, is always his answer.
The Basque town of Guernica was bombed in the Spanish Civil War, and Picasso’s response was to make a painting. In the mid-80’s, I was an “Art Parent” at our kids’ school, and I brought this painting to the third grade, led them through what they knew that might connect with it, and was astonished at how fiercely and personally they understood it.
Martin Luther King had to teach non-violent tactics to marchers very fast. One rule was to march in silence — until they got arrested. I wish I could direct you to the audio of this, when the confrontation occurred and the words were spoken, “You are under arrest.” And the marchers, as if at a conductor’s signal, burst into full-throated song. Your heart just crashes through the ceiling.
In Wisconsin, the protests against Scott Walker’s Koch-fueled agenda included the Solidarity Sing Along, every day in the Capitol at noon for two years. Then Walker ordered a police crack-down, arrests happened, and the singing population jumped from an average of 25 into the hundreds.
I have seen Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theater tackle the most gnarly political issues in the simplest and starkest ways, and I have felt the powerful response that it generates. I know, this is from a generation past, but I still see street stilters today putting it all on the line.
Last night I saw a theatre production developed as a collective, many of whom are very young, and I knew that one of the strands woven into this was Andy Lopez, the thirteen-year-old riddled with seven bullets by a Santa Rosa deputy. They used the templates of ritual and archetype and fairy tale, and challenged the audience to look beyond the easy narrative to find the story that is under the table, so to speak. I found it very powerful and moving.
So I look forward to our path toward King Lear, finding the images that can allow us to see the addiction to power as the destroyer of love, and creating our own little subversive pathway into the hearts of those who will see us.
— From CB —
In making stories, at some point you have to ask: what’s a story? Beginning, middle and end — that implies an action, something that makes the status at the end different than the beginning. Even a circular structure — taking us back to standing under the same tree — implies a change: we’ve discovered that we’re trapped, we’re brought to that awareness.
Aristotle said that tragic heroes should be of high station. Why? Because those are the ones capable of significant action. Their decisions have impact. They can go to war. They can bring down destruction on their household, city, tribe or nation. And the dramatists charted those decisions in linear progression. Fate, perhaps, but fate playing clear scenes and points of change. Dramatic action is action: the hero may head down a blind alley, but he’s charging with a warrior’s compulsion.
Today, we get the same plot propulsion only in genre fiction and genre film. The detective catches the crook; the astronaut confronts the Death Star; spy combats spy; the romance duo’s lips home in on one another. You can run infinite variations on the story, but it’s all the same story. It’s an illusion of action with consequence, and it speaks to a deep need, but it’s just pretend.
On the other hand, non-genre stories — literary novels, art films, “serious” stuff — seem to minimize will, intent, and change. They take us on travelogues through isolated subcultures: immigrant communities, academia, rural Nebraska, meth addicts, dysfunctional families by the cartload. Something always happens, to be sure — cancer, a marriage, an affair, adolescence — but with minimal import outside itself, little capacity for decisions that actually affect the outcomes, and often very hazy outcomes.
What stories do we truly believe in? With the number of books, films, plays, TV shows cranked out annually, even professional critics trying to make broad judgments could only scratch the surface. Still, I wonder if there’s a collective loss of faith in our own capacity to make effectual decisions. Or even that anyone does. Too many stories, it seems to me, only chart a slow, aimless drift toward the iceberg.
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