It’s been a while since I had a good boss and I was very sad and angry to say goodbye to the one I have currently. The whole situation is a little messy, but I’m hopeful about the future…if for no other reason than out of contrariness. We celebrated her new job by eating enormous amounts of collard greens, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and drinking a lot of bourbon at a Southern-themed restaurant.
Immediately afterwards, I went to an arts event associated with the Occupy movement. It was a very surreal experience. I wasn’t sure how I would feel–guilty? Inspired? Angry? Snarky? I ended up feeling all of those things, but not for the reasons I expected. I kept finding myself thinking, “These are a lot of abstract statements I agree with–but what are you doing?” I also kept noticing how very, very white and how very, very middle-class and how very, very self-centered most of the participants were. I want to make clear, it’s not that I thought that the participants were bad people, or even wrong. But so much of the art focused on the artist as a revolutionary–but not actual revolutions of thought or action. The message I took from most of the pieces was, “I am revolutionary!” but there wasn’t much discussion of what revolutionary meant. I felt guilty for having these thoughts, I kept worrying that I was being needlessly snarky, unproductively cynical or just old. Which pissed me off, because I was the same age about a third of the folks, about 5 years older or younger than the other two thirds. Am I just a prematurely grumpy old lady shaking my self-righteous cane at all the idealist young whippersnappers?
Then I had this thought–this must be what it was like to be at an anti-war movement event in the 70’s. At a certain point, it became a popular thing to do and was equally about people working through youthful angst and rebellion and changing self-image as it was about protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam. But, it politicized a generation, and while some folks went off to never touch politics again after they worked through their adolescence anxieties, a lot of folks took the passion and habit of activism into the rest of their lives. There are so many people I owe enormous debts of gratitude for my moral and spiritual education who were once (I’m sure) rather obnoxious Vietnam-era white hippie kids. They grew up to be my youth group leader, my hilarious social studies teacher, my incredible school counselor, my sociology professor and my amazing father and mother in law. All of those people continued to take a stand of what they believed was morally right when there was no cameras, no glory, and usually a strong chance of being punished for it. I’m still trying to live up to that.
If nothing else comes out of the Occupy movement, I hope that it has politicized my generation so that when they are in positions of power, they will carry that sense of discernment and passion with them. And when they hear the oppressed complain about militarization of the police, they will take that damn seriously because they remember what it was like when their friend was pepper-sprayed in the face. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a pretty awesome accomplishment.
Flash back to me sitting awkwardly in the seat while I listen to super sincere white people talk and play theatre games about oppression. It finally dawned on me, “They think this is the play, but it’s dress rehearsal. But you can’t put on a show without the dress rehearsal.”
Speaking of a show, the punk band and the hair band were actually quite good. They were kicking it old school, the dudes were full on bad English school boy with the turned up collar and the women were rocking the funky tights under cut-off shorts and flowy florescent hair. It reminded me how much I like the disheveled romantic punk look–I’m definitely pulling out the fishnets and green eyeshadow this weekend. One of the advantages of getting old and cynical is that you stop taking it all quite so seriously. As a teenager I was obsessed with exactly what kind of Goth and what kind of hippie chick I was because I was convinced that I would be locked into an identity FOREVER. Now that I’ve gotten older and (read Judith Butler) I’ve realized that it is all drag and play–now it’s so much easy to put the fun in funky.