Monday, August 22, 2005

Frog Prince & Footnotes

Frog Prince

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Interactive democracy! Love it. Last spring, during rehearsals for one of the bi-annual Me in a Dress plays I seem to be getting, a group of protesters marched by Theatre J. The only thing shocking about their polite curbside mandate was how few of them there were. Mitch Hebert and Dan DeRaey looked up and rolled their eyes, not out of contempt, but out of some kindred woe, heightened all the more by the fact that they grew up in an era of genuinely dangerous frontline activism. The scrappy assemblage of street shouters -- who were out to bring down Bush, the WTO, the Religious Right, and probably, like, the State of Georgia while they were at it -- was so emaciated that they almost did their buffet-table of causes more harm than good simply by showing up to show how small the Movement was.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the tactical divide, I have a great friend who has moved to a commune just a couple hours south of us. She periodically visits DC to tell tales of polyamorous tofu-munching, hammock-weaving bliss (this not cruel exaggeration, this is actually what they do, I promise), and we usually get into a discussion about activism, collectivism, Bush ... the usual anti-establishment syllabus. You can read wondefully candid descriptions of all this at her blog.

So I gotta wonder: between the flesh-and-blood fuzz-busting activism of the 60s and 70s, and the Aphrodite Shrugged mentality of the communards -- what's the next channel gonna be? Howard Dean's grass roots internet fundraising was an exciting innovation until it wasn't. Is there a better method out there?

FOOTNOTES for Cafe Anthropic

I am well aware that every generation regards itself as the keystone scene in history. I am also aware that it was never true until now. Believe me. I grew up as Francis Fuckyamama was positing The End of History to mainstream acclaim -- so I know the hubris of the target market group. But I can't resist a handy correlation between the social/economic/scientific jubilation of the late 90s and the similarly insular joy of being a know-it-all college senior. Likewise, there is an easy association between the surreal, chaotic string of events that defined the early 21st century and the equally bizarre, disorienting soul shock that is adult life outside academia. Circumspect? Self-indulgent? I don't know. But after watching my parents and my parents parents willingly align themsevles to these schematic generational labels ("The Greatest Generation!" "The ME Generation!" "The Gen-X Generation!" "The 22/7 Generation!"), I'm all too eager to find my historical niche. If it can be argued that such labels aren't altogether destructive or minimizing.

**Having said all that (* above), I might be over-reaching here: I often fear that plays set in well-packaged decades like the 60s are only shielding us from moral judgement instead of encouraging us to seriously evaluate our own generation. I think of the movie Forrest Gump, where the basic messages are: tis a gift to be stupid, all the wars we fought were great and just, all the counter-culture freaks were the abusive hostile ones, and if you're born in a trailer and vote Democratic like Jenny, you'll probably end up with a black eye, a shattered soul, visible track lines, and a case of AIDS. Liberal movies make the same mistake by imposing given progressive mores on characters that was merely guilty of being born before us. It's the unearned valor that comes from watching all those paranoid, evil Nazis in Spielberg movies and then declaring that we, of course, would never succomb to the obviously evil political climate of the day! We'd be the lone resisters! The vanguard of the righteous! So with Doubt, I wonder how much of our righteous rage for authority structures is neutered by the knowledge that: "Oh, that was back when people were stupid." Of course this isn't always the case. And Shanley may have intended to suggest the opposite ("Look how little has changed ... in our country, in our confessionals, in our justice system, in our discourse."). And maybe my understanding of the 60s is too colored by groovy journalistic filters (all told, it wasn't that long ago). Either way, I'd appreciate a daring dive into the here and now if we're going to talk about religiosity and scandal. It's harder to do.

***Now I'm really going out on a limb. So if you're with me so far, maybe you'll take a wacky leap into esoterica with me, too. I'm sure you've heard of the church/theatre metaphor before. There's a reason that one persists: theatre sits deep in the history of human discourse. But it sits even deeper in the history of human spirituality. The willingness to pretend, to consciously enter a reality based on faith, is at the heart of all spiritual activity, too. A bad play/movie, like a greedy televangelist, can abuse that faith and send us off with a counterfeit soul. I'm not out to censor anyone who does that, but it's upsetting how clever aesthetics, like clever Showman-shaman, can take your tithe without giving you real enlightenment.

All right. Enough of this frou-frou crap. Tomorrow's essay: Moby -- Has the Oracle Returned?


Karl's Dad said...

Visited the succession site. Noted that it is possible to move persons (or frogs) up or down the list. Tempted but haven't followed through, yet.

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