Give them credibility
"Every page of the five-thousand-year-old history of civilization overflows with examples of how to break society's moral and political capacity and replace it with law and administration by the capital monopolies. This is the history of civilization at its bluntest and with its true motives." --Abdullah Öcalan (founder of the Kurdish Workers' Party and political prisoner in Turkey since 1999)
Monopolies of power retain their grip by fracturing solidarity, either by persuading us we're alone, or by turning us against one another. I'd rather work with people like you any day of the week than with anyone persuaded to make enemies of those they have true common cause with. AND with Humanities Montana, whose support of your work and others' I'm constantly grateful for. Those monopolies of power always go after the arts almost immediately, because that is where resistance is born.
You have my support. When I read the title of this post, my ire went up because I've been on the receiving end of that talk as well. And you said it: That board member was appointed to do exactly this, to sow chaos among the good people. Now we are wasting time arguing over it and some people won't support the good things you are doing with Humanities Montana because it is "tainted." When you can't eject the person, you work around them. It's like the old argument, "oh, you're fighting the system, huh? When you eat food made by capitalism?!!! way to exploit your fellow workers!" bullshit. It's whataboutism meant to destroy from within.
Also I like MTPL as it sounds like "Meatpool," a very metal superhero with a giant cleaver-guitar that I just made up.
This: "I’m compromising “the world I want to be” by living in “the world that is” every time I step out the door. Turning on a light or driving my car is a major compromise."
It's so true--and the need to pick battles wisely. It's so unfortunate that actions by those in power weaken solidarity in exactly the way that the would-be contributor has done. It sucks the world is somewhere none of us want to be as it is, but that doesn't mean that we don't keep trying to make the world we want. It's too easy of an out to not engage, to be weakened by the fascists who want to weaken us. And of course it's doubly so in the arts. I'm so glad you are getting support for your work and for keeping poetry and conversations and stories in front of audiences who need to hear them. ✊
Whilst I appreciate their conviction and passion, the choice they made in that email is disappointing.
They are getting lost in the trees and expecting you to get lost with them.
I appreciate the choice that you've made. You are choosing to focus on the work. Which is so much more important than battling something you have zero control over (that person being appointed to the board).
When I doorknock and hand out fliers to support Australia’s upcoming referendum on recognising First Nations in our constitution, I encounter some who won’t vote yes because not all Indigenous people support it. No, they don’t. There is treaty, reparations, truth-telling that needs to happen too but like your stories, Chris, the Voice to Parliament is something good. Something we can build on and learn from. Yes, I’m disappointed but it’s a democracy. Expecting everybody to agree with each other is another form of paternalism. Thanks for your words.
Interesting read on The Humanities. But, yet, what really caught my eye (and my mind) was the lead-in caption with the words "uinta" and "moreinta." I am so pleased to be here to read what makes me smile and what makes me use my thinker. Thankful for you, Chris.
Wow, great post. This is familiar – that old question, very tough dilemma of whether to work from within or outside of institutions. Not always easy to figure out, and there’s utility and pitfalls in both approaches. In my younger days, I was adamantly anti-institutional because it felt punk rock and self-righteous to rail against big things, the complexity of which I mostly didn’t understand. I’ve learned since that often it is within our institutions where the important conversations are happening, and I want to be apart of them to push as I can. All this to say: Chris, you are doing important, difficult work and it is awesome.
I hate what’s still happening in Dakota Territory of Turtle Island. Born on the Big Muddy in a winter blizzard I have known suffering, yet my Irish/Lakota father taught me perseverance and care. As an irritable Métis you must keep speaking (shouting) the Truth even of only a few or none are listening. Keep going on behalf of all our relatives who can not speak for themselves, and those too who can. Wopila tanka and aho…
I agree with you 1,000% and I'm grateful you took to the time share this story. These fantasies of purity lead us straight toward fragmentation, stagnation, and despair.
There are some wonderful people at work in Humanities Montana, many of whom are likely more dismayed than anyone to have to deal with this new addition to their board. (I have no knowledge here, I'm just guessing.) As you said, the most powerful response to this is to keep being full humans in all our humanity, as loudly as possible, in Montana and everywhere else.
Keep on keeping on. We need your voice.
I have been missing for awhile. Dealing with some health issues. I want to congratulate you as regards MTPL! Why am I not surprised? And, stick to your guns Re: Humanities Montana. I know you will.
All of the Best, as Always,
Can I say Preach? Say it. Say the truth. Thank you.
"A relentless tidal wave of compromise" pretty well describes how we live. I agree that you have to pick your battles, and sometimes I wish I had picked more of them. (I am old now). I agree that it is often better to keep working within as you are in this case, so good luck with it.
I love you 🌲🦬🌲🦬 In case you need more emojis here’s a hammer, a pen, and a 👌🔨🖊️
Have you read Thomas King’s book Chris? The Truth about Stories? Your story made me think of his chapter, “You’re Not the Indian I Had in Mind.”
I love this. “I’m not going to self-righteously keyboard warrior myself into obscurity. I’m going to get out in front of people in person, using the very tools this state government has to provide whenever I possibly can.”
It hurts my soul when folks fracture solidarity and employ the master's tools of policing the choices others make without looking at the fullness of the work someone is doing. I appreciate the nuance and complexity of working within existing systems while building new systems. We need both. If everyone resisting oppressive systems and those who uphold them bows out because of proximity to an oppressor, how would we get anything done?
It is frustrating that proximity to a person can be seen as condoning that person's beliefs, even when our body of work shows consistent, active resistance.
I want to think you for continuing to speak truth. You are truly a gift to Montana. During dark times when fascists and bigots seek to take control of this state creatives have a very important role and the Humanities is one thing that they seek to underpay and undermine. Your willingness to keep putting yourself our there in spite of one douche bag is important.