A Joyless Revolution
by Dino Corvino on December 15th, 2011
Last night I was reading a book written by Abbie Hoffman, and came across a description of what the revolution of the ‘60s had sought to be. Hoffman talked extensively about political theatre, absurdity, and a revolution of JOY. It was a time when people were prone to laughter, and all the rest. I am no ‘60s enthusiast, in fact it might be my least favorite decade, but a lot of cultural change happened then, and I was reading a book.
Our local newspaper, the Wausau Daily Herald, recently made a shift from anonymous comments to Facebook-dependent commenting. You needed a Facebook account to make a comment, instead of just being a faceless hack railing against whatever and whoever, saying whatever inspired you and your particular brand of keyboard bravery. The comment section had devolved to the point of an abyss of venom. It was beyond the sort of old school flame wars and discussion board clique-like behavior; it was just simply mean. It did not matter what the paper said, or reported, or opined, invariably the comments would roam from the newspaper being stupid and liberal and one sided, to the commenters being one sided or liberal or conservative, to the people in the actual stories were one sided liberals or conservatives. It got bad.
It got so bad that one commenter took shots at a local leader, and that local leader sought him out, and it made national news. It was an amazing confluence of events, and what was cool for me was that I knew everyone involved, and I tended to think that they were all wrong.
In the last two weeks we have heard about the loss of 1000 jobs in 2012. Let us put that in perspective: If each of those 1000 jobs is worth say, 30 grand a year (and some are worth more clearly), that is roughly 30 million bucks in estimated salary lost. You start adding on the exponential things that go along with that, and you are looking at an insane amount of loss. Families just wrecked, support businesses shot, all of it.
We recently faced the closing of the Postal Service center here. It was a large meeting, with a lot of people affected, and a lot of anger.
Gov. Scott Walker is taking on some sort of reform ideas, and many of us disagree with him, and some disagree with him strongly. It has gotten to the point where our state government is seeking to defy the federal government in areas of programmatic contracts and to create all sorts of havoc. A woman in her 80s has taken up the role of plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU about voting law changes put forth by the current administration.
I am a democrat. I have always been, except for 2nd semester of 9th grade when I was a fiscal conservative (I got my first job). I went to meetings, took part in strategic planning sessions, engaged in active leadership in my local party. Then after a while I caught onto a vibe in which the local party seemed far more interested in poking Congressman Sean Duffy for his every action, not just his mistakes. We had crossed over into finding fault with the idea that he did or did not do anything. Now mind you, Duffy is not my kind of elected official — we disagree fundamentally on just about everything. But at what point do we stop serving the republic of this great country? I know when it is — when we dissect the grammar of a press release of a sitting Congressman, and you do not disagree with anything he says, but instead are publicly critical of his use of grammar.
So, our Republican Governor sought to alter collective bargaining in this state. I would go so far as to say he attacked it. We spent a year or so standing in the capitol rotunda (it seemed like a year). Ed Schultz came, Tom Morello and Brother Wayne Kramer showed up. Hundreds of thousands of people voiced their displeasure.
What seemed like a direct result, local union bosses decided to exclude Republicans from marching in a taxpayer-supported Labor Day parade. This created quite the stir. Then, the bosses changed their mind and LET the republicans join in.
We have achieved a sort of anger in this state, and in this community that is unheard of. We no longer seem to have any desire in solving problems, and we have lots of them. We simply want the other guy to be blamed, or even better, silenced. No one is noble in this, no one is above reproach.
I am not innocent either. For a while I made fun of GOP hawk Kevin Hermening. That was not cool of me, and I had to publicly apologize for being a jerk. Do I agree with Kevin, nope. Do I think Kevin is a bad man? Nope. Do I know Kevin? Not one bit.
What happened to laughter? What happened to joy? Even in disagreement, what happened to laughter and joy and more than that absurdity? It used to be a sense of us versus them, and everyone took the piss out of THEM. Everyone felt comfortable giving raspberries to Nixon or Hoover. Now, if we do mock someone, there is some on there to stand up and defend them to the point of absurdity.
Look, I do not know Gov. Walker, or Mayor Tipple, or many of the other men and women in ties who have accepted the responsibility to leadership of our community. But, why can’t we laugh? Why is our cultural temperature running so hot that we see everything as offensive, every action as something to be demonized or supported to the death?
I state now that I believe that the institutions of our country, our state, and our local municipalities need alteration. Need some sort of change. But more than that, we need to take a collective breath, and get our shit together. We have lost our way, and we are so tightly wound with the perceived conflict and cultural strife that we argue about everything, and nothing fixes anything.
I get you want to win. But, you gotta remember that when you want to burn down the metaphorical house that those other guys are standing in, some people you like might be in that house, too. Maybe just a bit of temperance is in order. Maybe the best way to move beyond these admittedly challenging times (regardless of who is in power) is to seek solution, not victory.