WHAT I DID NOT SAY
- That Allison and p'tit boo are capitalists, not "radicals." Perish the thought. I said that an attitude of "scarcity" underlies a capitalist viewpoint, and that an attitude of emotional scarcity -- that there is only so much understanding and sympathy to go around -- reflects this orientation. Nevertheless, p'tit boo has it exactly right: "how can we not come from a capitalist perspective ? That would be like you telling us we are coming from a human perspective.... Can we help it ?" Exactly. And exactly what I have been saying about the middle class as well, by the way. Of course, George might respond to you as he did to me: you are "refusing responsibility for the world in which [you] move [saying:] "we are victims, therefore our situation is beyond our control." This is a key quality of anyone who describes himself as a victim of forces outside his self." I don't think that is what you are saying, and it certainly is not what I am saying (see below). I think it is hard to argue that human beings are not affected by the environment in which they live -- not controlled by them, but affected by them. You can't be condemned for speaking English if you grew up in an English-speaking environment, but you can go out and learn Chinese if you want to. Which brings me to the next thing I did not say...
- That the middle class should be absolved of responsibility for the world's injustices. Creating straw men and then heroically knocking them down is one of George's favorite tactics lately, and I'm not certain what that is about. In this case, he shifts the focus from what I was writing about (the pain and frustration felt by the middle class, which deserves understanding, even respect) to what he is interested in: judgment and condemnation of unethical actions by members of the middle class. I am not an apologist for unethical behavior, crime, exploitation, and dishonesty by anyone. Those actions must be judged and condemned harshly. But unless you believe that millions and millions of people who make over a certain amount of money (and just what is that amount -- just more than what you make?) are all active criminals -- that the middle class is comprised of variations on the image of a "mid-level New York corporate lawyer who is finding a way around an FDA restriction for his drug-company client" (another Hunka straw man), this argument doesn't hold water. The fact is that most middle class people are working schlubs who push paper 40 hours a week, not Snidely Whiplashes exploiting the poor and the sick. They also run non-profits, teach young people, counsel the poor, lead churches, heal the sick, and run restaurants. They are being lumped together. I also did not say:
- That the theatre should be used as "a hankie for the well-intentioned tears of the rich." In fact, I said nothing about how plays should be written or performed, what they should be about, or anything about production at all. I was discussing the attitude of hostility and disdain toward the middle-class as human beings. This is about more than artists, this is about the world as a whole. The tendency to dehumanize groups of people in order to feel better about attacking them currently permeates every corner of the globe. The terrorists do it so they can blow themselves up killing innocent people, and the anti-terrorists do it so they can fire missiles into cities and bulldoze homes; the anarchists do it so they can smash windows and burn cars, the concervatives do it so they can exploit foreign workers and ruin the environment; the rich do it so they can feel good about their obscene incomes, the poor do it so they can feel good about robbing their neighbors; the white do it, the black do it; men do it, and women do it. If there was a global religion, it could be based on the creation and dehumanization of Others. It isn't any prettier when it is artists dehumanizing the middle class. We justify it on the basis on reciprocity: I did it to them, because they did it to me. p'tit boo denies hating and disrespecting anyone"purposely," but then says "And even if I did, well I am being disrespected and disregarded on a daily basis silently and passive agressively through the sexism," which I guess makes it alright. Goose-gander. There's another variation that leads to the same result. Allison writes, "Yes, of course all people, on an individual level, ought to be treated with respect for who they are, not whom they represent." [ital mine] But once there is more than one, apparently they are fair game for dehumanization and demonization. Or is there some point at which we reach critical mass for demonization? Under ten? Under 100 -- say, the capacity of an Off-Off Broadway theatre? Once it's Off-Broadway theatre, feel free to bash away? I don't understand how you can respect people one at a time, but disrespect them in groups. Seems hypocritical to me. Seems like it leads to comments like, "Some of my best friends are black" while simultaneously talking about "them damn niggers." And the final thing I did not say:
- That all pain is equal, that all victims are equally damaged. Obviously. In fact, I said this explicity, even giving it its own paragraph for emphasis: "I am not pleading for moral equivalence: the pain of the middle class is not the moral equivalent of the pain of the oppressed." But we are back to the first point: understanding and sympathy are not scarce resources -- they can be produced at will. p'tit boo agrees: "I don't believe there aren't resources to go around or that the pain of one person can be compared or takes away from the pain of another person." George also agrees: "Nowhere do [Allison and p'tit boo] suggest that the pain of individuals, whoever they are, of whatever class, is unworthy of assuagement." [Again, note the reference to "individuals."] But then there is this from Allison: "I wasn't saying that one should not feel empathy for the dilemmas of young people: I was saying that it is somewhat obscene, in this world where there are people who are unambiguously suffering, and especially when much of that suffering is caused by the economic structures that create our own privilege, to posit these privileged kids as "victims." Are we arguing about a word? Victim means: "One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition." Not good enough? Pick another. They have been programmed, tested, categorized, and controlled. They have been tested in 8th grade and "tracked" for college, college tech, or labor -- in 8th grade!!! So pick your word. What would you call them? Privileged? And let's examine the word "obscene"? It is "obscene" to extend your sympathy widely? You'll have to explain how MORE understanding is better than LESS. Unless you think it runs out, and then we're back to the beginning.