Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poetry is Needed Here

I heard Alec Caldiero reciting his poem Poetry is Wanted Here as I was driving down toward Ashland, after going over the Siskiyou Summit. It wasn't the best place to start crying.

(Listen to it if you can. At the top of the poem you can click to listen.)

More and more I'm thinking and wondering about how things have gotten so off-balanced. When did our society as a whole come to value $$$ over people? I was trying to talk to Mario about this today and I wasn't very articulate about it. I squirm when people start talking about "branding" and "marketing" and the "bottom line."

This isn't because I'm anti-business. Economics and busidoms are actually interesting to me. Sometimes. I almost got an MBA. But I've always believed that the best businesses are not about $$$. They have values and ideas and ideals, and they create community within and with out the actual building where the people work. They are a part of the community.

Of course there have been robber barons for almost ever. There have been the mighty rich, the royals, thems up there. But what about us? When did the goal become to make lots of money? When did the making of money become valued over EVERYTHING: including our health, our lives, our happiness, our environment?

I see it over and over again. Obviously, I didn't pick my professions based on how much money I could make. I'm a writer and I'm a librarian. But I have chosen to stay in work situations that were unhealthy for me.

At one library job, they decided to remodel the building. I asked them to use environmentally safe products. This was fifteen years ago, so it was a little more difficult to do. Still, they didn't even try. I was treated as a troublemaker. They did the remodel. I came to work and smelled the chemicals. I knew it wasn't safe. Yet I kept working. I was afraid of losing my job.

I lost it anyway. I became too ill to work.

And now I see people I admire and care about talking about themselves as "brands." Cattle are branded, not people. I know that's simplistic but that's just what I keep thinking. I wonder, "What happened to us? What about peace? What about love? What about changing the world?"

As I walked Mario to work this morning, we discussed the word "brand."

"It's just semantics," Mario said. "You don't like the word brand, but you want people to know your name so that they will buy your books. That's branding."

"No!" I said. "It's not semantics. It's something very deep and it's symbolic of all that has gone wrong. People used to be valued for who they were and what talents they had." Like a shoemaker, a tailor, farmer, seamstress, etc.

"It's just a word," Mario said. "Stephen King is a brand."

"He is not," I said. "He is a human being."

"And his name sells books," Mario said. "That's a brand."

I imagined searing flesh as Stephen King had his name branded on his backside.

"Why is everything about selling?" I said. "It's this black hole of consumption. It's never done. Never satisfied."

Mario said, "It's a big topic. And I've got to go to work now."

I nodded and left him at work. I felt even more disconcerted by it all. If Mario didn't understand what I was saying, how could I get anyone else to?

I have to figure out how to articulate it better. Form it into words.

Poetry is definitely needed here.


Lynn said...

Maybe when we are in one paradigm or another, there is a completely different energetic vibe to it... so that when we are living a life of sensitivity and response to the flow of life, we have a particular energy about us that is literally disrupted by the act of categorization and compartmentalizing. I have no doubt that the concept of "branding" opens up the door to a weird and demoralizing energy.

sidhe said...

I don't like people as brands, either, and I *totally* understand what you're reacting against. I don't think you're being unclear at all. I think some people have no problem with it, is all, and they don't understand why those of us who do make such a fuss.

Branding is important to publishing because of the way books are now marketed. The books themselves matter less than the package - the author's story, looks, bankability, etc.

Sad, but true.

::sympathizes with you::

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