This will be my last prologue post, so those who normally read my work will notice a shift in style and content after today. I will do my best to go forward with grace but permit me if I stumble around a bit. My hope is that I will create something that sounds like me when I’m at work as opposed to something that sounds like me when I’m alone in my office… or doesn’t sound like me at all. I’m also literally writing this from the future due to time-zone changes, so permit me. To quote Morpheus from the Matrix, this might feel a little weird.
For those who are new to my writings, I appreciate your eyes on my work. I’m not a research-heavy writer. I do what I can to tell a story based in fact, even if it is one I am uncomfortable with. I want you to see what I see. If you have comments or questions, leave them wherever you please. Just remember Langston Hughes:
I play it cool
I dig all jive
That’s the reason
I stay alive
As I live and learn
Is dig and be dug in return
I’m in the air, finally, after delays and rebookings and dramatic seat switches that frighten white dudes. Seoul-Incheon is 12 hours away and at this point there’s nothing else to worry about in terms of getting here. The pilot tells us we will pass over Alaska, some ocean, Russia, and China on our way. Someday I hope to make stops in each of these places. For now, I arrive at my final destination on the 23rd at dinner time and in the meantime I’ll write a little… read a little… and watch a movie or two. On longer flights, I am pretty consistent. I remain with the classics but lately one movie stays in rotation.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” with Ben Stiller isn’t a great work of art worthy of an Oscar. It’s a cute little movie with some interesting notes here and there. Nothing to write home about and totally consumed with the exploits of the main character. At one point, as he contemplates a major decision, he remembers the motto of his employer Life magazine. The reflection causes him to literally run toward a new life of adventure. I did some digging and it turns out that it was taken from a longer quote attributed to the founder:
To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things — machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see man’s work — his paintings, towers and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to; the women that men love and many children; to see and take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed…
This is truncated in the movie to a few lines and while they are good lines, to be fair, I think that this quote is better than the version in the film.
When I go to a place that I am strange to, I constantly remind myself to be present for the wonder of it. Depression made that harder for a long time and I think often about vacations or trips to work while I was depressed and wonder how much better those experiences would have been if I was in better emotional health. What great events do I miss? What dangerous things do I not enter?
Again, mental health and politics blend together for me. Our current political malaise makes this stuff seem obvious, I think, which is why people who kept their heads down and slogged through day after day are now suddenly “woke.” I saw similar emergence during the financial crisis. People had been feeling robbed for years anyway with wage stagnation and constant threats from their employers. Horrible policy decisions by old white men with one foot in the grave, the other in a smoke-filled room where lives are ruined and the cameras are turned off… it was all somewhat mysterious. With the growth of groups like Occupy and others, the veil was somewhat lifted. People watched television and listened to podcasts that told them exactly who was robbing them… and it pissed them off.
Union members and their unions took some interesting turns during this period. I can remember unions like the one I was working for going after private equity, staging protests outside of their holdings. (You want to know fun? Take a horde of lunch ladies and bus drivers to a building owned by a private equity group… and tell them Mitt Romney owns it.) Our current moment, full of outrage and confrontation, feels like a logical next step in the battle against late-stage capitalism.
Our work in Korea over the next few days, particularly in light of the new regime in the US and SK, will also be about tapping into this moment on that level. Discussions in the car ride from the airport rapidly moved into new coalition visions and how old models and institutions are needing to make hard decisions about being more nimble in the fast-paced world of Trumplandia. Like Mitty, our movements are trying to figure out if we should run from our old forms.
I say run like Hell is behind us, lapping at our heels. Nothin’ to lose but our chains.