buy, sell, rent

i was extremely disappointed to read stephanie zacharek's review of rent at salon.com this week. i've been totally looking forward to seeing it. having never seen the stage production, i was excited about finally getting to sample what for nearly a decade has seemed to me to be this generation's answer to hair, the show that influenced and spoke for so many of our parents (ok, and for me too, but much later).

zacharek shit all over the film. and i hate that i read it.

because i guess i hope the film will resonate. i'm not living the bohemian lifestyle of a struggling artist in modern nyc, and lord knows i'm not hanging with taye diggs, sadly. but there are times i imagine the artist and the activist life to bear strong resemblance. i wonder what rent would be like re-conceived as a bunch of angsty semi-professional politicos living as capitalians here (or as capitolians in dc). what the fuck would we sing about? i suppose the infamous title song would be "how do you sell a campaign, when the sentiment seems so feigned, like fiction everyday, coalitions -- manipulations, blow my mind" ...

when i think about my contemporaries in the field, i see so many people whose fire-in-the-belly is down to embers. through various quirky paths, we now populate the ngo landscape as senior level campaigners or researchers in a myriad of well-intentioned organizations wherein we hope the zeal won't get dampened. but it inevitably does. i can't help but wonder if it has more to do with the new industry of social justice than just our own damn chronology. reality is, most of us are in that 30-something zone where it's getting tougher and tougher to sell it because we're not even sure we buy it anymore, at least not wholesale, and not all the time. they warned us this would happen (remember? if you're not a liberal by the time you're 20, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative by 30, you have no brain) and we told them to go fuck themselves. but now it's like we're fruit connaisseurs at a produce stand fondling, squeezing, and sniffing all the fruit, scrunching our noses and muttering where's all the good stuff? what is this crap? i'm not spending my hard-earned money [read: energy] on this - it's not what i'm about.

sometimes, when i find myself in a particularly cynical mood, i wonder how much i ever really believed in this shit at all. maybe i was just an overly energetic and uppity youngster who got lucky thanks to her proclivity for coloured pens and organigrams and strategy documents. but i know i DO still believe and that i have something valuable to contribute. i know i do wish that the frustrating inner-workings of the orgs - our potential employers - were not so disheartening. i know i do want the industry of good works to not grow so cold and clunky that it winds up squashing all the possibility out of the dream. the very nature of our ideology requires open spaces and nourishment to survive, doesn't it? why should people like me climb into our 3rd decade and quietly get comfortable with all that's not right? i'm really fascinated by how one can preserve the best parts of one's truest self, the feisty, fierce, and energetic self, while coming to some sort of terms with the realities of the game. cuz we do know it's a game.

and by the way, no matter how caricaturized it has become, i still find poignancy in the question How Do You Measure A Year In The Life? i have this ridiculous image of a rag-tag bunch of jaded progressives a-wailing 'five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes' in a musical number played out on the tabletops of darcy mcgee's or down the halls of the west block or somewhere inside one nicholas street. i think it's a question me and my colleagues don't look at. we convince ourselves we're too busy to think about it, what with all the presentations to standing house committees and racking up of frequent flyer points on trips to coalition meetings. and now people are getting caught up in baby-making and mortgaging and the kind of life-living that doesn't allow for meaningful reflection about the work we do, how we do it, how much we compromise, or how it might be dousing the very flames that once made us an infectious up-and-comer who danced boldly through the door in the first place.


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