Making one’s life’s work a project to make the children of the invisible feel visible for a few hours a week: sheer idiocy. I realize this, and how developing this project flows naturally from my own childhood experiences. I was not born invisible, did not slip off until I disappeared during high school and kept out of sight, and the workforce, for a few decades. I had great potential and was reminded of it often by many as I slipped silently into the night.
We live in a corporate society, just accept it. Virtually everyone I know is employed by a corporation, paid by a corporation. The success or failure of everyone in our society is measured by their prosperity or lack of prosperity. To dream of an unpaid program that has no measurable path toward prosperity? Sheer idiocy.
I do not castigate myself, or seek to belittle what I have managed to achieve so far, even as I mock myself in the voice of the larger society. A program that allows young public school children, working together, to make all esthetic and technical decisions as they produce group animation? Priceless, truly. They master a host of skills and reap huge, unquantifiable benefits from this communal play with its ingenious balance of free imagining and technical demand. Even just the isolated element of adults witnessing and applauding kids’ creativity and achievement for its own sake is invaluable. That I lack metrics to prove this? A fatal flaw in the design of the program, from a corporate funder’s point of view.
I have felt in my body the pain of being invisible. It doesn’t come from a lack of fame, or envy of celebrity, or the want of some validation. It comes from that fundamental human need not to be seen as a fungible widget in a school uniform, a tiny data point, but as an individual containing an entire universe of imagining and potential. The corporation does not place any value on this fundamental human need– it has no such need itself, being a legally constructed monster, a single-minded, all-consuming predator given all the natural rights of a human being. “I’ll believe that corporations are people when the state of Texas puts one of them to death,” said Bill Moyers, national treasure. Me too.
A thought experiment: consider your feelings on a subject you care about greatly. Express them as cogently as you can to a close friend. Hear your close friend express almost zero understanding of why you feel so deeply about the subject. Experience the existential moment where you weigh all the other good qualities of your close friend against their inability to understand your deep engagement with this subject. This part is a conversation, largely with yourself.
Now, experiment part 2: express the same thing, in written form, and send it to the friend. Hear nothing in return. Is a neurotic person the only type who might find this silence troubling?
The world is just the world and there is a certain wisdom, I suppose, in lowering one’s expectations about what can be done. The myth of the individual who, by force of intellect, will, talent and determination, changes the way people think about the world? It is seen now and again, usually in the context of people who achieve great wealth and celebrity along with their influence. Luck is also a factor, the accident of birth first among these fortunes.
Then we have someone like Malcolm X, pointing to another path, following one’s beliefs without thought of personal gain like recent world-changers who spring to mind, amoral corporate geniuses like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Of course, Malcolm’s fame arose while speaking for a large, ignorant movement– he stood for years before a loud megaphone where his genius could be honed and displayed regularly. He underwent moral transformations during his life, was willing to revisit his deepest beliefs, refine his moral stance. And he was willing, although not anxious, to die for those beliefs. The shots that ripped him apart in the Audubon Ballroom that February day fifty years ago this week were earned by telling threatening truths many had an interest in not hearing expressed. Several parties who hated each other were united in their desire for his death, played essential parts in his murder. Not exactly a role model for action, perhaps, unless one feels he has no choice. I suppose I feel that way.