So, I have been following the Occupation of Wall Street from the safety of my home office. As I graded student essays this weekend, I clicked between essays and websites, looking for information about the protests; I wanted to see who was covering it and what they were saying. I clicked on HTMLGIANT and We Who Are About to Die as well, because I like to read their posts on what's going on in the independent literary world and in art and their takes on the intersection of literature and art with US society today... & I have been thinking about the reactions to these protests and protesters, and what most disturbs me is the non-reactions...
I thought the Giant might do something like this, at least:
I'm not trying to pick on the Giant or WWAATD, but their silence on these protests left me questioning, why? Why do the writers and commenters of the Giant bemoan a society where the bottom line is money, where art is not valued for art's sake (whatever that is), but for how much money it makes, yet do not even acknowledge a social event that has the potential to disrupt this corporatization bottom-lining of the US? That has the potential to disrupt the value systems that says only this (take your pick: bestsellers, new shoes, Lexus, mcmansions, American Apparel, etc.) is important because it reflects how much you are worth. That equates the number of books sold to the worth of the art. That says there is no place for cutting-edge, avant-garde, or experimental writing (or art) outside the academy (or even in, sometimes...)? That says there is no place for poetry?
Forgive me, if my thoughts are jumbled or if I come across as too earnest and not ironic enough... I'm not trying to attack the online independent literary community. I consider myself a member; I write and I publish online and I enjoy very much the discussions on the big lit blogs. I am just wondering, like Lily Hoang did during the Egyptian uprisings (& yes, I know this occupation is much smaller, but it is spreading...), why a lot of the writers seem to be saying nothing about Occupy Wall Street. There have been a few: The Rumpus has been keeping an "Occupy Wall Street Round-up" and Tao Lin tweeted this:
Why does the online presence of the independent literary community seem so complacent? Is it because we're all jaded? Too cynical? Too worried about legitimacy and authority so we don't want to be linked to "hippies" and "gutter punks" and "optimists" and those pilots(!) because then no one will take our art seriously?
Mama's thinking we all need to re-examine our roles as writers. I'm not saying we have to write political works or anything... I'm just saying when we live in a society that devalues art, we should definitely consider supporting people who want to change the things that perpetuate this devaluation. I'm not trying to create a manifesto here. I am trying to say, as writers, we need to observe and we need to think and we need to interact and we need to make art and we need to acknowledge, in our communities, the possibilities of change.
To quote the last line of a blog post by Christopher Newgent (about the BlazeVox "controversy") that was linked through the Giant: "You have to stop believing that this is 'the reality of poetry publishing.' Because it’s not. Because even if it is, it doesn’t have to be. Stand up."
As part of the writing community, I suggest we widen this sentiment to: You have to stop believing that this is “the reality of the US.” Because it’s not. Because even if it is, it doesn’t have to be. Stand up.