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Nathan Thomas

 The Weird Manifesto 

Captain Kirk said, “Risk is our business.” 


First Officer Ryker regularly explicitly notes that his first responsibility is the safety of his ship – also the Enterprise, but in the 1990s.


We got scared before 9/11.  9/11 didn’t help.  But it started before then.


We got scared that someone was going to take our guns away, so we bought more.  We got scared of litigiousness, so we got more litigious ourselves.  We got scared that our vaccinations might make our kid sick, so we didn’t get the kid vaccinated – which means the kid might get sick.  We got scared that the government that we elected would hurt us, so we elected people who avowedly don’t like government and don’t want to govern.


Friends, fear is not necessarily a bad thing.  An appropriate fear of fire can keep you from getting burned. But inappropriate fear is no way to live.  And somehow, the U.S.A. got afraid.  I don’t say that any individual person is necessarily fearful.  But groups can have a group psychology separate from the psychology of the individuals within the group.  And our group dynamic is fear.


“We don’t have enough money.”  “We can’t.”  “We have to shut it down.”  “We have to make cuts.”




No, we don’t.


Our nation has plenty of money.  And we’re adults.  We can damn well do what we choose to do – if we choose to do it.


I went to school.  A group of masters in my field of study – theatre – said that I had achieved at least the minimum standards to be considered a master as well.  My mastery would allow me to determine the appropriate level of mastery for students.


In the last thirty or so years, however, a small group of folks have determined that they can’t trust my level of mastery or my ability to determine the capacities of students I teach.  So it has become necessary to objectify education into a series of quantifiable levels.  And the grading system (as troubled as it is) has been deemed as so unreliable that it isn’t an appropriate guide to “assessment.”  Only through this collection of “meaningful data” will we be supported to affect changes in programs.


And so the study of an art form is transformed into something countable because it’s assumed that what we do doesn’t really count at all.


As a culture we don’t trust.  This started before 9/11.  9/11 didn’t help.  But it started before then.


“He didn’t talk about the state of my union,” a very conservative “friend” posted on her page after Mr. Obama gave the State of the Union address.  “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up through love of this country,” rants the conservative former official to a group of big money folks looking for contributions.


These are the easy pickings.  Through social media and in our culture, we objectify other human beings. That entity is not like “us” – not like me.  So that entity is a little less than me.  And a little less than human.  That entity becomes easier to dismiss.


In the USA we objectify the “government” into some odd abstraction, forgetting that our government is constituted of people we elected and aided by people who are our neighbors and family members who’ve been hired to fulfill jobs.  Oklahoma, one of the “Reddest” of states, has government as its biggest employer. Every single government worker is a person – a human being.  But chat up someone at your neighborhood bar about how they feel about the “government,” prepare to get an ear-full.


As a culture we objectify – make humans into some level of abstractions or less-than-us.  This started long ago, of course. But it has gotten worse, lately.


We’re scared, and we don’t trust, and we objectify.


We’re sick.


We need theatre and the arts more than ever.


The arts are the anti-objectifying part of our life.  And theatre, the most relatable of the arts, has the most power in this regard.  When we see humans in relationship with each other – when it happens live in our presence – when we have that moment of recognition that “I’m not alone in the universe;”  then we start to become more human.  We have a reason to find community.  We have a reason to find mercy.  We have a reason to find kindness.


We can be less scared.  We can have the strength to trust each other, since each other is all we’ve got.  We can recognize that we’re all just humans working to get through each day with a little grace.


It’s time to put away mottos like Howard Beale’s “I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-this-anymore.”  Anger is fine, but it’s not what we need.


We can turn this around.  We can change the psychology of the group.  We don’t have to give in to fear.


The hard times will come.  The challenges will sometimes seem immense.  And when they do, say:

“Is that the best you got?”

March 2015

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Nathan Thomas has earned his living as a touring actor,
Artistic Director, director, stage manager, designer, composer,
and pianist. He has a Ph.D. in theatre, and is a member of the
theatre faculty at Alvernia College.
He also writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of his commentary and articles,
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©2015 Nathan Thomas
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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