Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Day 61 "In the trenches" ("Go to the phones!" III edition)

Still live-blogging the Pledge Drive here. Interesting dynamic to fundraising in periods of economic crisis and political opportunism: donations for public broadcasting usually go up. Stupid, unimaginative, and cowardly political opportunists typically will try to scapegoat public broadcasting as a hotbed of "lib'rul bias." Which is horseshit: NPR, for example, has completely sold out to inside-the-Beltway cliquish power-fetish. But it is true that public broadcasting, especially public radio, is committed to a degree of diverse and thoughtful opinion that drives conservative wingnuts crazy. So the wingnuts, and the cowardly politicians who strap on the knee-pads every time the Far Right starts screaming, will tend to attack public broadcasting when they can't find any other victims.

Aside from the cynicism, cowardice, and flat-frickin' dishonesty of such attacks, they also reveal their stupid misunderstanding of their own constituencies. The reality is that, just as in '94 when Gingrich and Buchanan and their numb-nutted ilk "rode to the sound of the guns," pledging for public broadcasting goes up when the economy slumps or when politicians attack.

So bring it, you bastards: keep ranting about the damned "lib'rul bias" on public broadcasting and watch our numbers go up and yours go down. And, when I watch the muted TV monitor tuned to CNN (above and to the right in the photo), blathering silently about underage sex, "cross-dressing elementary kids," and the salacious details of Britney's latest meltdown, I'm reminded about the difference between clean work and dirty. That would be, "mine" versus "yours."

Meantime, last night was the monthly "First Monday" ceili dance for the Caprock Celtic Association in the back room of the local neighborhood coffee shop. I've played and taught Irish dance music for many years, and some of the most enlightening experiences I've ever had have been playing the music specifically for dancing: there are aspects of interpretation that are simply unavailable in the absence of dancers. So, I want my guys to have the same opportunity to learn.

It's a fine line to walk with this kind of community offering: you're having it in an open public location, and you promote as "all ages and skill levels," then you will have people coming in--with their kids--with that full diversity of expectations or preferences. You simply can't run things in an autocratic fashion, because what you're trying to model is a bottom-up, responsive, communal, contributory set of behaviors. This is vastly simplified by not charging a fee--the inclusion of a fee-structure to such situations instantly shifts the dynamic away from "we're all in this together, equally responsible" and toward "hey, you, I paid for this experience--now gimme!" You don't want this. So you make it "suggested donation" only, and you read the riot act to the attendees that even if they're going to drink only water from the house, they better tip the counter-staff big. And you generally treat them like they're family: follow the house rules, play nice, tolerate one another's eccentricities, and recognize that the pluses outweigh the drawbacks.

This means that you have to put up with it when somebody brings their four kids, or their klutzy friend, or even the acid-dancing hippie boyfriend--because that's what families have to do. You try to get everybody to sign-on for the goal of the evening--to learn and share--and pulling in the same direction, but you also have to recognize that Uncle Harry is going to get confused or that your sister's bratty kids are going to act out. So you grit your teeth, hold your temper, focus on the positives, and be grateful for that part of the thing that works.

Which, when you think and respond in those terms, it mostly does. "Be the change you wish to see," right?

No comments: