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Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem | Literary Hub
"Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action. Among the virtues that matter are those traditionally considered feminine rather than masculine, more nerd than jock: listening, respect, patience, negotiation, strategic planning, storytelling. But we like our lone and exceptional heroes, and the drama of violence and virtue of muscle, or at least that’s what we get, over and over, and in the course of getting them we don’t get much of a picture of how change happens and what our role in it might be, or how ordinary people matter. “Unhappy the land that needs heroes” is a line of Bertold Brecht’s I’ve gone to dozens of times, but now I’m more inclined to think, pity the land that thinks it needs a hero, or doesn’t know it has lots and what they look like."



"William James said of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, “Surely the cutting edge of all our usual misfortunes comes from their character of loneliness.” That is, if I lose my home, I’m cast out among those who remain comfortable, but if we all lose our homes in the earthquake, we’re in this together. One of my favorite sentences from a 1906 survivor is this: “Then when the dynamite explosions were making the night noisy and keeping everybody awake and anxious, the girls or some of the refugees would start playing the piano, and Billy Delaney and other folks would start singing; so that the place became quite homey and sociable, considering it was on the sidewalk, outside the high school, and the town all around it was on fire.”

I don’t know what Billy Delaney or the girls sang, or what stories the oat gatherers Le Guin writes about might have told. But I do have a metaphor, which is itself a kind of carrier bag and metaphor literally means to carry something beyond, carrying being the basic thing language does, language being great nets we weave to hold meaning. Jonathan Jones, an indigenous Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi Australian artist, has an installation—a great infinity-loop figure eight of feathered objects on a curving wall in the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane that mimics a murmuration, one of those great flocks of birds in flight that seems to swell and contract and shift as the myriad individual creatures climb and bank and turn together, not crashing into each other, not drifting apart.

From a distance Jones’s objects look like birds; up close they are traditional tools of stick and stone with feathers attached, tools of making taking flight. The feathers were given to him by hundreds who responded to the call he put out, a murmuration of gatherers. “I’m interested in this idea of collective thinking,” he told a journalist. “How the formation of really beautiful patterns and arrangements in the sky can help us potentially start to understand how we exist in this country, how we operate together, how we can all call ourselves Australians. That we all have our own little ideas which can somehow come together to make something bigger.”

What are human murmurations, I wondered? They are, speaking of choruses, in Horton Hears a Who, the tiny Whos of Whoville, who find that if every last one of them raises their voice, they become loud enough to save their home. They are a million and a half young people across the globe on March 15 protesting climate change, coalitions led by Native people holding back fossil fuel pipelines across Canada, the lawyers and others who converged on airports all over the US on January 29, 2017, to protest the Muslim ban.

They are the hundreds who turned out in Victoria, BC, to protect a mosque there during Friday prayers the week after the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. My cousin Jessica was one of them, and she wrote about how deeply moving it was for her, “At the end, when prayers were over, and the mosque was emptying onto the street, if felt like a wedding, a celebration of love and joy. We all shook hands and hugged and spoke kindly to each other—Muslim, Jew, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, atheist…” We don’t have enough art to make us see and prize these human murmurations even when they are all around us, even when they are doing the most important work on earth."
rebeccasolnit  heroes  change  democracy  collectivism  multitudes  2019  robertmueller  gretathunberg  society  movements  murmurations  relationships  connection  femininity  masculinity  leadership  patience  negotiation  listening  strategy  planning  storytelling  bertoldbrecht  violence  attention  ursulaleguin  williamjames  1906  sanfrancisco  loneliness  comfort  billdelaney  jonathanjones  art  humans  humanism  scale  activism  action 
april 2019 by robertogreco

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