Thursday, October 18, 2007

I've been working at the Capitol Theater for the last two years. Half the time I've spent in Olympia, and my involvement was probably the thing that sold me on Olympia. A couple of months ago, the guy who hired me, in a volunteer capacity, and taught me how to be a projectionist, was fired. I liked him a lot, but other people found him eminently disagreeable.

When this happened I felt weird and stunned. I don't think I had any idea how to process it. Luckily, the guy who told me that Jeff was fired followed this up immediately with talk of a strike. Which gave me a context.

After the meeting amongst all the projectionists about a strike, I thought about the idea that if I were the fired party, I would leave town. He was going through a brutal divorce, and then got fired, but got a chunk of money to prevent him from suing. If that were me, I would go on to new adventures. Probably I think this because it is that this guy is the lens through which I view the Olympia Film Society, and Olympia by extension.

He didn't do that, he stayed around, and we had a strike for a while. Over the course of the meetings, it became articulated that the projectionist community and some other people felt really alienated from the Film Society, and this was kind of a dealbreaker. It wasn't about the firing- although that was my reasoning behind the strike, as I viewed it as a labor issue- it became symbolic of general malaise. Every month that passed without a single good movie playing had been problematic as well for volunteers that were essentially paid in passes to see movies they didn't want to see. The decision was made to try to amend the Film Society's bylaws that the Board Of Directors be elected by members, rather than the Board being a self-electing, and thus autocratic, body.

The paperwork and petitions went through and a meeting was held. In a lot of ways, the spectre of that firing loomed large. So large, actually, that the rather reasonable idea of having the board be elected didn't pass. (There was a second part, that the board by immediately dissolved and a new one elected, which I understand people's hesitation about.)

This infuriated me, as I sat in the theater. People clapped as the decision for there not to be voting passed. When a woman got up to call bullshit, she was booed and told it was over. I looked around, wondering "God, who are these fucking assholes?" and I saw one former professor of mine who I didn't get along with, and who kicked me out of the class.

I kind of freaked the fuck out, existential-crisis-ly speaking. This thing that I gave a large chunk of my time over to, that I liked, and that made me like Olympia, was in the hands of the same assholes that represented everything I didn't like about Evergreen.

I just kept on thinking "evil will prevail." This was last Saturday.

It's worth pointing out that the majority of people who voted voted for a democratically-elected board. But not the two-thirds needed to change the bylaws. It lost by nine votes. I wasn't there in time for the vote, because I had to work. I didn't know I could just drop off my vote in advance, or something. I thought that people had to sit through the whole meeting, and hear both sides of the issue, etc. I was wrong, a lot of people dropped off their votes, some without knowing the issue, and then left.

Since then, a lot of people I liked who worked for the Film Society have quit. I don't think they're leaving Olympia. I spent an hour talking to someone who's actually a paid staff member, who was thinking about quitting not because of the election- they didn't have a personal stake in the race- but because their work is a lot harder if a lot of volunteers quit. She said that if she quit the Film Society job, she would probably also have to leave Olympia.

That conversation and others kind of lead me in the direction of not quitting the Film Society, even though it seems like it might get shittier in terms of people I deal with there. I really can't understate that community element, or how alienating it was when the election went the way it did. Hypothetically, it would be like me liking Olympia partly because of how liberal it is, and then finding out that the majority of people who lived there voted for Bush, because the liberals are actually in the minority, and just make up the overwhelming percentage of people I deal with on a regular basis. Finding out that it's not the people you deal with on a regular basis who make the decisions, but a group that might as well be called a cabal.

The word "cabal" was kind of thrown in the direction of my projectionist clique as well in our campaign. It struck me as really weird, but I guess we are that alienated. It's like being told that the group of people you see are the time are "hipsters" and are actually very exclusionary. Or that they're elitist in their taste, even though it seems to you that you like all the same things and it's all very popular. It's a paradigm shift. Only, you know, I think those people are wrong, who are throwing these terms around. I don't think they know what they're talking about, but they're maybe not aided by the people in question being kind of inarticulate geeks.

Maybe my feeling of wanting to quit is adolescent and unprofessional. I will concede that on the basis of that being the Film Society I want to be a part of. I want it messy and fun and not trying to compete in a capitalist market. The idea of "unprofessionalism" makes me feel like I'm not a volunteer for an arts organization, but free labor for some kind of bastard corporate machine that's nominally a non-profit.

I feel really conflicted about it. I definitely feel like the bastards won. I feel impotent and disenfranchised. The conflict comes in when questioning what to do when that's the way you feel about a thing.

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