David: halfway through 1st workshop

So I’ve been bad about blogging the workshop — mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. But will try to make up for it as I utilize the (spotty) wifi on Amtrak, coming into the city for day four.

We’ve organized this workshop to spend each day (roughly) looking at one of our six groups — Monday was Owners, Tuesday the Workers, and yesterday the Bankers plus a start on Management. It has all been incredibly illuminating, and somewhat overwhelming. But exciting, even if I don’t quite know what to do with it all sometimes.

Some points of clarity, however, have stayed with us as guides:

1) character is key — don’t get me wrong, all the other stuff (market mechanics, the story of this Company’s growth and transformations, the underlying question ofvalue and how we determine it) is important, critical even — it’s the content, it’s what we want to talk about, argue over, get the audience pondering and taking a stand on. But if we can’t create interesting characters, and interesting stories to tell about them, it’ll be so hard not to get mired in didacticism.

2) separate the tools from those wielding them — it’s so easy to confuse the two, banking and bankers, corporations and corporate leaders, trade and the traders. I’m not interested in condemning the entire financial system (or, more clearly, the concept of having a financial system). Banks are not evil, nor are they good. They are a tool, and one that is critical to civilization. I am interested in finding those places, those stories, where the idea of value can be turned in either direction (for good or ill, to the benefit of society as a whole or for selfish profit) and then putting the audience at the crux of that choice, to make a plowshare or a sword.

3) this shit is hard — and that’s ok. Going into this week I felt so prepared, from a research standpoint, so knowledgeable and ready to help convey that knowledge. And then our wonderful collaborators have started asking all these hard questions (sometimes very simple ones, which can be the hardest) and I find myself floundering. And I think that’s jim dandy. This shit is hard, and we should keep struggling with it, relearning it, re-examining it in the light of new things we learn or create.

Some moments that stick in my brain:

  • Al Dunlap was/is fucking crazy, and I want us to make a dance with everyone in pinstripe suits, a Rambo bandana on their foreheads, and wielding AK-47s. His house is full of statues of predators, and gold-covered things, “because gold is shiny.” Shiny = good. Shiny = value.
  • Walter Ruther of the UAW, “Why don’t we make anything in America anymore?” The shift from a farming/manufacturing economy to a service economy is critical, we’re in the middle of it, and I’m not sure that we’re doing such a good job with it.
  • That stupid management exercise with the animals and what they mean about how we view ourselves — stupid stupid stupid, and I hate hate hate it. It was totally dead on for me, however. Stupid. Hate it.
  • I was the only one who found Gantt charts comforting. And I find them really comforting. I want to make Gantt charts for everything. I want a Gantt chart for life.
  • Our actors are awesome.

Arriving at Penn Sta. Signing off.


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