Monday, 21 July 2008

brothers in arms

bear with me - there's two totally different posts coming your way now and I'm not sure there's any relationship between them, but I can't seem to focus on one over the other.

I can't stop thinking about Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms. I'm an unreconstructed fan of a quite a few Dire Straits songs - something deeply entwined with my memories on one of my school friends winning a radio competition to see them in London. She took her brief lived boyfriend and spent a week doing nothing much except meeting the band and being the envy of our entire school.

But anyway.

We're watching West Wing again, from start to finish, and we've just hit season 3. That's the one where everything falls apart and gets hard and the characters are constantly shot in shadows with pained expressions. Season 2 ended with a wind whipped rain storm and the President and his men marching in to meet their futures to the brothers in arms sound track.

And now I can't stop humming the song and I think it is because there's so many things bound up in those scenes and the music is a sound track I am using to unpack it all.

D and I are in the habit of slagging off Snuffy while we watch. Snuffy (I mean what kind of name is that?!) chooses the music for West Wing and often times the music symbolises everything I hate about this otherwise superb series. The music always announces cheese ahead! It's when the characters are saying things like God Bless America and I serve at the pleasure of the President. Stuff that makes me feel terribly glad to be an aussie and too fearful of ridicule to say things like that out loud.

I can't deny I find some of the cheese quite powerful. The onus of duty moves me, and the way people overcome fear and make personal sacrifice to do what they feel to be right deeply affects me. And it doesn't much matter whether I agree with them of not - on a purely emotional level I admire the courage of sacrifice. Politics, like war, is truly brutal and despite how easy it is to be cynical about the motives of those in power the truth is they stand every day in someone's sights and that's a hard way to live.

I really like the way the series draws out the connections between the ego and glory side of politics and the bone crushing fear of defeat, between the desire to serve and do what's right with unrecoverable personal sacrifice. And despite the show's political sympathies I think it does a reasonable job of demonstrating that all of that can be equally true for people who serve on the other side of politics.

But I think underneath all this I am moved by a different kind of emotion. I am moved by sadness. I've been trying to understand why and I think it's as simple as realising that these are brothers in arms. CJ may be a girl, but when it comes to this point of the story arc, she and those like her are relegated to minor roles. In fact, positively antagonistic roles. Benched for a minor slip, CJ offers to fall on her sword and all she gets is being yelled at by Bartlett. Abby had a life and a deal - a partnership - but it is nothing in the face of the army of suited men who flank Bartlett as he makes it to the podium to announce that despite all common sense and the consequences for everyone around him, he's running for a second term.

It's sadness that in the end whether you are running a country or a marriage, the rules are set not by negotiation or deals that are fair to everyone but by the judgement of those (men) who are prepared to take the most hits.

* * * * *

It is totally ironic that all of this has been whirling around in my brain because I haven't been battling it out in the political arena in the last few days. I've been kicking back with a bunch of women, buying yarn and knitting and sewing and eating and talking and drinking and laughing. The 6th craft retreat, and the biggest yet.

We headed out to catch the Bendigo sheep and wool show. Sigh. So much yarn, so many projects, only two hands. I didn't take a single photo while we were away, but if you are a yarnie and keen to see the loot, head on over to ravelry or flickr.

As I always do on these retreats, I had a wonderful time. And not just because I bought lots of yarn.

I enjoyed my community of women, my chance to create, learn and get inspired. I enjoyed being cooked for, not having to clean or take responsibility for anyone other than myself, not having to change nappies, wipe noses or yell at kids trying to juggle knives or draw on walls. I felt truly privileged to be there.

Full of thanks for the women who share the same dream I do of how things can be amongst a group of people.

* * * * *

There was a time when I wanted to be Bartlett, or at least Josh. A time when I relished every opportunity to get closer to being in charge. Not because I wanted to be in charge but because I had a sense of duty. Because it seemed like the right and only way I could effectively contribute.

Now not so much.

Now I feel like that world, that way of being is way too much for me. I don't know whether I could have made a greater contribution than I have, whether my loss of interest is cowardice. Whether I am suffering a temporary disillusionment. Where once I saw the soaring heights of possibility I now see men in uniforms marching to their deaths and I want to be as far away from the front lines as I can.



Cass said...

We are re-watching the West Wing on Foxtel at the moment. We are nearing the end. The rave is on for the presidential nomination, it's lovely seeing Jimmy Smits every night

bex said...

I do like a nice life lesson gleaned from television, even if it's not a lesson they intended.

Television gleaning, what an odd concept. Almost like pseudo-intellectual dumpster diving.

sueeeus said...

Excellent post, on many levels. We will probably watch WW this winter. Maybe. All these years and I've managed not to have seen a single episode.

I used to think I should be out there changing the world too, but since becoming a mother I realize that I AM changing the world, and my most crucial duty is to do the absolute best I can to raise my child(ren) to grow into fine people. I also recently acknowledged that the desire to change the world had a lot to do with ego. So now I'm taking contentment in all that I can, and congratulating myself on simply being. I find I'm a much more relaxed person than I've ever been!

Such a lovely weekend it sounds you've had. Oh for a circle of friends in closer physical proximity!

amy said...

So much of what you've written is what I've been thinking as I watch the series all the way through on DVD for the, um, 3rd time. Thanks for this post.

nectaryne said...

I think being a mother is a huge front-line contribution to society! Too bad it doesn't come with a huge paycheck or those really nice clothes the West Wing women all seem to have access to.

kirsten said...

glad the weekend went so well. :)
[and some serious stash enhancement occurred by the look of it! nice.]

Turning Japanese said...

Fun, fun, fun... I didn't craft all that much but I had a wonderful time and am inspired now for future hobbies. I can't wait to really get my hands on felting (wet and dry)! Thanks for organising it all...

PS... Do you have a link to Sue (I remember something about 5 and 2 but I can't find her)

Iona said...

Very thoughtful. I've had my own encounters with the influential and I think there has to be room for doing differently - collaboration, listening, and doing (together). I love WW and I concur with your sentiments on the sense of duty, the responsibilities of influence etc. It's just that I really hate the idea of 14-16 hours a day to do it.
So, I'm trying to influence as an academic (ha!) and as a mum.

innercitygarden said...

One of the things that really struck me last time I was watching WW (while breastfeeding the newborn) was that the Presidential role was so all encompassing that even Bartlett's daughters contacted him via his secretary and the way that him having this job made it more difficult not just for his wife to work in her chosen career, but for his daughters to follow their respective callings and talents.

I'm quite happy to be in the support crew for the influential. The minor league support crew. I think the influential types need some staff who go home at 5pm and run families, who know what being at home is like, who know that some of what happens in the big offices is more important than the suits think, and some of it far less important than it may seem. I like to think some of us are influential just by being the sort of people who can model going home on time, collecting our kids ourselves, cooking our own meals. I like to think that there are more men joining our ranks than there used to be too.

Janet said...

Am looking forward to watching WW next.

Yes, it was great wasn't it! Two days of freedom, just enough time to get something made, watch and learn, enjoy the company of inspiring women and miss those back home, making the return sweet.

I felt priveleged too. Thanks.

Suse said...

I felt a bit nervous about there being so many of us this time, but it was fab. And a privilege, as you say.


kaicevy said...

I'm an unreconstructed fan of a quite a few Dire Straits songs - something deeply entwined with my memories on one of my school friends winning a radio competition to see them in London

john said...

We think CJ Craig IS the star of the entire show. C'mon - she runs the country, Jedadiah is just a trophy wife prez. Especially as he become more and more lame duck...

Emile likes CJ too.

Di said...

I know nothing of West Wing, or (sadly) the joy of the weekend away, but I am so with you on finding myself not wanting to be on the front lines at this point in my life. I think it has alot to do with the collection of roles our lives are filled with right now- mother, partner, income earner, crafter, teacher. Many roles kind of taking the place of one big fat juicy role. Maybe one day it will change again, and there will be sufficient headspace to take it on. Not that it really matters whether it does, because I'm pretty certain you're making some big contributions to many peoples lives doing just what you're doing now.