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Transforming an Unjust System

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Created:July 4, 2002
Latest Update: July 4, 2002

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Site Teaching Modules Relating Narrative to Empowerment:
Frankie and Johnny

Teaching Essay Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individaul Authors, July 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Preparatory reading: In 'Frankie and Johnnie,' Haltingly, Clothing Falls Away By John Leland. P. AR 1. Backup.

Following the theory of Maria Pia Lara that telling the stories of our lived experience are emancipatory, I wanted to share one with you today. It came to mind because of a New York Times article, linked above, that just happened to be on top of the newspaper when I brought it in on Sunday, August 4, 2002.

The article opened with a description of the actors discomfort with disrobing for a scene of intimacy in the play. Edie Falco, star of the play, is quoted as saying that the character of "Frankie is pretty damn close. So it's a very vulnerable place to be. But she is a me that I think I could have been had things gone differently. She's a me that some of my friends are either in or heading toward. She's not only stuck, but she's given up. She was hanging onto the side of the boat, but after a while, your arms get too tired. That's where we find her."

And that struck a chord. How many people I know who are just so tired of hanging on, and their arms get too tired. I know. I've been there. It's so easy to "give up," to lose hope. The fast track and corporate bureaucray that is relentless in its pursuit of profit often leave us bereft of us, too tired to remember who we are.

Juxtapose the photo of the subsistence farmers in Mexico celebrating their "vicotry" over the dictates of a government in which they have been denied participatory decision-making. Recall that the farmers were willing to settle the disagreement when the government negotiated fair settement offers. The airfield was ultimately moved from their lands because a minority continued to insist. So it could have ended either way peacefully. With the airport at Texcoco or elsewhere. What mattered was the process. By believing in themselves and standing up to injustice they altered the decisions of their government and transformed their structural context. I suppose it is more dramatic in the telling of history that the subsistence farmers forced the airport to be built elsewhere that that they got a better settlement for their land. The geographical relocation is graphic. The settlement is not. But either way, the energy and passion that led them to fight injustice transformed their lived experience and their lifeworld.

That energy and passion is what Edie Falco describes as overcome by tiredness and loss of hope in the character of Frankie. One of the roles of the collectivity is to lend support for those moments when we are tired and begin to lose hope.