Rebecca Solnit : When the Hero is the Problem | Literary Hub
Un texte de #Rebbeca_Solnit sur le prisme des #grands_hommes (et des grandes femmes ? oui mais la reconnaissance du pouvoir d’individus assemblées tient aussi à la reconnaissance de comportements perçus comme féminins). Il est question de #storytelling, de #héros, de #groupes et d’#individus, d’Ursula K. Le Guin et de Virginia Woolf.
#littérature #féminisme #individualisme #climat aussi
We are not very good at telling stories about a hundred people doing things or considering that the qualities that matter in saving a valley or changing the world are mostly not physical courage and violent clashes but the ability to coordinate and inspire and connect with lots of other people and create stories about what could be and how we get there. Back in 1970, the farmers did produce a nice explosion, and movies love explosions almost as much as car chases, but it came at the end of what must have been a lot of meetings, and movies hate meetings.
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.
Which is to say that the problem of the singlehanded hero exists in nonfiction and news and even history (where it was dubbed the Great Man Theory of History) as much as it does in fiction and film. (There’s also a Terrible Man Theory of History that, for example, in focusing on Trump excuses and ignores the longer history of right-wing destruction and delusion.) To concentrate on Ginsburg is to suggest that one transcendently exceptional individual at the apex of power is who matters. To look at these other lawyers is to suggest that power is dispersed and decisions in various courts across the land matter and so do the lawyers who win them and the people who support them.
This idea that our fate is handed down to us from above is built into so many stories. Even Supreme Court rulings around marriage equality or abortion often reflect shifts in values in the broader society as well as the elections that determine who sits on the court. Those broad shifts are made by the many in acts that often go unrecognized. Even if you only cherish personal life, you have to recognize the public struggles that impact who gets to get married, who gets a living wage and healthcare and education and housing and clean drinking water. Also if you’re one of the 82 people who burned to death in the Paradise fire last year, the consequences of public policy were very personal.
There’s a scorching song by Liz Phair I think about whenever I think about heroes. She sang:
He’s just a hero in a long line of heroes
Looking for something attractive to save
They say he rode in on the back of a pick-up
And he won’t leave town till you remember his name
It’s a caustic revision of the hero as an attention-getter, a party-crasher, a fame-seeker, and at least implicitly a troublemaker in the guise of a problem-solver. And maybe we as a society are getting tired of heroes, and a lot of us are certainly getting tired of overconfident white men. Even the idea that the solution will be singular and dramatic and in the hands of one person erases that the solutions to problems are often complex and many faceted and arrived at via negotiations. The solution to climate change is planting trees but also transitioning (rapidly) away from fossil fuels but also energy efficiency and significant design changes but also a dozen more things about soil and agriculture and transportation and how systems work. There is no solution, but there are are many pieces that add up to a solution, or rather to a modulation of the problem of climate change.
That’s another part of our rugged individualism and hero culture, the idea that all problems are personal and they’re all soluble by personal responsibility—or medication that helps you accept what you cannot change, when it can be changed but not by you personally. It’s a framework that eliminates the possibility of deeper, broader change or of holding accountable the powerful who create and benefit from the status quo and its myriad forms of harm. The narrative of individual responsibility and change protects stasis, whether it’s adapting to inequality or poverty or pollution.
Our largest problems won’t be solved by heroes. They’ll be solved, if they are, by movements, coalitions, civil society. The climate movement, for example, has been first of all a mass effort, and if figures like Bill McKibben stand out—well he stands out as the cofounder of a global climate action group whose network is in 188 countries and the guy who keeps saying versions of “The most effective thing you can do about climate as an individual is stop being an individual.”