Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Better a rebel than a hypocrite" -- r.i.p. beverly sills

i clipped this out of some glamour or cosmo mag waaaay back sometime in the 80's and made about a zillion copies for my files (access to xerox machines was still a new thing then). i don't know much about beverly sills. i'm not even a big opera fan -- too loud! -- but i subscribe to her philosphy completely. i've come across this from time to time and wondered how influential it was in my formative years. you be the judge...

You Can Change Things

by Beverly Sills

I have been on the lecture circuit for the last five years, talking about the state of the arts. I speak about a half-hour and then open the floor to questions. In the last couple of years, I have noticed a reluctance to ask anything that might cause a difference of opinion or be a little troublesome. It stems, I think, not from apathy but from a kind of "I got mine, Charlie, so let's not stir up the animals" attitude. I am a parent of two young women who attended college in the sixties. We bear deep scars from that experience. While I disagreed with the methods of the students, I applauded their passions. Better a rebel than a hypocrite.

Today we don't lack causes, but a great many of us do lack a passion for those causes. For about ten days, I watched on television starving babies in Ethiopia with bulging eyes and bloated stomachs. I phoned a few of my friends and said, "We've got to get some money together." We decided we had to make a stab at it. Around the same time, the United Nations approved overwhelmingly, by a vote of 125 to 5 a $70 million convention center -- to be built in Ethiopia. The result was a whisper of an outrage and then silence.

When President Reagan went to Bitburg, a German woman appeared on television in Europe and said, "Why do Americans always do what the Jews want?"
The International Herald Tribune quoted a German dignitary who said, "Things are always fine until the Jews show up." After this brief interlude on television and a small mention in the newspapers, the incident was over; it's apparently not worth the trouble to worry about the dormant cancer of anti-Semitism awakening again -- or, for that matter, the horrors of apartheid, or even the bombed-out Bronx, Harlem, and Roxbury ghettos that scream out the tragic inequities here in our own country.

Perhaps our discouragement is understandable; after 750,000 people peacefully marched through Central Park on behalf of a nuclear freeze, we were told by a high government official, whom mercifully I will not name, that such demonstrations have very little effect or influence on the Administration. So let me get to the point of my message.

First of all, we must stop referring to the government as "they." They is us. This is not a monarchy. Those people in Washington are there by our good graces. If we like what they are doing, we should keep them there, and if we don't we should get them out. We should let them know that we are watching them and that we know who they are. Therefore, we must know the names of our senators, congressmen, state senators, and councilmen -- all of them.

You may feel that one voice, when a thousand are needed to make things change, is not enough. But you are wrong. One articulate voice can attract a thousand more. Be that voice. You may feel that one vote is pointless when thousands are needed to make things happen. Use it and influence others. Be informed and inform others. Be educated and educate others. We are consumers and we can boycott the product.

Don't be angry, but be passionate. It is terribly important that you care about someone or something. If you are one of those who prefers being a spectator, fine -- nobody knows better than I that audiences are indispensable to performers. But if you are one of those people who like to get into the center of the ring and fight the bull in every sense of the word I suggest you do it -- because you can change the world.



Blogger enigma4ever said...

Please come back....you are missed...

August 11, 2007 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Cassandra Complex,

I know it's been months, but can you post the exact date and title for the article/interview by Beverly Sills? I'd love to see it in its entirety. Thanks!

October 19, 2007 12:52 AM  

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