THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
Well, here we are in challenging times. It is quite amazing really, as the current sociopolitical landscape is almost unrecognizable from just a short while ago. This pervades in multiple realms; from the International to the Local and it brings to mind a sentiment expressed by Ben Hecht, the iconic Hollywood screenwriter and prolific scribbler. In 1958, he hosted a protean television talk show broadcast nightly in New York City. Years ahead of its time, it fearlessly featured talks with individuals from across the spectrum of society, inclusive of murderers and ministers, finally being canceled when his guest, the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, described his discovery of a new type of orgasm on live TV. Too much for the corporate minds of that era, but tame from our present-day perspective.
Here’s Hecht’s statement of intent from his premier broadcast that startles with its current relevance:
September 15, 1958
All the big and little thinkers are moaning low. The word optimism has almost gone out of our language. They say we are the fearful fifties waiting for the sinister sixties. There’s hardly a man, woman or child able to turn a television dial who isn’t convinced that our planet will wind up shortly as a lifeless cinder spinning emptily in space. Most of the thinking going on today is trying to figure out who is to blame for our impending extinction as a species. The way it looks now the last two humans left on Earth, presumably an American and a Russian, will point a righteous finger at each other and with a triumphant cry of you did it, drop dead. End of world. Invective and despair have taken over an era that waits for this distinction. I can think of no cure for this mood of panic. The best I can do as one man is not to add to it. Voltaire’s hero, young Candide, cried out after each disaster that smote him, ‘It’s the best of all possible worlds.’ Voltaire meant this cry to sound bitter and ironic. It never has to me. I’ve found the grin of life, however ironic, more important and persuasive than all its defeats. The inanities of our politicians, the poppycock produced by our fear of Communism and our fear of ourselves, in fact, the whole climate of invective and despair which covers us with its smog, is no more than that. An unfunny day. An individualist doesn’t have to strike his colors in bad weather. That in a fashion is my theme. I’ll try to stick to it and keep Candide’s slogan sounding: it’s the best of all possible worlds.
Hecht’s resilient optimism, having lived through both world wars, the Holocaust and more, strikes a chord as he reminds us that the present is a snapshot of an eternally flowing river. The push and pull of the social current is replete with the endless random collisions of individuals acting and reacting.
So it’s up to us to learn the rhythm of tides and to act on counsel from our better angels. The tsunami of incredible and often horrific revelations crashing upon us almost daily cannot be our collective cue to shut down in paralysis. Rather, it is a call to action, an invitation to set aside the apathy of being overwhelmed and engage, armed with grace, critical thinking and common sense as the countervailing forces to the outrageous.
With this in mind, I am asking you to build on the positive culture now thriving in our Local and take the next step as stakeholders and genuinely participate. This energy should arise from a sense of enlightened self-interest. This community we call Local 695 is not some third-party entity. It doesn’t exist just to police the rules and manage crises. It is us and our fellow members, joined in mutually beneficial action.
As always, the opportunity to take part in the union’s progress through committee and event participation continues and I am initiating significant expansion of these opportunities in several new ways:
We are daily being made aware of the problem of workplace harassment, sexual and otherwise. We generally are aware of industry reporting procedures being in place but when it comes to resolution and support, I know that we can do better. So, I’m calling out to the membership for volunteers to participate in a Harassment Resolution Protocol Committee. The intent is to develop a concrete protocol for members to follow in addition to reporting incidents to the employer. We need to create safe methods for members who experience abuse to receive support and advocacy for dealing with their situation. This committee is charged with examining available options and distilling them into a recommended protocol for members who are in need. Please contact me through the Local if you are interested in serving on this committee.
I have also created a Political Action Committee to help better align the interests of our union with opportunities and initiatives in proactive ways. Again, let me know of your interest in participating on this committee. THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS Our Contract Negotiating Committee’s next meeting is coming up shortly and we are very grateful for the many cogent suggestions that have been submitted. We’ll be discussing these in full and I urge you to submit any suggestions you may have for potential proposals in our upcoming contract cycle next year.
As our recent nominations have shown, a genuine uptick in interest from all corners of our diverse community is emerging. In recognition of the need for experience and continuity in the union’s leadership of the future, I am inviting members who believe they would be interested in running for leadership positions in future 695 elections, to contact me about participating in Local 695’s new Leadership Training Program. Members will have the opportunity to be mentored and learn the tools of Board and Delegate-level engagement in the union’s leadership.
Let me encourage you to come forward and participate in the direction of your union. The experience of observing the Board of Directors at work, gives you the chance to support your union by being informed and prepared. We’ve been blessed with a great Board of Directors, a group of individuals genuinely committed to the success of Local 695, selfless and voluntary without compensation other than the satisfaction of service and taking responsibility for the course of our organization.
The more of us who add this experience to our work repertoire, the stronger this union will be, so…
Please consider participating. The time commitment is not so great. Virtually, all Board members have active lives with family and professional commitments and yet are able to squeeze in a couple of hours once a month. You’ll have the opportunity to soak up the experience of seasoned Board members and learn from the process.
I’d like to congratulate the many members who have stepped up and put themselves forward as candidates in Local 695’s current election. It’s great to see new faces coming forward to engage in the Local’s destiny. I thank you all for your participation. Likewise, I invite all of our members to reciprocate by voting in our election. This is your chance to express who you’d like to represent your interests in the future of our union.
Warmest fraternal regards,
Mark Ulano CAS AMPS
President IATSE Local 695