• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Raw Words

Transcript from today’s journal pages:

Today, I fled my Brady Bunch era suburban house at 10:47 a.m. and headed directly to south Minneapolis where there are other singular humans hanging around trying not to squint in the daylight. Today’s venue of choice for work: Spyhouse Coffeeshop near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. 

Before I got to the Spyhouse, I stopped at the Institute to see Embarrassment of Riches: Picturing Global Wealth, a photography exhibit that focuses on wealth and what it looks like in different cultures. Given my tendency to dislike great displays of wealth, this was clearly the exhibit for me. My favorite thing turned out to be the video that really drove home the ridiculousness of what happens when there is no clear definition of what is valuable, what is precious. It was called, “Strip the Auctioneer“, and it covered a mock Christie’s auction in which the auctioneer sold the clothes off his back as well as the hammer he used to close the bids. He sold his shoes one at a time. Did the same with his socks. Each piece brought bids of more than €2000, if I remember correctly, or some equally insane amount of money for someone else’s unpaired footwear. The auction was part of an entire installation for artist Christian Jankowski that he put together in spring of 2009. Some of the other museum patrons around me may have considered the video useless or didn’t realize it was a  mock auction given their snorts of derision. However, I sat through the whole half-hour show and thought about what it is we are willing to cough up money for: that big house in the lot that borders the river, that 50-foot boat that can only be in the water for the 4-5 months when it doesn’t freeze, that BMW that makes us feel sleek, the Prada shoes that we only wear on date night, the piece of art that we have to insure for many thousands of dollars. Maybe it’s some other big display, like a lavish party or a diamond ring. Whatever. My point is….what, exactly? Oh, yeah. What we are willing to spend our money on. And what we aren’t, like health care or education for everyone, regardless of who they are. 

Oh, yes, feeling very proletarian today. Not too inclined to be quiet about it, either, as I sit in the Spyhouse, pen in hand, while everyone around me was works on their laptops. Note to self: the WiFi signal at Spyhouse must be pretty good. There is one older guy off to my right, muttering to himself as he goes through the free newspapers, who is also without a laptop today.

Apparently, something broke open in me this morning as I fled the ‘burbs for Minneapolis. I’m a girl with a strong blue-collar background and that keeps popping up in my white-collar life. I’m also a city kid who’s been stuck in the suburbs thanks to a combination of employment and parenthood rather than actual desire for a suburban life. Today, all those influences coupled with the exhibition on global wealth just make me want to rant and not really care who hears me. Besides, if I offend anyone, I know that people get over things. They forget. That’s why we have to keep reminding ourselves and everyone else what matters, what’s actually valuable in our society. That requires we not be silent. It requires that we put our money where we think it will do some good, too. 

Not a bad bunch of thoughts while supporting a local coffeehouse.

DO A KIND THING

As long as global wealth was briefly mentioned above, how about a thought on global poverty? One of the hardest working nonprofits that helps combat global poverty is Oxfam. Oxfam is a confederation of 14 agencies that work together in 99 countries to help people improve their own lives. Find out more here.

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