Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Knowledge



            As a society Americans believe in education for all.  Knowledge is power.  We have a public school system in order to make good on that belief and guarantee everyone an education.  For those who can afford it, there are charter and private schools, also.  But we don’t stop at high school graduation, no.  We want everyone to have a college education, too.  Knowledge opens doors to opportunities and good jobs. We do not fear knowledge.

            Other societies, however, hold different beliefs about education and knowledge.  They allow only males access to an education.  Their cultural beliefs keep little girls at home with their mothers to learn how to be an obedient wife and mother.  In these countries, the men fear what would happen if their girls and women gained an education and knowledge.  Would they remain obedient to their fathers, brothers, husbands?  Would the men lose control of the women?  They want to maintain complete control over their women.  

Malala Yousafzai (dailyrecord.co.uk)

            The world has once again come face to face with the Taliban and their oppressive system of beliefs.  A little girl stood up for education for girls and women in Pakistan.  The Taliban sent men to kill her.  But her will to live prevailed over the Taliban gunmen and she survived.  Her name is Malala Yousafzai .  She has been taken to Birmingham, England, for treatment of her head trauma or being shot in the head.  A symbolic injury.  They tried to destroy her brain with bullets.

            Last week, I had the occasion to socialize with people on Management’s and the Board’s side in their current labor dispute with the Minnesota Orchestra musicians.  Because this is Minnesota, I expected them all to be reasonable, open-minded, and respectful of the musicians and their position.  My experience was far, far different.
Minnesota Orchestra

            They all sounded like they were following a rigid script, using the same words and phrases over and over.  Their point of view: Management wants to move ahead with negotiations but the musicians haven’t made a counter-offer.  The musicians’ request for an independent financial analysis is just a gimmick, something all unions do at the last minute to stall for time.  Management has made their offer, and it’s designed to save the orchestra and the Association so that we can enjoy classical music concerts at the renovated Orchestra Hall for many years.  What about that renovation?  How could the Association go forward with that and not take care of the financial distress they claim to be in?  The money for the renovation was raised specifically for that project.  If they hadn’t had the renovation, they would not have raised that money.  The tone of all this bordered on disgust for the musicians and mild condescension toward any questions.  It was the musicians’ fault there’s a “work stoppage,” that the talks have stalled, that the concerts were cancelled.

            Wow.  I was totally shocked and in awe of whoever has the power in Management or on the Board to get everyone spewing the same script, with no respect for the musicians, no respect for the history of the orchestra, and certainly not taking responsibility for their actions.  An iron fist of control, I’d say.  The Board of Directors locked out the musicians.  It’s not a “work stoppage” which implies that the union was behind it.  The musicians first asked for an independent financial analysis a long time ago and Management kept refusing it, saying that they have an independent audit of the Association’s finances every year and they make the results public.  I’m not a musician and I want an independent financial analysis.

            Here’s the reason why.  For the last five years, Management and the Board have been touting what great financial shape the Association was in despite the recession, despite lower attendance, despite fewer donations.  Their independent financial audits each of those years reflected the rosy picture they painted.  So, I do not trust what they are saying now about the Association’s financial distress.  Especially when they have gone forward with the Orchestra Hall renovation.  If Management and the Board truly want the negotiations to move forward, they need to show they are worthy of the musicians’ trust.  One way to do that is to agree to an independent financial analysis by an auditor chosen by the musicians not Management.


Stage at Orchestra Hall without Orchestra

         Knowledge is power.  It’s important to know that the Board of Directors has the fiscal responsibility, not the musicians, for the Association.  They review and approve the budget each year.  They made the mistake of deceiving the public about the true shape of the Association’s finances and how it would affect the future of the Minnesota Orchestra.  They walked hand in hand with Management on this.  Now, they have taken the position that the musicians are to blame for the lockout, not Management and the Board who locked them out, because they would not make a counter-offer to move the negotiations forward.

            Education does not end with high school or college graduation.  Attempts to control information and thinking happen in America, too.  Life offers countless opportunities to learn about the world around us, and about the people with whom we share that world.  Any attempt to control that freedom, whether it’s the Taliban shooting children or the Management of a non-profit Association trying to control the flow of information, their employees and a labor dispute, we cannot take for granted the right to learn and decide for ourselves.    

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