Change Isn’t Progress

All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. – Ellen Glasgow

I think I’m pretty progressive. I owned a computer and a cell phone before most people did. I frustrated my parents by growing my hair long in 1988, and they just couldn’t understand why I wanted to be a ‘hippy’. I read about new ideas and new approaches to problems and say “We should give that a try.” I think I’m pretty progressive.

But…not all change is good. Not all choices worth making. Not all experiences worth having.

I am reminded of a quote which is very old but – being a nerd – I first heard in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. To paraphrase, the quote goesstar trek azetbur like this: “Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we MUST do that thing.” In the context of the movie, a leader is arguing that her nation doesn’t need to go to war just because they have the ability to go to war. Not all change is good.

I enjoy change when it has a purpose. In fact, the very act of my writing this blog is an attempt to effect change upon my life. I wish to transform myself from “wage slave” to “writer”, to “smith of sentences, paragraphs, chapters”. I wish to become something I’ve never been before. I enjoy change when it has a purpose.

I am, however, firmly opposed to change that has no good purpose, no factor motivating the change organically.

Once upon a time an ancient human looked upon a stream that he (or she) was drinking out of. He looked at his hands which he was using to bring water to his lips and thought “what if I used a hollowed-out gourd for this. It would be easier and better.” And thus the cup was born. Later on another human looked upon a cup and said “a handle would make this easier to lift to my lips” and thus the mug was born. These are organic changes. These are changes that come to be naturally.434px-MaryRose-wooden_tankard1

Right now, in this modern age of ours, there are people looking around and saying “I want something to change. I don’t care what.” This is unhealthy change. And don’t get me wrong; ours isn’t the first time people have sought to change something inorganically. It’s just happening much more frequently now than it ever did before. The impetus for this cambios sin fin this change without purpose is usually either money or an agenda.

First money. Companies are looking all the time for new products that people don’t know they can’t live without. Doritos. Deodorant. Television. These three things and many more weren’t needed. A need was created for them, and now many people couldn’t imagine living without them. But you can, I assure you. But products you don’t need come to the market every day, and this won’t change anytime soon. Companies do this, of course, to get your money. And I can’t say I blame them either. There are plenty of these things we don’t need that I love. Doritos. Ice cream. Doctor Who. That’s just fine as long as I know I don’t need them, and I could do without them if I had to. In fact, my family is trying to live a life free of most animal products, so Doritos and ice

Stop Making This! How am I supposed to lose weight?!

Stop Making This! How am I supposed to lose weight?!

cream have been absent from my life for a few months now. So far, so good.

But many companies go a step further and start changing things that don’t need to be changed. A new flavor of Doritos may be fine, but removing the old Doritos flavor to force you to buy the new flavor, that’s change without cause. The version of this my poor wife hears about the most is Microsoft changing the layout of Word in their 2007 edition. She insists they did it because it made more sense for people but I just don’t see it. What I see is all the features being moved around to different places using some logic alien to me, just so they could say something like “Now with new layout!” as if that was in itself a good thing. It isn’t.

If people were complaining all the time about how the old layout sucked and nobody could find anything, then yes, I would agree change was in order. But when you change something that nobody was complaining about just so you can say it’s somehow arbitrarily better, that’s change without cause, and that makes me very angry.

Sometimes there is a new feature for a product that people didn’t have access to before, and I want to be clear I’m OK with that. I would never have thought 15 years ago that a camera on a phone would be a good thing. But then again, 15 years ago you couldn’t even fit a camera in a phone. Now you can, and a very good camera indeed, so this was an actual improvement. But adding a feature to a phone just in the hopes of driving sales – that’s the issue.

And let’s talk agendas. I am anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-discrimination of any sort. And yes, I think anyone should be able to aspire to any position or job or award this society has to offer. If you are black, asian, female, Jewish, gay or any other “non-white male” status or condition, Idiscrimination picture don’t think you should be excluded from anything you can actually do. If you want to be president, then great. If you can perform the duties of president, then you should have a shot at it. Being president is an office, just like CEO or physician or automotive mechanic. Some are elected (requiring public consent) and some are hired (requiring consent of owners or bosses). But no matter the manner of obtaining a position, if you can do the job, and nobody can do it better than you, the job should be yours. That’s it.

There are, however, certain times when you should be excluded from a certain position, role, award or job. There should not be a time that a man is able to win the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars. Why? Because a man isn’t a woman, so a man can’t be the best supporting actress. Period. In the same way, if you don’t meet the basic requirements of a certain job, you shouldn’t get that job. If the position in question is for a Customer Service Manager, and you think customers are the bane of your existence, you shouldn’t get the CSM position. If you can’t run, you can’t win the 100 yard dash at the Olympics. None of this should be controversial, though I’m sure someone will take exception to it.

I’ve done a good amount of theater in my time, including some professional work. In my experience, many people in the theater world talk about “color-blind casting” and for the most part I agree with it. There are certain roles you would have trouble doing this with, however. Try to put on a play about Martin Luther King, Jr and cast a white man in the role. I’m betting you’d have some trouble with that.

Who'da Thunk?

Who’da Thunk?

Interestingly, in all my years studying theater and performing, I’ve never heard anyone refer to “gender-blind casting.” Doing a quick Google search shows me it does exist, and that could make sense for some roles. But there will be others where casting a man in the woman’s role (Helen Keller, for and example) or a woman in a man’s role (Abraham Lincoln) would either miss the point, or become farcical. People would be too busy snickering at the actor/actress to take the show seriously. If I were a director, the thought of my show being ruined by casting a woman as a man is the same as my show being ruined because I cast in incompetent actor in the first place. One can’t play the role at all, and the other can’t play that particular role (because it’s a male or female character). Either way, it’s a problem. It’s change without purpose.

Let anyone play any role in the theatre that they can pull off, but don’t cast a woman in a male role just because you think a woman should have that role. If it will damage the role, then it’s the wrong casting choice. Don’t hire a blind person to be a paint mixer and don’t hire a person with no business savvy (like me!) to run your company. This isn’t complex, and it’s not discriminatory. There has to be a demarcation somewhere, a point beyond which we understand change isn’t serving any purpose. There has to be a line in the sand.

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2 thoughts on “Change Isn’t Progress

  1. MaryBeth Richmond says:

    Sometimes a role must be cast for talent AND physicality. It’s is a fact of casting. However, there are times when a traditionally male (et al) role is rewritten as a story where the male part is “written” as female. In that case, a woman would be cast because the script demands it (physicality). Sometimes gender isn’t an important part of the message of the script and they can be swapped for roles intended for another (that goes for any type of physicality). I do that all the time. The script rules. It may force you into casting for physicality or leave it ambiguous. Director’s just have to deal with that.

  2. Sheila says:

    Matt, agreed.

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