Status quo types and their acolytes in the literary world want to play the game of "I'm Okay, You're Okay." (This is a variation of "Can't we all just get along," coming from the biggest rich guy grant-grabber in recent history.)
Literary people want total agreement. Their attitudes when you meet them is, "I'm okay and you're okay, we're all okay because we're all good liberal people and this country and its literature just needs a little tinkering, a slight amount, around the edges, and then everything will be even more okay among all of us and our literature as they are today."
But things are NOT okay in this society, nor in its literature. There are widening gaping cracks in the civilization. A little plaster around the edges won't save things. This is the case the Underground Literary Alliance has been making.
TERMS OF AGREEMENT
Agreement is possible with the clique of insular elitists who comprise the so-called mainstream. It's always been possible, as long as we accept the terms of agreement.
These are their terms:
That they have everything and everyone else has nothing.
TO DEBATE OR NOT DEBATE?
Is it a waste of time to debate with anonymous demi-puppets on blog sites?
Very likely it is. I'll still do it on occasion, because the intent of the ULA at its beginning was to engage the culture, to take on the status quo in debate and win the battle of ideas. The thinking was that by our ideas and the strength of our voices we could overturn the literature and save the culture. This showed tremendous faith in the fairness of this society.
AT THE TABLE
It's thought by many undergrounders that we shouldn't criticize the literary establishment, but go our own way.
This presupposes that those writers at the top of the literary pyramid, recipients of attention, backing, and money, are there because they deserve to be. This assumes that the system isn't corrupt. This ignores the reality that many very good writers are struggling, while the system promotes privileged mediocrities.
The ULA argues by contrast that we the underground are the true American literature of this time. We also recognize the context of this society.
As rebels promoting new words and a new literary philosophy, do we attempt to sit at the table of literary culture without any weapons-- without our greatest strength which is the passion of our voices?
Study the example Brando as Zapata gives in the film "Viva Zapata" (screenplay by John Steinbeck). Holding a rifle on a moderate politician, he takes the moderate's watch away from him. Then he hands the rifle to the man and gives his watch back, at the same time saying, "There! Your watch back. But without that"-- pointing to the rifle-- "Never!"
Our arguments are the ULA's rifles. They allow us not to be subservient.
The literary world NEEDS debate-- true debate, of the kind which only the ULA as a contrary voice can provide. When we have engaged in such debate with establishment apologists, the events have been extremely exciting. Such debates are a way to grab the attention of the general public.
Besides-- how can undergrounders not compete? Sure, we're like a small local bottler of soda pop with few resources going up against the Coke and Pepsi giants. We have to present a better product and we have to announce that it's better. If we run away from this distinction we'll be quickly out of business. Our writers, our language, our more exciting words and energy is what we're selling. We need to get the word out that we're here and people should try us. If we ruffle a few feathers among the monopolists so be it. In a way, that's the idea.