"Prodese Quam Conspici"

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET
  • Jon Robin Baitz Playwright, screenwriter, creator of ABC's Brothers & Sisters

A day and a half ago, I wrote the following:

"As this week ends and an agreement is not reached, I wouldn't look to any day in what is left of this unfortunate year for a resolution. The hard candy of bad faith negotiating and slightly amateurish pageantry from the studio side has done nothing but further strengthen the resolve of the writers."

Now that there are known-knowns, to use my favorite Orwellian phrase of the decade, it is worth making certain that the membership of the WGA knows what it is we fight for. Because the next phase of this battle is now beginning, and it is very important that we all be familiar with the chapter and verse, and all the stations of the cross at the core of this matter. We will not win without specificity. We cannot win by fighting in the dark. (Josh Green's very clean-edged and righteously simplified video explanation not withstanding.)

It is about to be winter, despite global warming's charming entreaties otherwise. And winter, this year means, rather than looking a lot like Christmas, it's looking a lot like siege season. A long one. If one is to believe Nikki Finke, and thus far there has been no reason not to, we are talking about weeks and weeks, possibly months. And it is about to get even more expensive. We must be prepared to endure the lengthy process by which the AMPTP heavies slowly and inevitably splinter. And splinter they will, because, as has been noted by the clear-headed and gimlet-eyed Robert Elisberg elsewhere on HuffPost, the producers have many bifurcated agendas, and many different constituencies, not to mention differing levels of hubris, sociopathic disorder, sense of history, and comfortable shoes. (Note to moguls - expensive shoes do not by definition mean comfortable ones.)

In the meantime, added to my list of worries is the hard calculus of trying to make sure that those of us who have more resources than others do everything we can, to give support both materially and in any other way we can to our brothers and sisters. A sentiment even the more and more questionably contrarian John Ridley surely shares, and perhaps might consider as the days get longer and colder for so many. I note this on the day my own show, Brothers & Sisters has shut down, leaving the many people who work on it, the crews and merchants who rely on it, to their own devices. As we go into the second half of December, I remain entirely certain that my Guild will prevail. It will do so through solidarity, and it will do so through an educated, articulate, energized, politicized (and unerringly media savvy) membership, and through the cool, calm anger of the just.

When I lived in South Africa as a kid, I spent a little time at an all boys school that seemed the very model for the island in Lord of the Flies. It was a culture that, in addition to training the young ruling class in the modes and quixotic operations of apartheid, also worshiped at the sticky psychosexual alter of corporal punishment. (As Roy Sekoff, the Max Perkins of HuffPost could tell you, I am not a very good speller, and was caned constantly for this offense, which I continue to blithely commit, thereby putting to rest the notion of caning as deterrent). The general population of boys at Clifton School and Durban Boy's High had less civility than the average rabid dog you pass on the street. (Clifton produced some ranking cricketers and a surfing champion, which is not nothing.) I learned in the fall of 1972 through the winter of 1975 that there were many ways to fight bullies: You could shame them. You could out-tough them (no easy task for a pre-Anglified-American Jewish smart-ass pre-hipster in Durban fucking South Africa). You could seduce them. You could charm them. You could turn them into sclerotic objects of ridicule. (My favorite, and one I see working now with the studios, but working slowly.) I employed all at various times, all strategies. But this, I know; if you were strong and had cojones, stayed your ground, through either direct action or subversion, well then, by the first act of bullying, the last act was writ.

The motto, incidentally, of the Clifton School is "Prodese Quam Conspici." Latin for "To accomplish rather than to be conspicuous..."

Ever was it thus. Courage.

The Clifton School Crest

Read more strike coverage on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.