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are prohibited from saying “capitalism” in the sense of calling attention to it as a system. It is. The publishing industry in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, not to say Lubbock and Borger and McAllen are all part of it. The system is not a conspiracy capitalism by its nature lacks cohesiveness among competitors but members of the system do have more in common than in opposition. Watch the daily newspapers, for example, battle the phone companies over slop rights before the Legislature, their alliances unmasked when jousting with other corporations, just as they are denied in dealing with workers. And there are also the more subtle, powerful, alliances of common ideologies. In Dallas, the new D Magazine of religious right publisher Wick Allison caters almost exclusively to the elite, white Park Cities neighborhoods where executives of the Dallas Morning News make their homes. The once-upstart independent weekly, The Met, is now a business partner with the News, whose publisher, Burl Osborne, in turn is good friends with the Monthly’s Mike Levy. And so on, a pattern replicated in city after city, print and broadcast, advertising and telecommunica REAL WRITING, BY WHICH I MEAN FREE tions. These are not OF INTENT, DEVOTION TO SUBSTANCE AS conspiracies. They CONSEQUENCES, IS ALLO are communities of interest, and their interests are not ours. They are neither the inter ests of the average Texan whose real struggles, triumphs, concerns and tastes are so betrayed and contorted as to be unrecognizable. Three decades ago, it was possible for Larry McMurtry to conclude that all this petty but profitable grab-ass was evidence of a backwater culture. I’ll give him grudging credit for that, but today his critique would miss the point. We’re not culturally deprived, we’re culturally censored. And not by hicks. The previously mentioned media have re-engineered; gone high tech. Lean and mean. Most have deep pockets, thanks, to takeovers by conglomerates whose money in turn comes from off-shore manufacturing, price gouging, and the massive layoffs of American workers begun under Ronald Reagan, continued nationally under Massah Bush and still going on here at home under Young Massah Bush and his friends, like Morning News publisher Osborne. Wellfinanced, ruthlessly managed, impervious to labor, consumers, and conscience, the Texas media and allies at the close of the century are nearly ready to eliminate the need for writers altogether. Planned for us is the fate of cowboys, farmers, and small town businesses within driving distance of a Wal-Mart. Not possible? Look what happened at pre-programmed radio stations. . With so much at stake, the media aren’t much interested in selfcriticism, and writers are afraid to bite the hands that feed them. I can already guess the potential freelance work this essay will cost me. I don’t care anymore. In my two decades here as an adult, and as an editor or writer, I have worked in just about every possible agency, a state agency, two universities, and this publication. I have freelanced, hustled new projects, even tried to re-start a small worker-operated Chicano sewing factory in West Texas mats, such as film and documentaries. I have cannibalized savings, borrowed against life insurance, used up advances. I have wondered what it is I am trying to get at, why the voice inside looks for its own way of finding itself. I am familiar with the hells of fear and anxiety. I have had it better than many of my peers: I have yet to be homeless. And I love to write. I have watched mediocre talent, art director glitz and yuppie fogeyism become entrenched in publishing because the best and brightest have always said fuck it and left. Righteously so, but also less commonly done, by my countdoes any reporter, editor or writer in Texas ever get fired or quit a job because of principle anymore? The results are the results of bureaucratization everywhere. Lately, I have been thinking of moving away. A strategic retreat. My own Runaway Scrape, Long March. But this, too, is the fruit of colonialism. Even when prudent, exile is reactive, and fraught with peril. Every writer who has decided to leave in order to get a clear mind or to be published has paid a price. Has seen why the fight to keep Texas writing alive within a Texas publishing context is critical. Has seen that going away can dilute the voice of whatever it is that we need to say, each in our own way. Something happens to Texas writers out of state; it happens just sending work out of state for publication. What happens is the heart-breaking re-shaping of consciousness to ,adjust to the expectations and stereotypes of the empire-at-large. Case in point: in the mid-‘ 80s, a number of Texas writers, including me, were asked by Esquire to write a major piece about Austin. None of the stories ever appearednot because they weren’t any good, but because they “weren’t what we’re looking for,” which was editor Lee Eisenberg’s way of saying he had a stereotype of Austin that was different from what Texas writers kept sending him. You may remember that problem with reporting from Vietnam. All “minority” writersblacks, browns, women, Southernersknow this. Flannery O’Connor was but one of the great troublesome voices of the South who complained of being pigeonholed by Northern editors who didn’t understand her voice and tried to make her change it into something they wanted. Texas writers similarly know what happens to their work in Manhattan offices. Northern editors are really looking for ventriloquists. Minstrel shows. Monkeys on a chain. Thus we have Professional Texans; their names are well-known among us. The issue at stake in re-directing our fate is therefore not just an esthetic quest for expression of general truths or individual visions, but a call to see into the stultifying nature of the process by which the truth and visions are expressed. This is not an abstract issue. It is about real control of real power, of real ideas and real minds in real bodies. Of some import. We are not a backwater. We are the nation’s second-most populous state. We are full of problemshealth care, poverty, racism, education, colonias, etc.but our citizens are as sophisticated as those anywhere else. And as thick-headed. We do not want for content: Texas-based stories fall out of the sky like cinders after a bomb blast. INQUIRY, SERIOUSNESS AND INTEGRITY WELL AS STYLE, AND A DISREGARD.FOR WED ALMOST NOWHERE. 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 26, 1996