Duane Eddy Doesn’t Live Here

The Nazi’s were jerks, no big surprise there. That stodgy jury who decided D.H. Lawrence’s, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was too obscene to be published, they’re not quite Nazi’s, but they’re pretty miserable too. Oh, and racing to the top of the literary repression list are the misinformed PTA members across the USA who are repeatedly offended by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

But, as idiotic and blasphemous as deciding what people can and cannot read is, there’s something so wonderfully beautiful about the type of subversion that actually benefits the text. Would a horny little teenager ever think to read D.H. Lawrence? I mean, why not, right? It’s just a little light reading?

This Rebel Rousing did so much to inspire generations of readers, writers and artists alike, but it wasn’t enough. What books like these, and so many other controversial texts, have done is create a larger problem than the contextual dilemma raised within them. Their sheer existence outweighs whatever the author had been attempting to say, thus making the art itself less potent.

That says something about protest,  injustice and how art fits into the middle of it. What makes a piece of art a protest piece? In my opinion, it’s not necessarily the work itself, but rather, the name attached to the work. Like art, the act of protest is an art in itself.

As a writer, I know that I’ll never be capable of creating something that has the same impact as taking over a school hall, standing before a charging tank or the most extreme, self-immolation. It’s not that I doubt my abilities to capture an emotion via the written word, the contrary, it’s just that fiction is, and will always be a step removed; it’s the Kevin Bacon to the external world. It is necessary with fiction to take a step back, allow the emotion of an event to wash over, then sit down and create. But, by that time, the air has been let out of the moment, there’s something new to fight for, or another chapter of the same fight.

This is how I know I will never be the rebel rouser I wish I could be; the type of Robin Hood-esque character that fights for every fire living in my heart. I have opted to write, because it is who I am, and I will never have the financial comfort to protest the way it should be done.

This may be a bit controversial to some, but I believe the art of protest is a luxury of the privileged class. Look back to the 1960s, and the students on the Berkeley campus. Predominantly young, good looking people from wealthy backgrounds stood up before the injustice of, well, frankly the entire way of life, and won. They accomplished so much, but could the average, blue-collard person accomplish that? Then, maybe. Now, no.

Take into consideration, I am only referring to the western world, because what is pain, and anguish, to people who are already dying. What is there to lose when your life has already been taken? Our movements are filled with hate as well, but seriously lacking in the retribution of protest. We still have our miserable jobs that pay minimum wage, and our little rented rooms on skid row, but to the Arab world fighting for their lives, that is a paradise.

Okay, so why did I bring this up? It’s because people like me, who care so much about a thousand different things; someone who feels a little piece of himself breaking every time another person is kicked out of their home, or loses their job. But, I can’t drop every thing to protest because that person who I weep for, could be me at any moment. It doesn’t mean I’m jealous of those who have the ability to protest, or that I don’t appreciate those who do have the means to stand and fight for people like me, I’m just saying that it takes a person with nothing, or with everything to be capable of standing and fighting for their beliefs.

It’s an art: to throw yourself up against the grain, and say, enough is enough. It just takes a certain person, and another person to sit back to document it in enough time to make sense of it all. I know who I am, and what I am capable of; it’s working a job to pay my bills, and depriving myself of sleep to let ring my inexhaustible voice.

Try a Little Tenderness

It’s been some time since I’ve contributed to this mess, and even longer since I returned to my bread and butter: the world of art, and the state of the artist.

What made me jump from the little political tangent I had ventured off on was a conversation I’d had with a friend of mine. We were discussing various projects, and the help we’d need in completing them. But, the conversation veered, and I couldn’t help but think of what it meant to get ‘help’ from my friends; what it meant to have my fiction, or screenplays, edited by people who are vying for attention from the same editors as I am.

For the longest time, when my work passed through the hands of my friends, there was never a, well done or even the thinest morsel of positivity to know that I was doing something of any value. Instead, what I received was an endless stream of negativity, of all of the things that could be better, so at the end of it, I had, in the eyes of these friends, created something that mimicked their own work, rather than my own.

This could say something about my friends, but I feel it speaks of a larger issue, something prevalent in the artist community, and particularly one on the fringes, among people who are trying to wedge themselves into the center of the fray.

We learn early on that all is fair in love and war, but what about art? Having created a few things in my day, I understand the sacrifice one endures to create something. It’s a personal exploration, delving into the deepest regions of our hopes, dreams, etc. And, it’s only those that do it who relate, and not poke fun at the idea of art being a sacrifice. It’s a solitary, soul destroying route, and an unfortunate choice for any human being to endeavor. Any relationship you venture to be a part of will suffer, in some facet, because your first passion will forever be art, though you may never admit the fact. Nothing in this world will ever hold the weight art does in the artist’s mind.

Because of that, it’s impossible to fault the person who goes to great lengths to be successful in the field, the endless stream of rejection often becomes more than a person can bear. But, it’s not productive. There is too much competition between artists, and that causes situations like the one I recently endured; the sense of competition is so rampant that it can cause people I care about dearly, whose opinions I cherish, to berate my work with such ferocity.

There is almost the sense that you can’t make it without degrading someone else’s work; you need to weed out all of the people who could potentially take a commission you might have wanted, and the only way to do that is to make their work seem trivial, and subsequently make the person feel small.

The reality is, I know I’m not the only person to experience this, however I fear that most have come to expect degradation as part of the ritual of sharing work, so as not to think twice about it when it occurs.

I know some might suggest I toughen up and not be so sensitive, but I feel that is merely accepting an unnecessary fate. Would we, and did we, expect that from the Libyans, as they ousted Gaddafi from power? Are angry people in the U.S. giving up on their fight for equality, despite having been thwarted repeatedly? I’m not trying to compare the likes, but there is a relativity present that links injustice, and general malice towards other, like-minded humans.

The bottom line is, we, as artists, are swimming in the same angry sea, so why not help those who might be floundering, rather than seeing someone in your field as a potential threat. It’s the start we need to turn this world around, because finding comfort in the things we love can only stand to help the things we don’t.