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.